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State "Rebranding" Unemployment Centers, Adding Web Requirements

The state is changing the signs on its unemployment centers and putting in a new requirement for Ohioans who are out of work – that number is now at 413,000. The new effort requires the state’s county unemployment centers to be branded under a single identity. “Every county will have their own name, but it will be Ohio Means Jobs County Name. So it’s a rebranding bill," says State Representative Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford. That seems like a simple change, one that doesn’t have much to do with helping a person without a job find the right one. Dave Reines is the executive director of Employment Connections, which will soon become Ohio Means Jobs Cuyahoga County. He says he’s neutral on the name change.

It seems to me that there’s some benefit to have some consistency across the state so that employers can identify that organization within a county they might either be in or relocating to.

John Trott heads the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board and has offices in 43 counties all over western, central, northern and extreme southern Ohio. Trott is embracing the idea of a single name with a local county distinction as a step in the right direction. “I believe in hitting single after single instead of going for a home run, and I think this is probably in the realm of a simple thing that we can do to make things just a little bit easier for people. The real work has to take place when we work with people who’ve lost their job.â€? When he signed the law at a recent ceremony in Middletown, Gov. John Kasich put it like this.

We all have to think the same way. You can’t have a business, everything has a different name. It’s Wendy’s everywhere you go. It’s not like Wendy’s here and Roy’s over there. It all has the same name to avoid confusion.

"And secondly, you must sign up on Ohio Means Jobs. This is the online operation that shows the needs of businesses and the openings that are there.â€? That’s the second part – the requirement that job-seekers getting unemployment benefits interact with OhioMeansJobs.com, the state’s official job-search site. When they go online to get benefits they’ll register with the site, and they’ll have to contact the site after eight weeks of unemployment for additional services. Trott says he thinks this is a good approach, but he hopes that the requirement isn’t just a formality. “We want to make sure that as people are coming into the system that we don’t just make it a requirement, a pro forma requirement when they show up, that we have the ability to take them in, get them registered for work if they’re looking for work and provide them real assistance," Trott says. And Reines says while the state’s system is fine, he’s hoping he’ll also be able to use in his four offices a system that was approved by the state several years ago that he says allows workers to manage cases and work with employers. “So what we’ve done is advocated with the state to allow us to maintain those local case management systems so we could include some functionalities that the overall state system wasn’t going to be providing to us," Reines says. The Ohio Means Jobs Web site also includes jobs that are in neighboring states. Democrats have criticized that, saying in a statement that Gov. Kasich should be working to help people find work in Ohio, rather than sending them and their tax dollars to other states. But Ben Johnson with the state’s Job and Family Services Department says those listings are helpful for people in border communities, adding “it’s absurd that we would hide job opportunities for people who need work.â€?