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Published: Friday, 7/15/2005

'Source' for jobs celebrates anniversary

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Carly Akins knew she wanted a better life. She was single, pregnant, and working in a convenience store that recently was robbed at gunpoint.

"I left. I said to myself that this baby is going to have something good," said Ms. Akins, 20. "Because of [the Source], he does."

Just months after first going through the doors of the one-stop employment center at 1301 Monroe St., Ms. Akins returned yesterday to help the agency celebrate one year of success stories. Now with a 14-month-old son, a factory job at Lake Erie Recycling, and the reliance on welfare in her past, Ms. Akins said she plans to continue making something of her life.

Officially opened June 17, 2004, the Source is a 29,000-square-foot office building that houses job training and placement programs offered through government and the business community as part of the county's Workforce Investment plan. Before coming together under one roof, all the services offered at the Source were spread out in different locations around the county.

Ms. Akins is one of the 2,072 people who are now working after being placed in jobs by the Source. Hundreds of the others have received assistance in the form of job training, college scholarship information, and a statewide database of available jobs.

It was at the computers in the Source's resource room that Candace Watkins sat yesterday doing research. The 38-year-old single mother of two moved to Toledo last week after being laid off from her job in Detroit. She said she heard that the city offered opportunities and that the Source was the way to access them.

After spending several years doing different types of jobs - including bus driving and working at the city department of public utilities - Ms. Watkins said she's interested in pursuing a career in nursing. Now she just needs the training.

"I've done some networking on my own because I'm sure this is the path I want to go," Ms. Watkins said.

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was designed to train workers to meet the labor needs of employers. It helps people who are out of work find jobs and provides training for others who want to acquire new skills so they can change careers. The program also has a component to help teenagers train for employment.

In May, Lucas County had a 6.6 percent unemployment rate. That rate was 7.1 percent in Toledo.

About 18,000 people have gone through the doors at the Source in the last year, officials said. After registering, the job seekers are directed to whatever services they feel they need, said Craig Gebers, who oversees the operations of the One-Stop center at the Source.

Of those people, about 9 percent had college degrees, 19 percent have had some sort of college experience, and 51 percent had high school diplomas or GEDs. About 15 percent of all people who come for assistance have not completed their high school education.

Mr. Gebers said that although staff members help as much as they can to give job seekers the tools they need, ultimately, success is up to each individual.

"Some people may have to look at more intensive services. We're here to help people see there are other things they have to do," he said. "Some people respond. Some people don't."

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said $1.5 million in state money has been spent over the past year for job development in the county. And unlike in the past, none of that money was sent back to Columbus.

"This is a human celebration," he said. "The Source works."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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