New $5 Million Grant Boosts Assistance for Dislocated Workers in Silicon Valley

Source: Los Altos Patch

North county residents who have lost your jobs, take a little encouragement here.

The North Valley Job Training Consortium (NOVA) recently received a $5 million grant from Gov. Jerry Brown to continue a program for  individuals who have been laid off from companies in northern Santa Clara County and need job search assistance.

"We are stretched to the limits in terms of being able to provide services to the community, and this grant offers NOVA the opportunity to continue to serve Silicon Valley's transitioning workforce," said NOVA director, Kris Stadelman.

The grant will allow the STAR program (skills, testing, assessement, reemployment), to operate through March 31, 2012, with a plan to serve more than 2,000 individuals, she said.

The job seekers who rely on NOVA for free assistance are experiencing the worst employment situation in decades, even worse than the dot-com bust of 2002, according to Stadelman. In program year 2009–10, NOVA’s CONNECT! Job Seeker Center received more than 98,000 customer visits, a 20% increase over the previous year and an 87% increase from two years ago.

The latest unemployment rate in Silicon Valley is 10.7 percent, better than the statewide average, 12.5 percent. But it still means more than one out of 10 people is out of work.

NOVA,  a nonprofit directed by the NOVA Workforce Board, which works on behalf a seven-city consortium composed of Cupertino, Los Altos, Milpitas, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

Kathy Puryear, employment training program coordinator of NOVA, encourages more job seekers to take advantage of the free services available there.

NOVA's free services include workshops on career assessment, career exploration, transitioning to green careers, resume facts, resume critique, how to find job leads, job search tips for the mature worker, networking, how to use LinkedIn, and interview practice.

NOVA also has career advisors who take drop-in appointments to provide one-on-one counseling.

Ruth Habina, a Palo Alto resident who used the counseling service says it's very helpful.

"The career advisors are great," says Habina. "They've helped me build my confidence to do better on interviews."

Habina says she lost a full-time position as an adminstrative assistant during the economic downturn and has taken temporary administrative jobs since. She hopes to obtain steady, full-time employment again.

The way Habina stays in the same field goes along with a piece of expert advise Puryear gives to job seekers.

"It's much harder to change careers than to stay in your current career if there are jobs there," says Puryear based on her career advising experience. "If you change careers, your lack of experience may be a disadvantage, and you can't ask for more than an entry-level salary."

While NOVA offers training programs to help those who wish to change careers. some of the programs require a certain technical background as a prerequisite. They also take months to complete, perhaps too long for those who need a job immediately.

For these reasons, NOVA career advisors will help job seekers assess their skill sets and personal situations before referring them to training programs. The advisors  also encourage job seekers to join ProMatch, a member-self-directed program to build connections for job search.

A program of the California Employment Development Department, in collaboration with NOVA, ProMatch has seen many success stories. Cupertino resident Kamlesh Gandhi is among those who have acquired job leads from ProMatch.

Gandhi was one of the software executives laid off during Oracle's acquisition of Sun in February, 2010. A few months later, he joined ProMatch, where he gained first-hand information from a former member about the company culture of Brocade, where he was applying for a job.

Gandhi is currently director of global deal operations at Brocade. He says he hopes more people will follow his example to benefit from NOVA and ProMatch.

"NOVA and ProMatch help many people, but they are still hidden gems to many others," says Gandhi. "More people need to recognize them."