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Job-seeker service grows at mall

Resource center adds computers, classroom space

The nonprofit center that bills itself as The Rogue Valley's Most Valuable Resource is taking steps to become one of its most visible resources.

The Education Resource Center has increased its presence in the Rogue Valley Mall, expanding its resource room and library and adding a fourth classroom.

It gives us a lot more visibility, says Jim Hilton, the center's director. Since we've expanded this, we've gotten a lot more foot traffic, which is what we hoped for.

The center opened in the mall a decade ago as a one-stop information source for job seekers and employers. It is part of the Oregon Career Network, a statewide effort to consolidate employment services and improve access to them.

The expansion, financed by part of a $587,000 federal grant to expand one-stop centers in Jackson and Josephine counties, was completed in March.

The center will hold an open house all day Tuesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Activities will include a steady stream of presentations on the center's services that will feature Cam Prues-Braly of the governor's work force development office.

The center is a partnership of eight organizations, who share the expense of running it: Asante Health System, The Job Council, Oregon Employment Department, Pacific Non-Profit Network, Rogue Community College, Rogue Valley Workforce Development Council, Southern Oregon Goodwill Industries and Southern Oregon University.

It is staffed by 16 employees from those organizations, in addition to Hilton and an assistant. Finding space for that staff and the various services drove the expansion.

We had really been crowded, said Hilton.

Last year, the center provided 30,000 services to an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people. The services are free to job seekers and employers, though the classrooms are rented for a small fee.

Users of the center said the current space, nearly 7,000 square feet, makes for a pleasant, upbeat environment.

This is very informal and relaxed, said Karen Roeber of Central Point. It's very nice and the people are very helpful.

Roeber recently moved to the area and is seeking work in the health-care field. She updated her resume Tuesday afternoon on one of the center's computers.

The expansion increased the number of computers available for people to use from nine to 13. Medford's Donita Rajala said she's been quite impressed with the services available.

You can fix your resume and print your letters and send them out, she said. It's an awesome service.

When not updating her resume, sending out letters or scanning openings, Rajala has worked with typing software to keep up -- and improve -- her clerical skills.

That's why I'm down here every day while I'm between jobs, she said. I've used all the resources. It makes you feel like you are accomplishing something. You're doing something to move yourself along.

Among its many services, the Education Resource Center in the Rogue Valley Mall offers computers with Internet access that job seekers can use to write resumes, practice their typing or connect to the Oregon Employment Office.