Forum aims to guide job seekers

CHESTER -- Chester County leaders soon will hold a public help session to probe the county's employment needs and offer guidance to people looking for work.

Titled "I'm out of work, now what?" the event will be held at the Chester Middle School auditorium on Feb. 19 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Officials from 15 different county agencies will share information such as:

• Where people can turn when they're laid off

• Who can help them with their résumés

• Where they can get the education or training needed to find a new career

The forum also offers suggestions about how laid-off workers can manage their finances.

"Our hope is this -- that it's a place to come and gather information," said Ron Westbrook, director of Chester County's adult education program. "If you come there, you ought to be able to learn something about what you can do about being unemployed."

Westbrook organized the event as The Herald gathered information for a series on unemployment in Chester County. He said many agencies that help the unemployed are under-utilized and, because of budget constraints, don't advertise their offerings enough.

Westbrook also said there's a stigma attached to being unemployed or not having a high school diploma.

"They (unemployed residents) don't seek out help for certain agencies because of the stigmatism or they don't seek out those agencies because of ignorance -- they just don't know where they (the agencies) are or who they are," he said.

Among the groups participating are the Chester County Workforce Development Center, Founders Federal Credit Union, the S.C. Department of Social Services, the Fort Lawn Community Center and the Chester County Literacy Council.

"There's a critical need to get all this information out," said Cheryl Quinn, director of the Fort Lawn Community Center. "I'm hearing that it's getting out through the one-stops (employment offices) and through us, but it would be good to have us all together."

The forum also will give local agencies an outlet to find people in need rather than waiting for them to come calling.

"We feel like we'd be taking a proactive step by stepping away from our location and going out into the community to make contact," Westbrook said. "And this seems like the most logical place."

Chester County will hold a community forum on Feb. 19 at the Chester Middle School auditorium from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Titled "I'm out of work, now what?" the event will be a place to discuss the county's employment needs and offer help to people looking for work.