February 24, 2021

“I wanted to be of service.”

This simple statement sums up why Autumn Hughes, Director of Workforce Services at WorkForce Central, chose her career. She remembers her start as a young mother of two, struggling to earn a livable wage and hoping for a better life.

“I know what it’s like to rely on food stamps to help make ends meet. It was tough. Fortunately, I had access to community-based programs, financial aid, and a great family support system. I used those resources to go back to school, get a degree, and reach my goals,” Hughes explained. Now she’s paying that forward.

At WorkForce Central, Autumn oversees Title 1 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services for adults and dislocated workers, as well as national disaster grants. She supports WorkSource Pierce staff who are working daily to serve people in need of employment and training services.

Autumn Hughes
Director of Workforce Services

Her team’s focus is on reducing barriers and expanding access to people who qualify for WIOA services for adults and dislocated workers. These individuals may have been laid off, are (or were) eligible for unemployment benefits, and are unlikely to return to the same work because those jobs are limited or no longer available. In today’s environment, this includes workers from multiple sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but can also include people transitioning from the military or those who are re-entering the workforce after a period of absence.

WorkSource Pierce services provide support to people who are struggling to find jobs that fit their current skillset and need to retrain or “rebrand” themselves to move into a new line of work. These services can include career counseling, training for in-demand occupations, resume help, mock interviews, and even assistance with technology or PPE (personal protective equipment) to help them launch a new career. In some cases, a person might have the experience, but not the credentials, to get a job. The WorkSource Pierce team works with individuals to get those necessary certificates.

The pandemic has made this critical work more complicated. It isn’t simply the increase in the number of people in need of services, but also now the additional hurdles job seekers must overcome.

“We are in a really challenging space. People are justifiably concerned about their health. Kids are learning from home. There’s limited access to childcare, and many available jobs require some level of training,” Hughes said. “Our staff and community partners are working hard to address these barriers and meet these needs. This team has heart. We’re not going to give up.”

COVID-19 has also widened the opportunity gap for youth, communities of color, and those with limited access to technology. “Almost everything is being done virtually now, and your access to services can either help bridge the gap or hinder your ability to live your best life,” Hughes said. “We have to be better at creating a system which ensures folks have access to technology, such as computers and internet, so that the people who need it the most aren’t left out. We can’t and don’t do this work alone. We collaborate with business partners, education partners, local libraries, and community-based organizations.”

WorkSource Pierce offers a wide range of services for adults, young adults, military families, businesses, and more. Visit the WorkSource Pierce website to see all the opportunities available.

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