While plans for a central office to help the city’s unemployed remain on hold, the city of Richmond is stepping into the breach.
The city opened its first neighborhood work-force development center Monday in Fifth Street Baptist Church in Highland Park.
It’s nothing fancy. The center, open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, offers four city-surplus computers, a clothes closet, food pantry, child care and classes in interviewing and résumé-writing. Volunteers and staff from the Capital Region Workforce Investment Board, now known as Resource, will help people search for jobs and sign up for free training programs.
For at least a year, Resource and the Virginia Employment Commission, a state agency, have been searching separately for locations for two new unemployment centers in central Richmond. Meanwhile, the city plans to open neighborhood work-force centers in the South Side and East End.
More job-finding help is desperately needed in the city, where unemployment stands at 9.9 percent as of August. “And when you get to black male unemployment and teenage unemployment, the numbers are staggering,” Mayor Dwight Jones says at Monday’s ribbon-cutting.
Contrary to what some people think, “there are jobs out there,” says Jamison J. Manion, the city’s work-force development programs administrator. According to data from the Virginia Employment Commission, Richmond has 14,000 jobs advertised online, the second-highest number in the state after Fairfax County.
Local manufacturers are looking for “dependable, reliable people who will show up on time,” Manion says — but they have a hard time finding employees who fit the bill. That’s why the city has focused on getting people into the Richmond Workforce Pipeline, an intensive program that readies Richmonders for specific local jobs. Last year, Manion says, 54 out of 80 participants found full- or part-time work.
There are 10,209 people who are unemployed in Richmond, according to the state commission.
One is Marilyn Hodge, a Highland Park resident who’s one of the center’s first customers. She’s worked as a home health aide, a housekeeper and a retail associate, and she’s gone to school to become an addiction counselor.
Hodge says she’s been out of work three years. It might be “the way I look,” she says, pointing to her missing front teeth, but she can’t afford to have them fixed: “I figure if I get a job, I can pay for it.”
“I hope this is a success,” Hodge says, looking around at the modest job center and the smiling city officials. “I really do.”