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Job seekers can find free training, interview help at Goodwill career centers

Leading up to this holiday season, Goodwill of Southern Nevada asked shoppers to add a dollar to their purchases. The money will go toward a dozen computers for its long-standing mission: seeing that people get jobs.

“A dollar here, a dollar there,” said Kathy Topp, who does marketing for Goodwill. “It seems like a little gift, but it adds up.”

Each donor will be recognized by a Gift of a Job donation square. Donations also can be made online at sngoodwill.org.

Goodwill has three Career Connections Training Centers: 1280 W. Cheyenne Ave. in North Las Vegas, which opened in 2005; 3345 E. Tropicana Ave., which opened in 2008; and the newly opened store at 741 S. Rainbow Blvd.

The Gift of a Job campaign will fund the purchase of computer equipment for the new training center inside the Rainbow store. The computers will be used by job seekers during free training workshops offered by Goodwill to help better position them for employment.

Currently, it’s a cavernous space in the back of the store awaiting tables, the much-needed computers and a dedicated staff. But training still was going on with a robust schedule that included interview tips, cover letter writing and resume must-haves. There are also classes for solar energy and technology jobs and money sense for when someone does land a job. Training is free.

For 2012, Goodwill provided training workshops for about 200 people in Southern Nevada. For 2013, that number jumped to 730. Goodwill projects that about 900 people will take the training in 2014.

Thanks to Goodwill’s training and job placement assistance, the nonprofit reported that as many as 2,000 of its clients found employment this year.

The numbers are kept loosely.

“Who knows how many more didn’t come back to tell us they’d gotten jobs?” said Vince Miller, senior manager of mission services for Goodwill.

The training and workshops are free. They are paid for by Goodwill’s retail program and other funding sources. There are a few classes that Goodwill holds specifically for the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation upon request, and the bureau pays the cost of those. Job seekers, Goodwill representatives said, are never asked to pay fees.

For more information about job workshops, visit sngoodwill.org/our-services-1/get-a-job/workshops.

On Dec. 4, Goodwill hosted about a dozen people for a three-hour seminar on interviewing tips. Nipon Saetia had been looking for a job for nine months and Yenenesh Yemane for five months. Philip DaQuino II said he had been looking for 14 months. He said he’s been applying for any job out there — records technician, administrative positions, receptionist and documentation specialist.

“I’m applying all the time,” DaQuino said. “Sometimes they don’t even bother to send a rejection by email.”

Cynthia Corino had been seeking a job for five months after her employer downsized. She underwent a six-week course to learn medical coding but still couldn’t get a job.

“I thought that once I got training, I’d be hired like that,” she said, snapping her fingers. “… They want people with experience.”

Victor Letky, workforce development facilitator, led the class that focused on interviewing skills.

“Everybody is nervous at an interview,” he said. “How can you decrease the nerves? By being prepared.”

That meant having an up-to-date resume, being on time and well-groomed, he said. He told them to dress in a way appropriate for the job for which they had applied. He turned to Billy Fernandez and asked what would be appropriate if he applied for a construction job. Fernandez said jeans would be acceptable to show that you were used to that type of work.

The voice of experience led him to add, “In fact, sometimes it helps if they have a couple stains on them.”

More universal tips: know the company; don’t smoke, so your breath is fresh; and bring a resume even if it’s noted as being optional. If an application form asks something that doesn’t apply to you, write “N/A” instead of leaving it blank. For expected salary, write “negotiable.”

And always smile and always look the interviewer in the eye.

“You’re being judged from the moment you enter,” Letky said.

He outlined the “3 Ps” when answering questions: be positive, be to the point and be professional. Then Letky showed a video of a young man who broke every rule. He arrived for an interview in a T-shirt and wearing a backward baseball cap, rocking out to a song on his earphones. Once in front of the interviewer, he never shook hands, took a call on his cellphone, played with an item he found on the desk and leaned his chair back.

When asked why he wanted to work there, the young man said he was only there because “My mom told me to get a job.”

Video paused, the class clamored to list everything the young man did wrong.

The video resumed with the same young man in a suit, acting professional and answering all the interviewer’s questions with solid answers. As before, Letky had the class dissect the exchange.

He added a part not in the video: sending a thank you card — yes, by snail mail — could make the difference.

“It’ll make you stand out,” Letky said. “It’s the likable person who gets the job, not always the most qualified.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7 percent in November, the lowest in five years. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 203,000. Employment increased in transportation and warehousing, health care and manufacturing. American businesses have added jobs for 45 consecutive months, with private sector employment increasing by more than 8 million over that period.

As if to underscore those statistics, within days of the class, Corino received a job offer in customer relations with a credit card company.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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