Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley opened a new center next to the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem’s South Side to better serve the city’s large Hispanic population.
Hispanics who live on the South Side often have trouble getting to CareerLink Lehigh Valley at 555 Union Blvd. in Allentown, either because they lack transportation, work several jobs, can’t find child care or have limited English, officials said.
The new center’s accessibility at the Hispanic Center on East Fourth Street, in the heart of the Hispanic community, will make a large difference in people’s lives, and because it has its finger on the “pulse of the people,” said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Center, which operates Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley. It is part of a network of state-funded centers across Pennsylvania that provide training and resources for job seekers.
“We are all about helping people get trained and get to work,” said Dischinat, who was among state and local officials who spoke at a ribbon cutting Monday at the new center.
“This center will surround people coming to the Hispanic Center with access to the support services from the Hispanic Center coupled with the PA CareerLink employment and training tools to help people with career direction, training options and employment,” she said.
Between 1,200 and 2,000 people a month walk through the doors of the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley, a nonprofit organization that provides employment and social services to the Hispanic community. About 25 percent of Bethlehem’s population of 75,000 is Hispanic. Of those, 43 percent lives in south Bethlehem and has a per capita income of $14,269, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Jobs help stabilize families, said Lorna Velazquez, executive director of the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley.
“Accessibility and empowerment go hand-in-hand in order for people to be self-sufficient,” Velazquez said. “Our community just needs a hand up in order to be successful.”
Luis Campos, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the job center “fills a void” in Bethlehem’s Hispanic community.
Campos said discussions to get a job center in Bethlehem’s Hispanic community began more than a year ago between Mayor Robert Donchez and his Latino advisory committee. The various constituencies that worked to get the new job center “heard the issues and they delivered.”
The task that lies ahead, he said, is to get a return on the investment.
The new center will offer resume workshops, career counseling, job search assistance, interview training and skills assessments, among other services, including a bank of new computers that job seekers can use. The CareerLink center on Fourth Street is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Rather than being just another new job program, the new center is part of Pa CareerLink Lehigh Valley’s system approach, said John Brown, executive of Northampton County.
“That makes a difference for the job seeker and the employer,” Brown said.