The Career Coach mobile unit rolled into Smithville Wednesday morning and set up across from City Hall near Justin Potter Library.
A service of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the Career Coach adds a valuable dimension to its services to reach people across the state who do not have a Career Center in proximity to their homes or places of employment.
"We want to make Career Center services accessible to job seekers and employers in their home communities," said Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis. "The mobile units will offer the same services available to our customers as when they walk into one of our Career Centers located across the state."
The mobile units are set up as computer lab classrooms, each having 10 workstations that are equipped with a laptop with high-speed Internet connection. At one end of the coach is the instructor's workstation that is connected to a 42" flat-screen TV with SmartBoard® overlay and a DVD/CD player. The coaches are equipped with a wheelchair lift, and the workstations are ADA compliant.
"The mobile units serve multiple purposes," said Lynn Gibbs, coordinator for the middle Tennessee coach. "Job applicants can register for work and search available openings online. They can also take part in the three workshops we offer – résumé preparation, job search skills, and interviewing skills."
In addition, Gibbs said the department is inviting employers to use the coaches for recruiting, pre-employment screening, taking job applications onsite, and interviewing applicants. "New businesses can use the coaches as a working space when facilities are still under construction, yet the company needs to start hiring. Employers can also
conduct company training classes, since the buses have learning-support technology."
Labor's Adult Education division plans to use the mobile units for enrollment pre- and post-testing, orientation, administering the Official GED Practice Test, and offering GED Fast Track classes.
Because 31 of the state's 95 counties have limited Career Center services, the coaches extend job recruitment and training activities to those areas. These 31 counties have little or no Labor staff present, although Work Investment Area staff may be available. "It's hard enough to be unemployed, but having to drive 30 to 50 miles to a Career Center
creates an extra hardship, with gas costing more than $3 a gallon," said Gibbs. "We hope when people see the mobile units they will be a positive sign that jobs are not far behind."
Counties served by the middle Tennessee coach are the following (underlined counties have limited Career Center service): Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Coffee, Davidson, DeKalb, Dickson, Fentress, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Moore, Overton, Perry, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White, Williamson, and Wilson.
The cost of the three coaches in the fleet is about $188,000 apiece. Funding for the mobile units came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) $4.6 million for Re-Employment Services that Tennessee received. The additional total cost per program year to operate all three units, including maintenance and staff, is $513,000.
Besides being used for Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development activities, first priority use of the coaches will be for national, state, and local emergencies. For example, in the event of another disaster such as the Nashville flood in May 2010, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency need to use the coach would
take precedence over any scheduled departmental booking. The bus is equipped with high-speed satellite Internet and modern radio communications.
If you're an employer who would like to use the Career Coach to interview employees for a new or expanding business or use the bus as a training classroom, go to the Web site at www.getonthecoach.tn.gov/ or call (615) 741-0634. You will be able to check availability and request reservation for an event.
If you would like to ask questions of the Department of Labor and to see photos of the Career Coach, visit the Facebook site at www.facebook.com/GetOnTheCoach.