Transforming Unemployment Offices into Career Centers

When the Georgia Department of Labor began transforming unemployment offices across the state into Career Centers, we never imagined a community would beat us to the punch of building a Career Center!

Well, Hall County holds the distinction of having done so with the Lanier Career Center. The center, an educational partnership between the Hall County School System and Lanier Technical College, will allow students to receive a high school diploma and a two-year technical college certificate from the same institution. It is an innovative, smart approach to ensuring that youngsters not only graduate from high school but also learn a marketable skill. Our hats are off to the citizens of Hall County. This is just the strategy we need to prepare our workforce for the future.

But, I’d like for Hall County businesses and residents to know that even though you have a career center, another is on the way. The Georgia Department of Labor is committed to transforming the state’s unemployment offices into bright and inviting places where people can learn about new jobs, new career paths and new opportunities. The new center will complement the Lanier Career Center by making opportunities available to those already in the workforce as well as to high school students.

Hall County has long recognized the vital link between education and a productive workforce. Hall County’s Quality Education Strategy Team – QuEST – has helped more than 200 high school students secure apprentice positions. Partnerships between Lanier Technical College and local school systems have further helped prepare Hall County students for opportunities in the workforce.

Enhancing the skills and career prospects of current workers is also important, and the Georgia Department of Labor offers an array of services just one click away. G-1, or the Georgia One-Stop Network, places many services on the Internet so that citizens who are not close to a Career Center can still take advantage of online assistance. Our website,, offers a wealth of information on job trends and job-training opportunities.

The GPTV Job Fair is also an opportunity for Hall residents to learn about career opportunities. Services of the Department of Labor and job openings are presented in an informative and entertaining format. Descriptions of job openings from around the state are posted, and educators, economists and others are invited to inform viewers.

The economic recession has left thousands of Georgians jobless. GDOL’s Georgia Works program was developed in response to the rising rate of joblessness. Individuals who qualify for unemployment insurance benefits may receive on-site workplace training, regular unemployment benefits, and a special training allowance of up to $240. Employers provide on-site training for eight weeks for up to 24 hours per week. Upon successful completion of training, trainees will receive certification of job skills acquired and consideration for employment.

Employers who participate in Georgia Works avoid the risks often associated with hiring and training new workers. The risk is even greater during periods of economic downturn. During Georgia Works’ eight-week training period, employers have the opportunity to preview the trainee’s aptitude, work ethic and initiative before making a hiring decision. This “preview” arrangement also works to the benefit of the trainees. They have a chance of trying out a new field or industry before making an employment commitment. The training and certificate of training also enhance the trainee’s resume.

Job-training services are also available through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Department of Labor has created more than 75 “one-stop” centers with a range of resources to assist job-seekers. The one-stop centers offer career counseling, exploration of training and education choices, job searches and other services. Occupational classroom training, on-the-job and customized training are also available at no cost to Georgians. Since July 2000, more than 15,000 Individual Training Accounts – or training vouchers – have been issued through the WIA. To explore more than 5,800 approved ITA programs in Georgia, visit

We’ve witnessed a couple of challenging years in Georgia. The economic downturn left thousands without jobs. The manufacturing sector, which is vital to Hall County, has been particularly hard-hit. Economists point to a rebound – but even as the manufacturing sector has picked up, employment has not risen along with it. That’s because some companies are slow to hire workers until the recovery is in full swing. And many companies are relying on automation to meet increased demand.

But Hall County officials are rising to meet the challenge with innovative approaches designed to ensure that students emerge from high school with a skill as well as a diploma. The Department of Labor is there to augment those efforts with programs geared toward helping existing workers learn new skills and explore new opportunities. Working together, we can help prepare Hall County for economic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Michael Thurmond was born in rural Clarke County, the youngest of the nine children. He graduated Cum Laude from Paine College and later earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and completed the political executives program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In 1978, Michael Thurmond returned to Athens to practice law and took an active role in that city’s civic and political affairs. In 1986, he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly. In 1994, Governor Zell Miller selected him to direct Georgia’s historic transition from welfare to work, and he created the innovative “Workfirst” program, which has helped over 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move into the workforce. In 1998, he was elected Georgia Labor Commissioner

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