An unprecedented number of Colorodans are facing job loss and uncertainty due to the new coronavirus pandemic. The Pikes Peak Workforce Center aids people in El Paso and Teller counties in connecting with employment resources, including filing for unemployment and finding open positions in the region.
KRCC's Elena Rivera spoke with Executive Director Traci Marques on workforce changes and community resources during COVID-19.
Elena Rivera [ER]: Are you thinking at all about how this time is going to affect the future of the workforce in the county?
Traci Marques [TM]: I just had this conversation yesterday. It's an aha moment. [In 2019], we started a new department under the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment called The Future of Work. We've met as workforce directors throughout the state and communities thinking, 'OK, what is the future of work? What's it going to look like? How people are going to be working virtually?' We've been talking about the future of work for years. And then literally within two, three weeks, we're there. We're all thinking of different creative solutions of being able to work from home or the social distancing that you need. But at the same time, we have to start thinking, what do we need to do to train that future worker and serve folks in the community?
ER: What has been challenging, other than the obvious technology issues?
TM: Pikes Peak Workforce serves the hard to serve populations. People that walk in our doors have significant barriers to employment. They need one-on-one assistance writing a résumé and looking for a job, filing for unemployment. We have telephones for them to use to make calls or do a Skype interview or use our technology for them to get jobs. The clients that we serve, the ones that walk in our door every day, where do they go? The libraries are closed. Everyone's closed. They don't have access to that technology. We assume everyone just files for unemployment. Well, that assumes that you have access to technology. You have a computer. Great, you have a computer. But do you have Wi-Fi? So how do we help those that need us the most? And that's been our biggest struggle right now, is how do we continue to assist the population? We're game planning right now, when we do reopen, how do we make sure we create enough space for social distancing for our clients who really need us to walk in the doors.
The center is hosting a virtual job fair with over 50 companies hiring for jobs in fields like healthcare, transportation and food service. The job fair runs through April.