by Dennis Dalman
After working in the printing business for nearly 28 years, Ray Roth of Sartell suddenly found himself out of a job, but thanks to free services given by Career Solutions, he received not only a boost in morale and confidence, but he also landed a job he likes very much.
For years, Roth, now 63, worked for Bliss Direct Media in St. Joseph. That business, which has a full-service printing job, works to strengthen nonprofits in the areas of planning, production implementation and analysis. In March 2020, Roth was laid off. About five months later, after lots of effort, he got a job with Merrill Topan in Sartell, a large printing company.
At Merrill Topan, Roth is a production specialist who receives orders from clients and prepares those orders for printing production.
“It worked out really well,” said Roth of his job search. “The timing was right, and they (the people at Career Solutions’ Dislocated Workers Program) were so helpful. They opened up many new ideas.”
Roth has particular high praise for Caroline Ruegemer, one of the career planners with Career Solutions. Due to the pandemic, she and Roth would have meetings via their computers.
“She was exceptional,” he said. “So encouraging. She helped guide me through resources and helped me get my resume updated and fine-tuned to something that employers would be looking for – marketable skills. She also guided me to (internet) sites to search for jobs. At that time, most places were locked down because of the pandemic, so the job search had to be done online.”
Ruegemer also helped Roth become more proficient in computer skills, with tutorials on how to beef up those skills as well as other resources he might need. Another big plus was the help given to strengthen interviewing skills, including a mock interview.
“That was very helpful,” he said.
Roth is just one of hundreds of unemployed workers assisted successfully by Career Solutions’ many programs and resources.
Tammy Biery, executive director for Career Solutions, likes to put it this way: “We are helping them (displaced workers) turn lemons into lemonade.”
Last year, with the pandemic raging since March, Career Solutions, based in St. Cloud, helped 1,000 people find jobs. Of that number, 852 of them had been displaced (laid-off) workers. Historically, in 2012 the paper mill in Sartell closed after a disastrous fire that took the life of a worker there. The Career Solutions Displaced Workers Program served 355 unemployed paper-plant workers, and 200 of those received retraining skills. Currently, Career Solutions is working with 514 laid-off workers from Electrolux in St. Cloud when that long-time factory closed last year.
Of the 1,000 workers helped last year, about 150 of them wanted job changes because they were not happy in the ones they had, Biery noted.
Thanks to the 18 to 25 grants the agency gets per year, Career Solutions is able to pay programs that train and re-train workers.
Career Solutions serves people in both Stearns and Benton counties. It used to be known as the Stearns-Benton Employment & Training Council. For 30 years, the SBETC was a major factor in helping build a skilled workforce in the area, including entry-level to experienced positions for youth to older adults.
Another category, Biery noted, is the “Displaced Homemaker Program” for people (mostly women) who spend most of their lives caring for families and homes and who are returning to the workforce or about to enter it for the first time.
There are also on-the-job training programs for many hires as well as work-based learning options.
Career Solutions is an effective agency for employers as well as employees. It helps businesses connect to qualified workers, helps them with employee training and serves as a link to local, state and federal resources.
One of the most helpful programs, especially for workers new to the working world, is called “Career Trek,” a five-day 20-hour program to help people identify and/or discover their talents, strengths and skills. Knowledge of those skills is vital to putting people on the right track in their job searches, said Biery.
For young adults, there is an eight to 10-week program to help them gain works skills, increase English –language competency and math skils, then to help them work toward gaining a diploma and finding jobs with sustainable wages.
Job searches can be very emotional and stressful, both for people seeking work and for those at Career Solutions working hard to help them. But there are so many uplifting success stories that are shared at weekly staff meetings, Biery added.
She remembered on in particular. One woman was so nervous to the point of being terrified about having to do job interviews. With lots of moral support, coaching and skills and then doing a mock interview, she passed with flying colors.
“When she did the interview, that woman knocked it right out of the park!” said Biery.
Biery encourages anyone laid off during the pandemic to reach out to Career Solutions. There is no charge for the services. The number to call is 320-308-5320. Its website is CareerSolutionsjobs.org
Career Solutions is located at 1542 Northway Dr., Door 2, in St. Cloud.