The Oregon Employment Department last Tuesday unveiled extensive remodeling at the offices at 1901 Adams Ave. Nobody was happier with the end product than Regional Manager Tom Erhardt.
A PLACE FOR LEARNING: Worksource Oregon Office Manager Debbie Gargalis shows off a newly added training room where job seekers can brush up on computer skills. Observer photo/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
“I’m very pleased. The layout is conducive to good customer service,” Erhardt said as a large crowd of well-wishers came through the doors for an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony arranged by the Union County Chamber of Commerce.
The ability to deliver good customer service is especially important during a recession that has left nearly 15 percent of Union County workers without jobs.Staff members are expected to do much more than help a laid-off worker file an unemployment claim, or refer a job seeker to an employer.
According to Debbie Gargalis, manager of the employment offices in Union, Baker and Wallowa counties, many job hopefuls need help not only with job searching, but also with interview skills, computer skills and basic skills like reading and math.
The remodeling completed this month included niceties like new paint, carpet, windows, plumbing and heating upgrades. There is even a lighting system made efficient by solar tubes.
More importantly, space and equipment was added to help the unemployed regain their sense of purpose and direction.
“Our goal is to assist the job seeker,” said Gargalis. “When they apply for a job, we help make sure they are ready.”
The remodeled facility includes one training room where people can improve computer skills, and another where they upgrade the essential skills required by all employers.
“We know that applicants sometimes aren’t ready for a job. We can help them brush up on their math or reading skills, or learn how to locate information,” Gargalis said.
There’s also a conference room with enough room for large gatherings. It can be used for classes, employer orientation meetings and more.
The employment department — also called Worksource Oregon — works closely with the Training and Employment Consortium, a six county non-profit organization that provides career training and job placement services to adults, youth and seniors.
Services offered by the two agencies are integrated. Features added in the remodel make cooperation and communication easier, said TEC Program Manager Lynn Trice.
“No matter where a person is in the job-search process, they won’t be office-hopping,” Trice said.
Gargalis added that the partnership between TEC and her agency will continue to open doors for people.
“We’re going to have a lot of opportunities for people to re-train and go back to school,” she said.
Erhardt said the La Grande office was among several in the state deemed in need of a major remodel. He said planning for the project took more than two years.
Work began last fall, with Mike Becker the general contractor. Building owner Colleen Eveson shouldered much of the remodeling cost.
Local subcontractors included All Phase Electrical, Fashion Floor Carpet One, Ken Wallace Plumbing, and Robert Brooks Painting. Other sub-contractors included Thew Sheet Metal of Pendleton and Bend Commercial Glass.
Employment Services continued uninterrupted as the work progressed. Erhardt said it wasn’t always easy for office staff to carry on.
“The staff had a lot of stressors, but they handled it well,” he said. “It took a lot of patience.”
But the wait was worth it, he added.
“We kind of made do for a long time. We wanted a facility that looks professional and is appealing,” he said.