The COVID Impact: Enhanced Virtual Services Benefit Jobseekers and Employers at AJCs

Terri Kaufman - Workforce Development Specialist ·

Serving job-seeking customers and providing a pipeline of job-ready candidates to employers is top priority for the more than 2,400 American Job Centers (AJCs) across the country. Fulfilling that mission during the Coronavirus pandemic has been challenging, but not impossible. To ensure each person in need has access from wherever they are, AJC staff knew they had to reimagine and restructure services, so a virtual service strategy became a pandemic-induced goal, and AJCs delivered. As employers and organizations across the country continue to face workforce challenges, finding new ways to connect with customers is crucial and I am eager to share industry best practices.

In this blog, you will learn more about the ways AJC’s developed and implemented better, smarter, faster ways to deliver services to jobseekers and employers, including creating virtual, innovative programming and specialized support. You’ll also hear from a national workforce development service provider (EDSI) on how they’ve pivoted to offer more virtual service options during the pandemic.

What Do AJCs Offer?

The American Job Center network provides universal access to an integrated array of services so that workers, jobseekers, and employers can find the support they need. Services are available for unemployment insurance claimants, as well as employers needing recruitment support in finding individuals to fill their job openings. Prior to COVID, the majority of services were delivered onsite, including self-service job search assistance, skills assessments, training and workshops, as well as staff-assisted service delivery approaches that meet each individual’s needs, including one-on-one career counseling and specific referrals to community partners for mental health care and other barrier remediation services.

Additionally, AJC staff serves their employer community with services that include assistance in connecting jobseekers to available job openings, development of job order requirements, matching jobseeker experience with job requirements and skills, assisting employers with special recruitment needs, arranging job fairs, assisting employers with analyzing hard-to-fill job orders, consulting on job restructuring, and helping employers handle layoffs and cutbacks.

AJC Onsite Services

  • Employment plans
  • Job training services
  • Job search assistance
  • Career counseling
  • Interviewing practice
  • Skills testing
  • Labor market research
  • Employer information
  • Employment workshops
  • Supportive services (SNAP, financial assistance, Medicaid, training services, child care, emergency funds, and other benefits)
  • Hiring events and job fairs
  • Business services information
  • Special accommodations for people with disabilities
  • Unemployment insurance information

The AJCs have had a significant impact nationally on serving jobseekers and employers. Take a look at the chart below to see the large number of jobseekers served since PY 2017.

In comparison, in program year July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 the U.S. Department of Labor reported the following statistics with the impact of Covid-19.


In March of 2020, many states made the decision that AJCs should continue to provide WIOA services remotely through the use of technology and networking. Local Workforce Boards and partnering agencies like EDSI have answered the call for help by identifying innovative ways to assist jobseekers gain broader access to stable, long-term opportunities. For workforce center staff members and partnering agencies, effectively serving customers – particularly jobseekers – was and is an ongoing priority. Through the pandemic, AJCs provided accessible, self-service job search support, facilitated self-help services and offered staff assisted-service delivery approaches that met the needs of both individuals and employers.

How Did AJCs Provide Jobseeker Support?

Providing continuous remote career navigation increases the efficiency of the service delivery process by reaching more jobseekers in innovative and convenient ways and allows them to receive the help they need to increase their skills, become self-sufficient and secure employment. This, combined with onsite navigation services, will enable the AJCs to serve more individuals then ever before!

AJCs will continue to face unprecedented challenges in serving jobseekers in this ever-changing and challenging economy. Have you developed new strategies, developed new partners and implemented service delivery methods that are available onsite and remotely? Are you engaging regional partners to determine whether AJC services are meeting the needs of individuals and employers? What steps are you taking to ensure that services can be delivered onsite and remotely in AJCs?

As an alternative to in-person meetings, the increased use of emails and text messaging have been utilized to inform customers on how they can access services virtually. Many AJCs adopted virtual WIOA enrollment beginning with phone calls forwarded from a newly established central call center to the appropriate staff member directly in order to facilitate eligibility and program enrollment. When AJCs closed in-person services to the public, many new outreach and service strategies were implemented to provide virtual services to jobseekers and employers. They included:

  • Virtual Meetings – Use of computer software that allows video conference interfacing so you can connect in lieu of in-person meetings
  • Virtual Enrollment – Utilization of a service specializing in the secure transmission of confidential data to transfer social security and identification documentation between new enrollees and Career Advisors as well as software solutions for electronic signatures
  • Digital Outreach – Developed a strong social media presence in order to digitally recruit prospective participants
  • Family Advocate Access – Provided Family Advocate counseling professionals to connect participants to available community resources (virtual or in-person)
  • Consistent Check-ins – Used a variety of methods to connect: phone, email, text, social media, video conference
  • Worked with existing and new community partners to secure computer access or Wi-Fi connections and other supportive services to help those in need

Virtual Employer Recruitment Events and Job Fairs

Providing jobseekers with an easy way to meet directly with employers and helping employers find, train, and retain great employees is what AJCs are all about. Despite the tumult caused by the pandemic, many businesses remained in need of finding ways to access employee candidates and virtual job fairs were a natural solution. Through the creation of virtual job fair forums housed on a Learning Management System (LMS) or other online platform, our virtual job fairs provided employers with their own space, or room, where they could post job descriptions, links to their website, and schedule live information sessions and interviews with prospective candidates. Individuals could sign up ahead of time for links to the interactive information sessions and access a calendar with a schedule of all information sessions, organized by industry. For a more comprehensive look at organizing and hosting a virtual job fair, read this blog.

Service Provider Spotlight- EDSI

EDSI is a workforce development and consulting company that runs 115 government programs in eight states, and has hosted numerous successful online hiring events across the country. As captured in the metrics below, EDSI’s Queens, New York; Philadelphia, PA; and Tampa, Florida programs delivered a variety of virtual services that brought jobseekers and employers together, with great success in matching candidates to open jobs.

Queens, NY CareerCompass Program

From March 2020 through June 2021, a total of 156 virtual workshops, seminars, job fairs, and guest speakers for a total of 2,198 jobseekers were offered. These included:

  • A heavy emphasis on contacting jobseekers via text message and switching to the Zoom platform boosted participation in virtual workshops significantly beginning in September 2020.
  • An October 2020 Wellness Fair included a social worker who spoke about mental health resources and best practices.
  • Launched virtual sector-based virtual workshops in December 2020 on high priority careers such as healthcare, customer service, and technology careers.
  • Multiple monthly sessions for You’re HIRED workshops, including Finding Your Fit, Time Management, Modern Interviewing Skills, and Attitude Skills for Success.
  • Regular Training Fairs, Resource Fairs, and Job Fairs, all with guest speakers from the Workforce1 system, HRA, training partners, and community partners.

Philadelphia, PA System-Wide Services

In Spring of 2020, 16 virtual employer recruiting events were held in Philly and 849 referrals were captured between March and June 2020. Business Services Representatives assisted 108 essential businesses, including Amazon Robotic Maintenance, American Red Cross, UPS, Zoom, and FedEx.

Tampa, FL CareerSource Program

The CareerSource Tampa Virtual Job Fair hosted local employers that provided links, resources, and live information sessions in high-priority industries, including manufacturing, skilled trades, healthcare, customer service, finance, and IT.

Besides the general public, individuals enrolled through the Rapid Response Recovery (R3) program – initiated through CARES Act funds – and were invited to browse the job fair and interact with employers.

How Did AJCs Provide Specialized Support for Employers?

Helping employers persevere through economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic was a high priority for the Business Services Teams working within the AJCs. Teams in many regions worked with local employers to offer webinars tailored to their needs, and one-on-one sessions to address an employer’s specific situation were also offered. These opportunities were promoted by Business Services Representatives (BSRs), who kept abreast of resources available to businesses to make sure they got what they needed to cope with challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Some of the employer webinar topics addressed specifics of the CARES grants, how to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and how to access other funds available to businesses impacted by shutdowns.

As an example, EDSI offered over 30 free, customized employer webinars in 2021 to six Workforce Development Boards across the country, including Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina. These state-specific presentations outlined the assistance each employer was eligible for under the Federal Coronavirus Economic Relief Plan and how to pursue it. Many of EDSI’s employer webinars were led by Jim Bitterle, Managing Partner of EDSI Consulting, whose thoughts on the content and impact are captured below.

Some of the employer webinar topics included:

  • How to Manage through Financial Turmoil: Business leaders learn to head off pandemic-induced financial distress with tools and strategies that maximize cash flow and minimize the risk of corporate failure.

  • Layoff aversion: Interpreting guidance from the federal government is no easy task. Employers learn how to use strategies and activities designed to prevent or minimize the duration of unemployment resulting from layoffs.

  • State and Local Business Support: Managing through a financial crisis brings stress and uncertainty. Find out what assistance is available, including emergency funding and learn how businesses qualify for help in the form of grants or loans.

  • Winning the War for Talent: HR representatives learn to traverse the current economic climate to find the right employees to fill vacant positions and increase retention. Jim teaches how to address skill gaps, retiring employees, and implement practical strategies to create a team that keeps businesses healthy.

  • How to Build an Award-Winning Culture Onsite & Virtually: Culture matters! A good corporate culture impacts the bottom line in multiple ways. Jim presents ten practical tools that any organization can implement to create a vibrant, nurturing environment that results in employee satisfaction.

  • How to Build Award-Winning Employee Recognition Programs: Great companies recognize the talents and achievements of their employees at all levels. This goes beyond financial compensation. Learn some easy-to-implement programs that are low-cost and high-impact, resulting in increased employee retention.

  • Succession Planning & Knowledge Capture/Transfer: The generational differences in the workforce are real, and understanding them will help businesses plan for capturing and transferring institutional knowledge to younger workers to prevent that knowledge from departing with retiring workers. Learn how to identify this knowledge and share it with successors.

  • The Psychology of Why Your Workforce Is Not Showing Up: Far too many new employees simply stop coming to work. Learn the psychology behind this phenomenon and what employers can do about it.

  • Solving the Millennial Puzzle: From a generational perspective, Millennials comprise the largest percentage of today’s workforce. Unfortunately, many corporate leaders are from Generation X or Baby Boom generations. Given this, there is frequently a disconnect that results in lower engagement and morale levels. This directly leads to higher levels of turnover. This webinar connects the pieces for leaders to better understand how to recruit, engage and retain Millennials.

    “EDSI also conducted employer webinars on strategic talent management topics such as Solving the Millennial Puzzle, described above. This webinar was designed to help businesses better understand what Millennials really want in a job. The webinar ultimately helped businesses understand how to attract and retain Millennials.” -Jim Bitterle, EDSI

Many AJCs found effective ways to support both jobseekers and employers safely and effectively during COVID through the use of technology and remote services. As thousands of individuals transition from receiving extended unemployment compensation benefits, there will be a critical need to provide enhanced training services and job placement while serving even more people.

As in-person services start to become the norm again, imagine how many more jobseekers and employers we can serve by providing onsite services in tandem with the virtual services and innovative service strategies shared in this article.

If you would like to talk with one of our experts on how to provide more innovative virtual programming in your region, please fill out the form below.