The independent news organization of Duke University

Van links locals with new career prospects

Sharon Champ left her New York City job of 26 years to be closer to family and take care of her mother, who lives in North Carolina. When Champ retired about two and a half years ago, she expected to be able to find work again after settling in Durham—that wasn’t the case.

Since she was let go as a cashier at the Blue Coffee Cafe downtown last year, Champ, 58, has been looking for work. Tuesday, Champ’s search brought her to the Durham JobLink Mobile Unit outside Northgate Mall.

“I am not at the age to collect Social Security, so I need to keep myself functioning and out there while I’m still able to work,” she said, adding that she is “open to trying something new.”

The Durham JobLink van is an extension of the Durham JobLink Career Center, designed to help city residents find jobs ranging from “entry level on up,” said JobLink Manager Tanya Spaulding-Hill. In five to 10 minutes at the van, people looking for jobs can get leads and referrals for positions.

Northgate is a new location for the job-finding service, whose main site is on Briggs Avenue in East Durham. The Northgate unit—added to “redirect some of the traffic” from other JobLink sites was introduced July 20, Spaulding-Hill said.

The unemployment rate for the county of Durham in July, the most recent month for which numbers are available, was 8.4 percent, according to the N.C. Employment Security Commission. The national unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in August.

The van is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, according to a City of Durham news release. It had served 538 people and given out 978 referrals as of yesterday, Spaulding-Hill noted.

Spaulding-Hill added that people should register online in the JobLink system to expedite the process. Those who wait until they arrive at the Northgate van will have a longer appointment time.

Although many people choose to look for work over the Internet, Spaulding-Hill said one of the benefits of using JobLink is that the organization can “actually tell you where the job is.”

She said another advantage of JobLink is that it quickly connects people to potential employers.

After Champ visited the Northgate unit Tuesday morning, she had an interview with Dream Works, a social service program, set up for today—a turn-around time she said she was not expecting.

Champ, who said she graduated from the New York Institute of Technology, has a lot of job experience to lean on in her current search.

She said she has worked as a cashier, an assistant teacher and a case worker for senior citizens living alone. And Champ said she worked for the New York City Department of Social Services, for 26 years—21 of those as a supervisor.

Champ said her career “opened [her] eyes to what [she] was capable of doing.” She added that her experiences in the Department of Social Services ranged from going to court before former family court judge Judith Sheindlin—better known as television personality Judge Judy—whom Champ said “is no act”—to being a supervisor when “the crack epidemic was in full swing.”

Spaulding-Hill said many professionals and “50-plus” individuals, like Champ, are coming to the Northgate JobLink.

She added that she remembers when older people used to return to work because they wanted something to do. Now, she said, they must work due to “economic conditions.”

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