By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce staff and the Portales city manager are excited for the job searching tools and resources that have returned to Roosevelt County.
Two computer kiosks were installed Thursday morning at the Chamber for the purpose of job searching to compensate for the closing of the New Mexico Workforce Connection because of low use and a decrease in federal funds to the program, according to John Hemphill, New Mexico Workforce Connection director of workforce development.
Critics of the office’s closing said it put job seekers at a disadvantage because the nearest Workforce Connection office is in Clovis, and some may not have the means to travel for the state service.
“I think it’s a good solution for people who can’t afford to make that trip,” said Karl Terry, executive director of the chamber. “We still get people coming in. We’re hoping they’ll learn this resource is available.”
The new computers will provide the same tools as other Workforce Connection offices and offer the public a time and space for job searching and making unemployment insurance claims.
This will alleviate the heavy traffic of computer use at the Portales Public Library, according to Hemphill, who said an average of 30 people use the library for job searching purposes a week.
“It’s a win-win for both and we’re excited,” Hemphill said. “It will be a great service for the citizens of Roosevelt County.”
The computers will be accessible during chamber hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If job seekers need assistance, Hemphill said they can call the Clovis office for help or if they need in-person assistance, they can arrange for a staff person to come to Roosevelt County. Hemphill said the transportation service is on an as-need basis.
Portales City Manager Doug Redmond said people who used the facility were often skilled workers in between jobs or looking for additional work to make ends meet. Redmond said there was a surge in demand for those job services when Sunland Inc. closed its doors.
“The people who need their services really need their services,” Redmond said. “Our citizens need access to somewhere where they can seek employment. We needed a location to provide that service. I’m happy that (Terry and Hemphill) worked it out and found a better way to serve our people.”
David Douglas, a contractor with the Eastern Area Workforce Development Board, installed the computers Thursday and services all the offices on the eastern side of the state. He said he’s happy to add Portales back on his list.
“Technology changes, workforce changes, people need to be trained again to be competitive,” Douglas said. “I’m glad to see this happen. It gives folks here in town a place they could come to look for jobs.”
There were 453 unemployed people in Roosevelt County in December, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.