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Posted: April 10, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Helping job seekers get a foot in the door

Workers gain experience, try new fields while

f you're looking for a job and collecting unemployment benefits in Georgia, a new program called Georgia Works could put you on a new career path altogether.

The program is available only for people who are currently receiving unemployment benefits. According to Crucita Dansby with the Department of Labor, it has seen a high success rate thus far.

Many times, unemployed individuals try, in vain, to find another job in their field. They may notice jobs in other areas for which they are qualified, but ignore them because they have no hands-on experience in that field. That’s where Georgia Works comes in.

For those unemployed workers who have at least 14 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits left, the Department of Labor’s re-employment unit will contact the company to see if they are willing to work with the program. The DOL will pay the unemployed worker for up to eight weeks while that person works for the company to see if they are the right person for the job and if they can learn the skills needed to perform the duties required for the position.

The benefits to both parties are well worth giving a new career a try, said Dansby. Employers reduce their tax burden and the cost of training new employees while trainees add new skills and work experience to their resume, broaden their network of contacts and possibly gain leads to a job.

According to Dansby, most of the people who participate in this program are hired in about two weeks.

"Just because you look good on paper doesn’t mean you will be a match for a company," she stressed. "You might have all the skills they are looking for but your attitude may not match. This allows the company to try out employees without any financial loss to them at all."

The benefits to the companies involved are numerous. The company will have a person come and work free of charge for up to eight weeks. If it doesn’t work out, they lose nothing. If the fit is right, they’ve gained a loyal employee.

The program was created by Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Michael L. Thurmond in response to the lack of jobs and the weakened economy as a way of stimulating job growth and hiring.

"Georgia Works enables businesses to audition potential employees," Thurmond said, "and it helps the unemployed gain access to training and, potentially, new jobs. What this does is create a transitional period between unemployment and employment."

To become a Georgia Works participant, contact the re-employment unit (REU) representative to enroll. For employers who are interested in participating in the program contact the employment marketing representative. For more information on the program contact the Department of Labor Covington Career Center at (770) 784-4075 or at www.dol.state.ga.us.

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