IowaWORKS career planners and job search experts soon will be hitting the road to serve Iowans in a whole new way: They’ll be bringing the office to you.
Iowa Workforce Development expects to take delivery next summer of a new 32-foot-long, custom-built bus – a mobile IowaWORKS on wheels that’s expected to become a valuable tool for quickly delivering workforce assistance to far-flung areas of the state.
“The pandemic caused us to rethink how we serve people across the board,” said Michelle McNertney, IWD’s Division Administrator for Workforce Services. “This is another great tool for our toolbox. It adds flexibility and a new way to reach people who are not currently taking advantage of the wide variety of resources and services available through the IowaWORKS centers.”
The $470,000 mobile unit is currently being constructed by Wisconsin-based LDV Inc., a manufacturer selected following a competitive bidding process this past spring.
When finished, the mobile unit will include 10 computer work stations and two 40-inch monitors (one mounted outside the vehicle) that can be used for larger presentations. IowaWORKS staff will be able to provide one-on-one job counseling, help Iowans file unemployment claims, or (depending on the weather) host workshops under an outdoor awning to help with resumes and job interviews.
“I think the opportunities with this really are endless and only limited by our ability to be innovative,” said Linda Rouse, IWD’s Division Administrator for American Job Centers (the IowaWORKS offices). “We’ll be able to move in a wide variety of different directions with it.”
For example, IWD staff will be able to quickly respond to natural disasters or large job losses by dispatching the mobile unit to, for example, a parking lot or community near companies impacted by layoffs. Job coaches will be able explain the options to affected workers quickly and conveniently without requiring them to drive to an IowaWORKS office.
Beyond emergencies, the mobile unit will make it easier for IowaWORKS and partner agencies to serve the Iowans who don’t live within easy driving distance of one of the 15 IowaWORKS centers (plus two satellite locations).
McNertney and Rouse intend to create a website where Iowans will be able to request the mobile unit come to their town – perhaps to help with a job fair or to address problems in a county with higher pockets of unemployment.
The mobile unit also may be used to help IowaWORKS focus attention on underserved populations. For example, staff may work to increase participation in youth programs by parking the mobile unit outside a school event or youth center.
More specific plans will be developed over the next year. But the goal, McNertney stressed, is clear – making it as easy as possible for more Iowans to access IowaWORKS services.
“This allows us to take IowaWORKS to Iowans instead of people having to come to IowaWORKS.”