NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) — Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March of last year, more than 980,000 unemployment claims have been filed in Tennessee – putting many people in an unfamiliar predicament.
“There are 10s of 1,000s of Tennesseans collecting unemployment who have never had to collect unemployment before,” explained Chris Cannon with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, “So, they’re really at a loss for what’s next or what’s out there to help them.”
The dilemma has been daunting. However, Tennessee is one of the few states where the unemployment system and the workforce development system are integrated. The team went to work creating the Tennessee Virtual American Job Center.
“That is our goal, to help folks get back to work. There are more than 230,000 jobs available across the state,” Cannon said.
First, jobseekers answer a few questions in the online portal about job status, barriers to employment, and education level. Then, system populates a personalized code. A career specialist will help make their transition from unemployment to employment seamless.
“Perhaps the job you were in might not come back as quickly as you thought,” Cannon said. “It might be time to be thinking about another career. We can help with that.”
The VAJC also connects people with free training and educational classes to help make a job a reality. For many struggling to make ends meet, Cannon said landing a job isn’t the only issue.
“You can find the perfect job, but if you don’t have daycare, or if you don’t have gas money to drive to that job, or money to buy a uniform – that job doesn’t make any difference to you.”
So, they help with that too. “We have programs that can provide childcare, that can provide transportation assistance, and uniform assistance to remove those barriers, so when you find a job you can actually accept the job and thrive at it.”
It’s a successful new tool helping Tennessean’s transition back to work while overcoming the challenges of COVID-19.
“This is something that came out because of the pandemic that’s really going to benefit jobseekers well into the future.”
COVID-19 in Tennessee
(This reflects what the TDH reports each day. )