State plan closes career center in Fort Oglethorpe

State plan closes career center in Fort Oglethorpe

June 13th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

June 13 is the last day the Fort Oglethorpe Career Center and five similar offices across the state will serve the unemployed.

Closing offices in Blairsville, Camilla, Elberton, Kings Bay, Monroe and Northwest Georgia (Fort Oglethorpe) is seen as a way to cut costs, according to Georgia Department of Labor spokesman Tom Krause.

Officials said none of the 15 who staff the local office will lose their jobs. Ten will transfer to the career center in Dalton and five will move to the LaFayette career center.

But closing the office on Battlefield Parkway means anyone needing to use career center computers to search for work and file claims or meet face-to-face with the staff now face an additional hardship to being unemployed.

"We see people from all over," said Chris Upchurch, the Fort Oglethorpe center's manager. "Our location draws a lot of out-of-state residents who worked in Georgia and we have been sending someone to Dade County every other week to establish a presence there."

During calendar year 2011, Krause said the Dalton center had 8,810 register for service while Fort Oglethorpe had 8,147 and LaFayette had 2,934 file claims. These numbers are for those who registered for service, not a total tally of every visit to the center.

One positive aspect of today's closure is that the remaining career centers will be better staffed.

LaFayette's office, if fully staffed, would have 11 on staff but had only eight. Dalton, while supposed to have a complement of 23, has been operating with only 14 staff members.

After today, staffing numbers will rise to 24 at the Dalton Career Center and 13 at the career center in LaFayette.

"The most rewarding thing about this job is meeting face-to-face and being able to help someone," Upchurch said. "There will still be the ability to do that."

Krause said the Department of Labor is bolstering its online presence - not eliminating brick and mortar career centers.

"Some like going to the career center for one-on-one contact, others prefer not traveling," Krause said.

It is agreed that more things can and are being done online. Businesses are now able to make unemployment payments electronically. The unemployed are using computers to search for jobs as well as to update their status for collecting benefits.

And for those things that cannot be handled either online or over the telephone, Upchurch said the career centers in Dalton and LaFayette can provide personal service.

"I feel we have provided such good enough service that people will make that drive if necessary," he said. "Our staff from this office hope to be at our new locations next week."