Gov. Brown Gives $5 Million to Help Unemployed of Silicon Valley

Source: Palo Alto Patch

Workforce board NOVA of Sunnyvale has received a $5 million state grant to provide employment and training services to laid-off workers of Silicon Valley, including Palo Alto residents.

Gov. Jerry Brown awarded the Skills Testing Assessment Reemployment (STAR) grant to help NOVA serve more than 2,000 individuals from now until March 2012. NOVA, a federally funded nonprofit organization, will use the grant to assist job seekers in seven local cities, including Palo Alto.

“The STAR Grant is critical to NOVA, because it allows us to provide retraining opportunities and hope to many of the laid-off workers, helping them more easily transition to their next opportunity,” said Felicia Thompson, business liaison for NOVA (North Valley Job Training Consortium).

Though the unemployment rate in Palo Alto has increased from 2.6 percent to 5.6 percent over the last three years, it is lower in comparison to the current Santa Clara County unemployment rate of 10.4 percent.

“You guys are relatively lucky,” said Jeanette Langdell, NOVA’s training manager.

“I think it is getting a little more positive,” Langdell said of the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley. “But the unemployment rate is misleading. Sometimes the very same people that are hiring are laying people off.”

The STAR Grant, provided by the Workforce Investment Act, will be aimed directly at workers recently laid off or let go during the recession. The money comes from the Additional Funding section of the State budget.

“We are stretched to the limits in terms of being able to provide services to the community, and this grant offers NOVA the opportunity to continue to serve Silicon Valley’s transitioning workforce,” said NOVA director Kris Stadelman.

NOVA, whose services are free, works with the CONNECT! Job Seeker Center to help job seekers improve and draft resumes. NOVA also runs workshops on interviewing, managing finances, even on networking on LinkedIn (one of the more popular workshops).

“They do such a great job of treating you as an individual and helping you find a good match—somewhere where you’ll be happy,” said Alexi Miller, a resident of Palo Alto who has been using NOVA’s services since early 2010.

With NOVA’s help, Miller has improved her resume and interviewing skills and attended face-to-face drop-in counseling. “You gain from their professional services, but you also gain from other people’s experiences in the workshops,” said Miller, who was recently accepted into NOVA’s ProMatch group, which focuses on networking and fine-tuning job seekers’ marketability.

“It really addresses all your needs, including the psychological effects of being out of work,” said Miller. “Even though I don’t have a position yet, I feel that the support I got from NOVA strengthened my ability to get interviews.”

One of 49 workforce investment boards in California and 600 in the nation that receive federal funding from the Employment Development Department, NOVA plans on serving many people in the next year.

“We average more than 400 client visits a day,” said Langdell. “In this present fiscal year [since July 2010], we’ve had 56,258 client visits. That’s almost 8,000 unique job seekers who have come through and are using our services.”

NOVA, which has been around for more than 25 years, counted 98,000 customer visits in program year 2009-10, a 20 percent increase over the previous year and an 87 percent increase from two years ago.

“The money that they allocate to us is not near enough to meet the need of all people who need services,” said Langdell “We’re so adversely impacted by the lay-off.”

NOVA, which is more about preparing job seekers to search for work rather than placing employees, focuses on teaching people to network, search for jobs and upgrade their skills. “Say they’ve worked for one employer for 20 years,” said Langdell. “They won’t be as competitive. We may have funding to send them to a training provider to upgrade those skills.”