Work force center reaches out to workers

Aid offered to those facing tough times

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Resources

Job seekers who need help can visit the Colorado Workforce Center, 425 Anglers Drive, or call 879-3075. More information is at www.connectingcol... and www.coworkforce.c...

Businesspeople who want assistance can call Randy Rudasics at 870-4491.

Jon Schallert's information is at www.jonschallert....

— Unemployment is creeping up in Colorado and Routt County, and experts are offering free help to workers and businesses who are hurting.

Dale Boberg hobbled in to the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center on crutches Thursday morning to page through job listings. The center provides guidance for people seeking work and information about unemployment and labor laws, among other services.

Boberg has been looking for work since he broke his heel in October and had to stop building log homes. It's been "a little bit" tougher to find work, he said. Another man at the center Thursday said he came in "because there's no work" before he rushed out.

Employment specialist Brian Bradbury said the center has seen more job seekers and fewer job listings.

People looking for work register with the Workforce Center, describing their skills and the type of job they want. The center then sends them e-mails or calls when matching jobs turn up, Bradbury said.

"We have a lot of people coming in that have been laid off," he said. "They're asking questions about other states, other occupations, what's going on."

Hitting home

The challenging atmosphere in Routt County was particularly evident at a job fair this month, Bradbury said. The twice-a-year fair, for which the center partners with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, usually features 30 employers and 100 job seekers, he said. More employers sign on to a waiting list to participate.

This month, 18 or 19 employers attended, and about 200 people came looking for jobs, Bradbury said. The clientele also is changing, he said.

"We're seeing people who are longer term, who have been working longer term and were laid off," Bradbury said. The "applicants, they have more skills."

He said he has assisted unemployed people in finance, marketing, real estate and many construction-related fields.

Kerry Shea, sales and marketing director at Resort Ventures West, said Steamboat was feeling the impact of the national economic and housing crises.

"The real estate market is one area feeling the brunt of it," Shea said.

Resort Ventures West had to lay off several employees to keep its business viable, he said.

"I know the industry as a whole, they're all trying to weather the storm right now," Shea said.

Intrawest, parent company of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., laid off workers last week. Those cuts affected 16 people in Steamboat, though not all 16 were laid off. Other local employers have been hesitant to confirm layoffs.

The business side

Help also is available for employers. The Small Business Resource Center at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus offers free counseling by appointment. Those interested in help tend to be startups, not established businesses, said Randy Rudasics, manager of the Bogue Enterprise Center and a SCORE counselor.

That trend is changing, however, he said.

"Close to half of what were talking with now is folks who are in business who are asking how to protect themselves," Rudasics said.

He encouraged businesses to come in as soon as they encounter a hint of trouble. By the time some come in, it's too late, Rudasics said.

"At some point, it becomes difficult to give any advice besides 'good luck,'" he said. "If you have any kind of fear or lack of confidence in being able to deal with a downturn : you should talk to folks in SCORE sooner, so that way we can take preventative steps."

Rudasics is planning a Dec. 11 discussion, led by Kemp Bohlen, about how businesses can protect themselves. Local economic development groups are planning forums next year about how businesses can survive and thrive in tough times, he said.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said some business owners have gotten help through consultant Jon Schallert. He teaches small businesses and communities how to turn themselves into "consumer destinations."

Schallert has helped Steamboat businesses through workshops and webinars, Barnett said.

"There are people out there that can help if the businesses will just listen," she said. "There are things you can do."

Rudasics said his group helps people realign marketing and advertising, for example, to get the most benefit.

"Everybody recognizes it's going to be a tougher winter, and those that adapt early will be less likely to face a crisis if things don't pan out," he said.

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