nj labor commiss fechtnerPHOTO: Dr. Fichtner at podium, Monmouth County Library Directore Judi Tolchin at right.

MANALAPAN – Acting Commissioner of Labor Aaron R. Fichtner announced the Christie Administration has committed an additional nearly $1.4 million to continue the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s state Career Connections program, designed to provide uniform career guidance and job search assistance services to residents in their own communities.

Fichtner made the announcement at a press conference at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters Library on Symmes Rd., noting the two programs the Monmouth County library has had in operation since last September have been highly successful and can serve as a model for the expanded services. In addition to a career counselor serving the community in the western Monmouth County area, a second career counselor is also established in the Eastern Branch library, under the two grants the County facility received.

The Monmouth system was one of 19 library systems across the state, representing 40 libraries in addition to Headquarters and Eastern Branch, who received the initial grants to institute the program, Fichtner said. With the expanded funds, all libraries in the state, state, county and municipal, will now have access to receive Career Connections training by state staff. Additionally, Career Connections-branded materials to further expand the network of the career assistance program will also be available. At the County level, the increased funding means the programs in effect in both county libraries can continue for another year.

“Starting today,” Fichtner said, “the Career Connections program will be using social media offering job fair information and career guidance tips on Facebook and Twitter, a valuable addition to the department’s successful website. The site is www.careerconnections.nj.gov.

County Library Commissioner and Shrewsbury Mayor Donald Burden represented the Commission at the press conference, and commended library staff for the excellence of the program which has been implemented here. He noted that while the initial response was slow, staff members took immediate steps to bring the career counselor into the lobby for a highly visible location and improved interaction with all residents seeking information on jobs or career changes. Renee B. Swartz, chair of the Commission, has been in Washington, DC, at a library conference at the Library of Congress and was unable to be present. Contacted after the meeting, Swartz praised the continued partnership between the state Department of Labor and the Monmouth County Library, and lauded Fichtner’s statement that the library is indeed the core of the community and not just a depository for books.

The initiative to partner with libraries to bring career counseling into the communities was also lauded by Mary Chute, NJ State Librarian, who told Fichtner the library system is looking forward to continuing joint efforts with the Department of Labor to help New Jersey’s jobseekers through libraries. “The consistency of service and coordinated resources between our Career Connections libraries and the One-Stops ensures that residents are getting the most accurate and current information to succeed in their job search,” the state librarian said.

Both County Librarian Director Judi Tolchin and Headquarters Branch librarian Donna Mansfield both praised the initial reactions and responses to the pilot program still in effect, with Mansfield relating stories from residents who successfully got jobs or had career changes because of the assistance they received from the career counselors. Both resume writing and tips on interviews learned through the counselors in the pilot program at the County branches have proven to be highly beneficial to many residents, she said.

Fichtner, who is a graduate of Rutgers University and the University of Georgia, holds degrees in planning, city planning and history, and was Director of Research and Evaluation for the Heldrick Center for Work Force Development at Rutgers before being selected as Assistant Commissioner of Labor in 2010; he has been serving as Acting Commissioner last September.