Worknet directs attention to free services for Merced County businesses

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 11, 2014 

— The Merced County Department of Workforce Investment reached thousands of job seekers last year, but officials said Tuesday the department is now focusing on the free services it offers businesses.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday heard a presentation by Director Robert Morris, which included the department’s goals. District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey and District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion were absent.

The Worknet offices in Los Banos and Merced served 48,714 people last year, the majority of whom were return visitors. Close to 5,000 people were first-time visitors, according to the department’s year-end report.

Morris said the department aims to help people who are looking for a job, seeking a better one or trying to build a career. “These are people that are coming in that are either unemployed or underemployed,” he said.

The report shows that nearly 32,000 used the department’s Internet job search services. Others checked job postings or worked on résumés and cover letters. About 83 percent got jobs, exceeding the department’s goal of 72 percent.

District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh applauded the department’s efforts, especially what he called the “untold story” of the free services the department offers local businesses.

Morris said the department provides help with recruiting, interviewing and testing of prospective candidates for businesses that want to hire or expand.

“It’s the best-kept secret around. Nobody knows about the services we offer to businesses,” Morris said. “We provide certain tests that will help companies find people who will be successful in those occupations.”

One of the companies that benefited from Worknet’s business services was Innovation Engineering Modular, a green technology company that needed to hire 12 workers.

Company business director Felipe Herrador Jr. said the department helped the Southern California owners with hiring employees during the opening of their business in Los Banos.

“They let us use their office for interviews and offered on-the-job training. They helped us train people and even reimbursed some of the costs for training,” Herrador said. “Without them we’d have to do it on our own, and it’s harder when you’re a new company and you’re not from here.”

Dan McDonald, a spokesman for Dollar General, said the department helped with hiring when a new store opened in Los Banos last year. Dollar General opened 650 stores in 2013 and plans to open 700 more this year, McDonald said.

“It’s very helpful for a company our size and scale to be able to screen candidates to help us to find good candidates. That’s so important to help us staff stores as we grow,” McDonald said. “You’re constantly in search of the best people for your business, so we often partner with these kind of services to fast-track the hiring process.”

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@ mercedsunstar.com.

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