The third Tuesday of every month, the Polk Works jobs bus rolls into the Bartow Civic Center parking lot on the side closest to the library, where it is stationed from
9 a.m.-3 p.m. It’s just one of its many stops.
“We go all around the county,” said Tom Mayrant, one of the two people who cover the county; the other person being Kathleen O’Donnell. The bus is equipped with 13 computer stations that are hooked up by satellite.
The obvious purpose is to help people looking for work. It may sound like a simple process, but there is a lot more to rejoining the ranks of the employed than it may appear, beginning with getting signed up.
“We help make sure they register with Employ Florida Marketplace,” Mayrant said. The site is run by the state and covers all of Florida. A person looking for a job, he said, can conduct a search several ways, such as using keywords or location. He gave a demonstration of how to conduct a search, beginning with Polk County.
“Right now there are over 6,000 jobs listed in Polk,” he said as results came on the screen. Then Mayrant further refined the search and typed in the word, “administration.” Twenty-five positions came up. The jobs listed location, job title, requirement and salary range.
“Once they find a job, they can apply immediately online, said O’Donnell. “Also, employers have access to the resume site.” Polk Works can also “spider” in other job sites, such as Monster.com. O’Donnell added that Polk Works representatives frequently visit potential employers and let them know what it can do to help in attracting qualified employees.
Other services people visiting the Polk Works bus can receive assistance with is helping them compose a resume. In fact, it is the key step needed at the start of the registration process. If someone does not have a resume, Mayrant or O’Donnell can help them build one and then get it posted.
“We can assist with other services,” O’Donnell said, such as filing for unemployment, food stamps, obtain referrals.
The number of people who make use of the Polk Works bus varies from community to community.
“In Lake Wales, we average between 30-40 people,” said Mayrant. “It’s about 10-15 in Bartow.” While it may seem the number in Bartow is paltry in comparison to Lake Wales, there is an upside.
“When someone comes in, we can give them more one-on-one assistance,” said O’Donnell. “You can’t always do that when you have 30-40 people.”
Polk Works recently embarked upon a challenge. It seeks to place 10,000 people into jobs in the next six months. Mayrant said that is entirely possible.
“We normally place 800-1,000 people per month,” he said. “Most people don’t realize we place that number.”
In addition to the bus and the services available, people can also receive assistance at any one of three locations: Winter Haven, Lakeland, and a satellite facility in Lakeland. For adults ages 18-21, there are two facilities specifically geared toward their needs, in Lake Wales and Haines City. All sites offer classes, workshops, and instructions, such as basic computer classes.
Mayrant said Polk Works works in coordination with the libraries. A lot of people are not up to speed on their computer skills. Others do not own a computer, so they come to the library. However, library associates may not possess the knowledge or have the time to dedicate to people who need to make use of the computer. That is where Polk Works fills that need.
“Not everyone has the skills,” said Wendy Hiers, a librarian assistant in Bartow. The library, she said, offers computer training and tries to meet a patron’s needs, but that is not always able to be accomplished. “It’s time consuming and it’s hard to devote the time.”
She definitely was grateful for Polk Works and the assistance it provides, which takes off some of the work load and demands on library associates.
“Polk Works is a blessing,” she said.
To learn more
To sign up for Employ Florida Marketplace, visit: www.employflorida