Job training counselors replaced by computers

Here and Now

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The state of Iowa has already begun to shut down its 39 unemployment field offices. The state plans to replace unemployment councilors with computers — equipped with software designed to help people get jobs — in community centers and libraries. The move will save Iowa an estimated $7 million per year, and states like Illinois and Nebraska may be following suit. Critics, though, aren’t sure a computer can give the same level of service as a human being.

One community that is losing access to these field officers is Newton, Iowa, where Chaz Allen is the Mayor. He also has experience working with the unemployment councilors, after he was laid off from his job with Iowa Telecom in September of 2010.

“I think it certainly helped me get my resume out there, there’s no doubt about it,” he says. ” I think networking is really what gets you a job in the future. Those out there that have had jobs for 25 years, that haven’t been out there in the job market, need somebody to help them get through this process and learn how to network with people and get a job.”

Newton, Iowa, once had Maytag as the primary employer. Now that’s gone, and the city is still trying to claw back the lost jobs. And next year, Iowa is due to lose millions in grants, which won’t help small towns like Newton. And with the closing of the field offices, some 95 Iowans will lose their jobs.

The benefit of the unemployment field offices, according to Allen, is “if you had an issue with receiving your check or whatever, there was somebody there to talk to immediately that you were confident you could get it resolved.” He admits that the computer-based system is the future of the service, but he doubts that they’ll be able to provide the same level of support.

“To be able to call someone and talk to them and ensure that they can get their needs heard is critical,” Allen says.


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