Are IowaWorks Access Points working for Iowans? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Are IowaWorks Access Points working for Iowans?


State lawmakers say, they've reached a deal which will help out-of-work Iowans. A bill moving through the house will maintain funding at Iowa Workforce Development Centers. Last week, the state Supreme Court declared the governor's 2011 line-item veto, which closed 36 Workforce Development Centers, illegal.

The court order might have disrupted services for unemployed Iowans, but both parties say they've agreed on a plan to keep funding at current levels. The bill does not address a different issue -- what will happen to the 36 Workforce Development Centers closed by the Branstad administration.

Workforce Development created hundreds of "Access Points" in libraries and community centers around the state to help rural Iowans who are looking for work. In that time, job hunters have logged in to the program nearly 100,000 times.

After five months of unemployment, Robert Davis has turned job hunting into a full-time job. He used to spend a lot of time at Waterloo's Workforce Development Center -- until someone clued him into the Access Point at Traer Public Library.

"Yeah, this saves a lot of drive time with gas being what it is. You know, $10, $15, maybe $20 a day. If you're doing that every day, that makes a big difference," said Davis.

It works for Davis, but Library Director Linda McDurmott said, for the most part, the IowaWorks Access Point software goes unused.

"We've probably had a handful, a dozen or so people come in. Just here and there," said McDurmott.

But McDurmott said, if more folks like Davis stopped by on a daily basis, it might become a real burden for library workers. After all, there are only one or two people on staff at a time, and they're trained to help you find the right book, not the right job.

"I could show them the icon and say, here's the manual, you can read it. How many people like to read manuals?" McDurmott noted. "But they'll still say I need help. It would be difficult if there was a big increase, if people were coming in and needing our help."

And while the program is more convenient, Davis says the virtual center isn't the same as meeting with someone face-to-face in Waterloo.

"Mainly what I did over there, pretty much I could do over here. But there are times when you do need to talk to someone personally," said Davis.

Davis is hopeful the right job is right around the corner. Until then, he's grateful to have an access point just down the street.

There are still 20 Workforce Development Centers located around the state where you can meet with a counselor in person. McDurmott said, if Waterloo or Marshalltown's center had closed, she expects they would see a lot more people on the computers in Traer.

Another issue we found is access for those who struggle with using a computer. There is a step-by-step tool included in the program. Otherwise, users are told simply to visit their nearest Workforce Center for guidance.

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