Looking for a job can be a lonely, frustrating and confusing process, but there is an office in Wellington with professionals to help job seekers on the journey.

“Our organization is one of the best kept secrets around,” Alex Munoz, workforce strategy manager for the Sumner County Workforce Center said.

The nonprofit center, located at 314 N. Washington, is open from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. in Wellington, Tuesday and Thursday. There is also an office in Winfield, Cowley County Workforce Center, located at 108 E. 12th Ave, and open on Monday and Wednesday. The same staff works at both offices. Both closed Friday and staff goes to the workforce center in Wichita for meetings.

“We are not the Dept. of Labor,” Munoz said. “We’re not the unemployment office. We don’t give people a job. We help people navigate for a job. It’s very much a ‘teach a man to fish’ scenario.”

‘Disorienting process’

There are two workforce professionals at the workforce center who assist job seekers where they are needed. “The job search is a skill in itself,” Munoz said. “How you get a job has changed dramatically with the way the internet has developed.”

Of the roughly 23,000 people living in Sumner County, only 50 are collecting unemployment. But Munoz said that for those who are without jobs “it’s like walking in a dark room”

An unemployed person may be in crisis mode. The person may be getting pressure from a spouse or family to find a job, a workforce professional could be a source of support for that person, Munoz said. 

“Sometimes you’re the only person in someone’s life for a support system,” Munoz said. “You may be the only positive voice in that person’s day. We try to be a place of support and guidance in the very disorienting process of getting a job.”

Munoz said he has helped everyone from high school dropouts to at least one person with a P.h.D. in seeking jobs and they all have skills or the ability to obtain skills employers need.

“I’ve never met someone who didn’t have something to offer an employee but I’ve met lots of people who need help finding what that something is,” he said. “Our staff is very good at that.”

Bettering their lives

Often workplace professionals work with individuals, discussing whether they are eligible for training, such as enrolling in classes to enhance their skills. The Workforce Center has grant money to pay for training, but need to first determine if a person is eligible to receive the training.

The funds come from the federal government’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant and competitive grants. This money is given to the state and distributed to its different regional areas to use as it sees fit. Local Area 4, which calls itself the South Central Kansas Workforce Alliance, consists of Sumner, Cowley, Harper, Butler, Kingman and Sedgwick counties. 

Most of the jobs are in internet technology (IT), oil and gas, manufacturing, healthcare and transportation and logistics, Munoz said. But employers in the region are finding there are not enough people with the skills needed to perform the jobs that need filled. Many times, a person might lack certain skills, but if that individual can show a capacity to learn, he or she may get hired.

Amy Perry, table games trainer at Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, said, during a recent job fair at the Workforce Center, that she is looking to hire employees who are good with people. It’s okay if they have no prior experience working in a casino.

“I can train somebody to count and deal, but I can’t train them to be good with people or how to deal with people,” Perry said.

Munoz said, “Most employers at this point are hiring for potential. Don’t count yourself out. If you know you can do the job or learn the job, there’s an employer out there willing to give you a shot. There’s certainly opportunity for people to better their lives.”