PROVIDENCE — Unemployed Rhode Islanders and the people on the front lines helping them find new jobs give mixed reviews of a new state requirement that those who receive unemployment benefits must soon post their resumés to an online job board or lose their weekly state assistance.
For a few years, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training has urged jobless residents to post their resumés to employRI.org, a robust site with tips for job seekers, access to free online courses on a variety of subjects and search engines that allow employers to look for workers and job seekers to examine postings.But DLT Director Charles J. Fogarty says the stakes will go up this fall. Beginning Sept. 1, people filing new unemployment claims will have six weeks to get their resumés online or the department will shut off their benefits until they do so. As the department hopes to help get more people back into the work force, Fogarty said, the agency’s job counselors think getting people to update their resumés “is the first step in getting reconnected.”
The DLT’s 42 employment and training interviewers already use employRI.org to offer job seekers customized help at the agency’s four career centers. Over the past five years, an average of 22,000 to 25,000 people have been regular visitors to those career centers, department spokesman Michael J. Healey said.
As of Wednesday, 8,370 people had active resumés posted on employRI.org, and 4,571 employers had registered in the system.
Yet, in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, 7.9 percent, and 44,200 people counted as unemployed in June, there are clearly more people out there looking for work who could post their resumés on the site.
At Operation Stand Down, which helps low-income and homeless veterans find jobs and places to live, Executive Director Erik B. Wallin says it’s vital for job seekers to get their resumés online with the right “buzzwords” so they’ll stand out to employers. His agency works closely with the DLT, and the two refer job seekers to each other for help. Yet Wallin said he didn’t know of the new DLT policy.
“I think it’s a good idea — so long as they are providing the assistance to those veterans or individuals who are unemployed who are perhaps unable to post a resumé because of a lack of skills,” he said. “And that’s a critical element. Not everyone is as computer literate as others, and you need to be able to facilitate that before you have a mandatory requirement.”
Steve Colella, who runs the popular and well-attended Job Club RI, also raised concerns about whether the DLT is equipped to help what could be an onslaught of people who don’t have the skills or know-how to create resumés and post them online.
There’s no question that job seekers should be online these days, Colella says. But in a world where business recruiters use LinkedIn to find new employees, Colella’s not convinced that employers are poring over the employRI.org system.
“Most recruiters worth their salt source LinkedIn every day. They’re looking for talent,” Colella said. “I don’t know how many recruiters or hiring managers are sourcing DLT. I don’t want to say none, [but] it’s like the difference between going to [McCoy Stadium in] Pawtucket versus Fenway Park. It’s the minor leagues versus the major leagues, in my opinion.”
At the DLT, Healey says the number of people and businesses using employRI.org shows it is a relevant site for people to use. LinkedIn is a good conduit, too, he says, and that’s why the department also teaches classes on using that networking site. But for many who seek DLT help, Healey says the job counselors must first help them with more basic computer skills. Not everyone is ready for LinkedIn, he says.
He is confident the DLT is ready for this Sept. 1 change.
“Are we going to be ready to meet and to help all these folks that we expect will be coming into our job offices and posting to employRI? Yes, absolutely,” Healey says.
The DLT already teaches classes on how to use employRI.org, and Healey says the agency is ramping up to teach many more in September at its four career centers, all of which will also offer one-on-one help. EmployRI.org classes will be daily in Providence and three times a week in West Warwick and Woonsocket.
At the DLT, which has fewer employees now than during the height of the Great Recession, Fogarty said the agency must pursue only the avenues it thinks will be most effective. Getting people’s resumés on the state’s interactive job board, Fogarty said, was the one effort his job counselors deemed most important because it encourages job seekers to reconnect with the work force sooner.
Among those using employRI.org is Denise Brindamour, a 59-year-old Coventry woman who has been looking for work for more than three-and-a-half years since losing a job as an accounts payable and payroll clerk. She has found some part-time work, but she’s still sharing her resumé, applying for jobs and networking as much as she can.
Brindamour no longer receives unemployment benefits, so she wouldn’t be among those required to post her resumé so as not to lose benefits. Nevertheless, she still uses employRI.org and says the DLT employees in the West Warwick career center send her job postings that come in to the site when they match the skills Brindamour has posted.
“I love it,” Brindamour said of employRI.org. “I actually have put my resumé on there and have gotten calls.”
EmployRI.org class schedules for September are not yet set, but when they are, they’ll be posted online at networkri.org, which also offers information about other services and classes offered at the DLT career centers.