Randy Lheureau, the workforce development specialist for the Northside Leadership Conference, runs the Northside’s only city-funded employment center. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area was at 7.5 percent for November 2009, or 2 percent below the national average.

Even still, that’s no relief to Northsiders who have been searching for jobs for months.

But regardless of whether businesses are hiring, securing a job can be an intimidating endeavor. It often takes a steady focus and special attention to presentation.

It’s important for today’s job seekers to know what resources are out there to assist them during this stage.

Neighborhood Employment Center

Randy Lheureau, the workforce development specialist for the Northside Leadership Conference, runs the Northside’s only city-funded employment center. The center is located in suite 601 of the 4 Allegheny Center building.

A former headhunter, Lheureau knows what employers are looking for and the best ways to improve someone’s chances of getting a job.

“I’ll call employers and let them know about what we do, and I look for leads on the Northside,” Lheureau said about his daily routine.

The NEC is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lheureau said the job center, which has five computers for free employment searches, usually sees about 25 different job seekers per week.

When a job seeker arrives for the first time, Lheureau usually follows a procedure to make the best use of their time.

“First, I sit and talk one-on-one with them. I really take the time to get to know each person. Then I put a plan together to find them a job,” Lheureau said.

Lheureau also gives advice on creating resumes, cover letters and developing interview strategies.

“Nowadays, I stress that most positions require time on the computer. You can still fill out paper applications, but a lot of access to jobs is done through email and the internet [today],” he added.

Often, job seekers are not familiar with the Pennsylvania’s CareerLink website, called the Commonwealth Workforce Development System.

The website allows users to create resumes and make them available to employers and also to research employment topics.

One problem he has seen in the current economy is that it’s generally taking longer for employers to contact interested candidates. Lheureau chalked this up to the fact that companies are being inundated with applications these days for every position they offer.

In the past, Lheureau has been instrumental in helping Northsiders get jobs at the Rivers Casino. Now, the largest current employer is the federal government’s 2010 Census. According to representatives he spoke with from the Census Bureau, Lheureau said that the Pittsburgh area will require a few thousand seasonal workers to complete the census.

Census jobs last about three months — primarily April, May and June — but Lheureau said most of the hiring will take place by the end of February. To get more information on Census jobs, or to search for a permanent position, visit Randy Lheureau at the Neighborhood Employment Center to begin the search for your next job.

Youthbuild

Another program is Youthbuild, where young adults between the ages of 18-24 have the option of joining the Pittsburgh Project’s program.

The federally-funded, two-year program teaches both young men and women the skills necessary to join the construction industry.

In addition, enrollees have to take a GED component if they have not already completed their high school education.

Early last year, someone donated a house to renovate on Grand Avenue in Brightwood. The students learned how to completely renovate the house under the tutelage of an experienced site manager.

The project was finished in October 2009.

“We’re teaching them a work ethic,” said Case Manager Terri Lee. “Our students learn electrical work, roofing, putting drywall up.”

The students attend Youthbuild, starting at 8 a.m. every day, as if it’s an actual job. They receive a small stipend for their construction work, but not for their GED classes.

Lee said a lot of the program focuses on giving students the knowledge, skills and awareness necessary to land a job in the first place. Youthbuild stresses being on time and exhibiting professional behavior.

NorthShore Community Alliance

The workforce development program run by the NorthShore Community Alliance assists job seekers who need counseling and advice in their job search process.

Reggie Good, the community programs supervisor, helps individuals with such key tasks as resume writing, job referrals, collecting job listings and training folks unfamiliar with using email to communicate with potential employers. Most often, he sees his role as that of a “job coach.”

Good said the Workforce Development Program has found full-time employment for 52 out 300 job seekers in the past year or so.

“We have a partnership with Allegheny General. They’ve hired some of the people we’ve referred,” Good said.

Sometimes, Good said he refers individuals to a six-week class that the Community College of Allegheny County offers to people seeking union cards. The card is often a foot in the door for union jobs.

Good said about 10 to 20 job seekers stop by the Alliance’s offices each day at 1439 North Franklin Street, but that he hopes to secure more funding to hire someone to run the employment program full-time, so he can focus on running the Alliance’s food bank and community recreation programs.