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Jobs on Wheels

JobLINC bus will serve as mobile career classroom.



It's hard to find a job these days without a set of wheels and an Internet connection.

But those without cars or computers can soon turn to the city's JobLINC mobile career center for help. After a year-long hiatus, the JobLINC bus is making a return to the roads of Memphis with new and improved features.

A converted school bus served as home to the Memphis Public Library's JobLINC bus for more than 20 years, but the vehicle was retired in 2010 after repeated mechanical problems.

Thanks to a $314,000 grant from the Plough Foundation, the Memphis Library Foundation will be able to purchase a new bus to begin operating this summer.

Robyn Stone, manager of JobLINC services for the Memphis Public Library, said the new bus will serve as a "mobile classroom," providing services to help people gain employment and learn skills needed to maintain jobs.

"We'll review resumes, go over interview questions, and connect people with who is hiring," Stone said. "If you need some additional training, we know who to refer you to. We want to make sure [people] get the right information at the right time, instead of sending [them] around in circles."

Scott McCormick, executive director of the Plough Foundation, said the organization is funding the project because it benefits both residents and employers.

"We considered today's climate in the economy and the rate of unemployment in Memphis and saw that this would be a real need for helping people find jobs," McCormick said. "A lot of times, it's hard for employers to determine the best-suited candidate for a position. I think the bus, with the tools that it has on it, will help employers make their decision, along with helping applicants find jobs."

The library has two vehicle designs to choose from for the new JobLINC bus: a school bus or an 18-wheeler.

Ten people will be allowed on board at any one time since 10 laptops are available for searching and applying for jobs and updating and sending resumes. At least two staff members will be available to assist customers.

The new bus will be eco-friendly with solar panels powering its electronics. The floor will be composed of recycled material, and it will have a hybrid engine that runs on diesel fuel.

It'll make stops at community centers, library branches, grocery stores, malls, and other public areas. The bus will remain at a location for up to a day if needed.

Diane Jalfon, executive director of the Memphis Library Foundation, said she hopes JobLINC services will not only help people find employment but increase their knowledge of computers as well.

"You can't apply for a job anymore unless it's online. There was a time when you could show up at a business and fill out an application," Jalfon said. "Everything is online now, and not everyone is comfortable with that kind of electronic service. I think the bus will give people more access and hopefully put more people back to work."

JobLINC will serve an estimated 12,000 people a year. According to the Department of Numbers website, in October 2011, there were 65,118 unemployed people in Memphis. The city had an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent, which was 1.4 percent higher than the national average.

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