For hundreds of people every month, a windowless basement room at the Mountain View Community Center holds a bright promise.
The Mountain View Job Center, operated by the nonprofit Nine Star, provides job skills training, case management, GED opportunities, referral services and other assistance to thousands of people every year. Melissa Bassham, the nonprofit’s marketing and development director, said it serves two types of job-seekers. The site works with state referrals through a contract with the Division of Public Assistance, Bassham said, and also accepts walk-ins. According to site coordinator Sharon Pulou, the Mountain View location saw more than 200 walk-ins last month.
It gets busier in the summer, she said.
And while the job center is tucked away underneath the ruckus of the Boys & Girls Club, it’s a bustling center of activity all to its own.
Thursday, about a dozen people sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the job center’s free public computer lab, and others sat in chairs in a tiny waiting area. Case workers kept busy on the other side of the basement space, and Pulou said the site hosts daily workshops in a variety of different areas.
People can learn how to fill out an application, how to put together a resume and how to prepare for an interview, Pulou said. Sometimes a person might show up to a Nine Star workshop in pajamas, she said, and then they’d be taught how to dress for job-hunting success.
Pulou said some clients face other issues, and she and her coworkers work to ask the right questions.
“What are their barriers? Do they not have gas for their car, do they not have groceries to even eat food, do they not have interview clothing?” she said. “Some may have child care that they need to work out.”
In surveys conducted by the Anchorage Community Land Trust for the Mountain View Neighborhood Plan, the majority of residents said affordable housing and accessible bus routes are prominent priorities. Pulou said it all came back to employment.
So while Nine Star could help some clients procure things like bus passes or interview attire, she said she saw more widespread changes occur when people got jobs and kept them. There are plenty of success stories, Pulou said.
She recalled one walk-in — a Somali woman who spoke sparse English and arrived at the job center on the verge of despair. With the help of Google translations, Pulou said she learned the woman had limited transportation and child care and an interest in cleaning. One potential employer had an interview opening that day, and Pulou said she helped the woman put together a resume. She sent her on her way with a cover letter explaining the language barrier and her willingness to work. The next day, the woman had the job.
“It was a really, really good feeling,” Pulou said.
This month alone, she said the job center has seen its clients’ job-seeking success rate increase by 7 percent. Pulou said she tries to set up on-site recruiting sessions as often as possible, bringing in employers like Denali Alaska Credit Union, Carrs-Safeway, local labor unions and staffing agencies. So far this year, those on-the-spot recruitment sessions helped secure jobs for eight people, she said.
Pulou said the addition of new neighborhood employers like Bass Pro Shops and the expansion of existing businesses propels the job center’s success.
“It’s wonderful — I love how Mountain View is growing,” she said.