Sweet 16.0!

March is the month of college basketball. All across the country, basketball fans will be ranking the Sweet 16 teams and comparing brackets. As a company based just 30 minutes from the acclaimed home of college basketball, this spring we prepared our own Sweet 16 for our customers: America’s JobLink (AJL) 16.0!

The 16.0 release features a fully redesigned and improved job seeker registration experience. Both self-service and staff-assisted job seekers will see fewer questions and only the questions that are most relevant to their history or situation. Easier and faster registration means job seekers can get on their way to finding employment and training opportunities more quickly.

Some of the features we’re excited to introduce include:

  • Additional relevant questions display or are suppressed based on your answers. For example, if you select that Yes, it is hard for you to read, write, or understand English, an additional question displays asking what your native language is. Conversely, this also means that you don’t see questions that don’t apply to you.
  • Additional pages display or are suppressed based on your answers. For example, if you select that you are currently employed or not actively seeking work, you will not see pages about being a dislocated worker.
  • Many questions have been moved to the program enrollment process. If you just want to use AJL self-service features (such as the resume builder and job search), your registration process will be much shorter than before. Additional questions may be asked later if you are eligible for and decide to enroll in a workforce program for job search or training assistance.
  • Validation messages display immediately if you’ve missed a required field or given contradictory answers. Instead of waiting until you click Next to see what you might’ve missed or need to double-check, you see it in real time.
  • All questions have been reviewed and edited to improve readability. AJL registration questions help determine your eligibility for assistance through federal and state workforce programs, but that doesn’t mean they have to be written in “government-speak.” Questions are now easier to read and understand, reducing user fatigue and frustration.

Changes in 16.0Want to know more about the new registration process? Check out the JobLink User Guide: Creating an Account. (Staff can see updates in the ServiceLink User Guide through the Help link when logged into AJL.) And if you’re just as excited about college basketball’s Sweet 16 and you’re planning on coming to Kansas City for the AJLA Spring Meeting April 18 and 19, check out the College Basketball Experience in the Sprint Center—just a quick ride from the Marriott Country Club Plaza.

What’s On Your New Orleans Bucket List?

The 2017 Winter Steering Committee Meeting is about a month away, so it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll do in your free time. Whether you’re flying in early or staying a little late, looking forward to the night life, or just dreaming of Po’ Boys and beignets, we’ve got plenty of things to add to your NOLA bucket list.

For the Day Trippers

Second Line in New Orleans
Second Line in New Orleans | Photo by Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons

For the Night Owls

Street cars on Bourbon Street at Christmas in New Orleans
Christmastime in New Orleans | oeta.tv | http://bit.ly/2gYhwUc

For the Foodies

Red beans and rice, a classic New Orleans meal
Red beans and rice, a NOLA staple meal| Photo by Cheryl Gerber | http://bit.ly/2yo7R4w

While you’re planning your trip and brushing up on your N’awlins speak, we’ll be planning a great meeting agenda for you. Don’t forget to reserve your room by the deadline, Monday, November 6, to take advantage of the discounted AJLA rate. See you in the Big Easy!

Boston-Bound: A Preview of the 29th Annual AJLA Conference

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.The countdown has begun: in 29 days, AJLA states will convene in Boston for the 29th Annual AJLA Conference. From Tuesday, July 25, to Thursday, July 27, we will enjoy the hospitality of The Langham – Boston and the opportunity to network with workforce development colleagues and AJLA–TS staff.

During the days, we’ll be charting the future of AJLA applications, hearing workforce development updates, and collaborating to share strategies on workforce policies and programs. Join us for a great lineup of great speakers, including:

  • Tim Martin, Director of the Office of State Systems for ETA Region 1
  • Christina Graff Eckenroth, Executive Assistant to the Regional Administrator for ETA Region 1
  • Ken Messina, Rapid Response Director for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Career Services
  • Steven Trueman, Vice President of Workforce Development Operations for the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
  • Stacey Thompson, Workshop Facilitator, Career Center of Lowell, MA
  • Freddie Velez, Deputy Director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) Boston
  • Charlie Terrell, NASWA Project Manager
  • Francheska Atchison, Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program Lead for USDOL/VETS

Evenings will be free to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Boston. We recommend checking out the Boston Calendar or browsing through our Pinterest board for the conference, which is full of suggestions. We’ll also be using the Topi app for the days of the conference for an interactive agenda, speaker list, and photo stream.

We’re counting down the days til we see you, so book your hotel room and register now!

#ThankATeacher for Shaping the Future

Laura Lucas was my high school English teacher, and without her, I probably would not have made it through high school. She invested time and interest in me when I was quick to push almost anyone else away. She challenged me academically and personally and was a steady source of encouragement and inspiration. One keen memory I have is finding out I got a perfect score on the English section of the ACT. She drove me in 36 circles around the school parking lot, honking and cheering. More than 12 years later, I still keep in touch with her and consider her my mentor.

Think back to a teacher who changed you. Almost all of us can name a teacher who played a role in our academic, personal, or professional development—someone who inspired us to pursue an educational or vocational path or who helped us navigate the sometimes rough waters of childhood or young adulthood. This week, May 7–13, is National Teacher Appreciation Week, with National Teacher Day on May 9—“a day of honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.”

Teacher Appreciation Week Graphic

Every year, students spend approximately 1,000 hours in school, placing teachers in a position to profoundly influence their students. At all levels of education, positive relationships between teachers and students provide long-lasting benefits. According to the American Psychological Association, supportive relationships with teachers result in higher levels of academic achievement and contribute to students’ social skills. Teacher-student relationships also boost students’ self-esteem and increase their confidence in their academic and vocational futures (Gallagher). With teachers’ encouragement and support, students thrive.

Education is a vocational choice that offers both profound rewards and an ongoing positive career outlook. As of 2014 in the United States, 3.7 million teachers lead our primary and secondary students, and 1.5 million faculty work in post-secondary education. Elementary school teachers earn a median pay of $55,490 a year and can expect a 6% increase in jobs between 2014 and 2024. High school teachers earn a median pay of $58,030 a year, and also can anticipate 6% job growth between 2014 and 2024. Finally, postsecondary teachers earn a median pay of $75,430 a year, with a projected 13% job growth between 2014 and 2024. We will always need educators who are passionate about shaping future generations and willing to offer personal support to help students succeed in and out of school.

This week, take time to show teachers your appreciation. You could:

  • Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher in social media this week, especially on National Teacher Day (May 9).
  • Contact one of your previous teachers and tell them why they were important to you.
  • Give your kids’ teacher a small gift or write a note of appreciation.
  • Volunteer in your kids’ classroom.
  • Leave a comment on this post about a teacher who influenced you.

Spring Showers and AJLA Meeting Hours

April is the month of spring showers, baseball home openers, and the 2017 America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Spring Meeting. Join us in Kansas City, MO, April 19–21, for the chance to connect with AJLA–TS staff, enjoy spring at the Country Club Plaza, and learn more about the latest topics in workforce development and the latest updates to AJLA–TS software.

Events-Email-Banner-Spring-2107

The Spring Meeting is held in Kansas City area every year, giving current and prospective customers the chance to meet many of the Kansas-based AJLA–TS staff. This year we’re excited to implement new session formats to facilitate discussions, an ongoing tech café where you can ask questions and get training, and a Kansas City photo bingo competition. Check out the agenda for details.

Wondering what to do after meeting hours in KC?

  • Grab some local BBQ and watch the Kansas City Royals take on the San Francisco Giants: 8:15 PM, Wed, April 19.
  • Visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for Third Thursday, an evening of live music, free programs, and art activities: 6–9 PM, Thur, April 20.
  • Catch some live KC jazz at the Blue Room: 7–11 PM, Thur, April 20.
  • Ask an AJLA–TS staff member to show you around!

Visit our Events page for more Spring Meeting details, including the draft agenda, hotel reservation information, and online registration form. The deadline to book your room at the AJLA preferred rate at the Intercontinental Hotel is Friday, March 31. We look forward to seeing you soon!

5 Steps to Winning at Presentations

Is it your turn to present at the staff meeting? Are you giving a talk at a business conference or job fair? Were you asked to prepare a presentation for a job interview? Whether you’re workforce center staff, an employer, or a job seeker, you will run into occasions when you need to talk in front of other people. All of us know the protracted pain of poor presentations, so to win at your next presentation, we suggest keeping these five steps in mind:

  1. Know your audienceWhat do they value? What do they already know and what do they need to learn?
  2. PracticeKnow your content; know your technology (how comfortable are you with the presentation software or other media you may be using?); regulate your breathing.
  3. Consider aestheticsChoose colors, fonts (type and size), and graphics that enhance your presentation without distracting from the content. Remember #1 above. Will your audience find your aesthetic choices pleasing? Also be sure to follow any applicable branding or style guidelines.
  4. Promote interactivityGetting your audience involved makes a presentation more interesting and memorable. Try mixed media or polls, but remember #2 above. Practice and know your technology!
  5. Make a connectionUse a story or statistic to connect with your audience, then give a call to action so that they can apply what they’ve learned in your presentation.

5 Steps to Winning at Presentations Graphic

Check out our Proposing and Presenting board on Pinterest for more advice and a collection of cool, free online presentation tools. We look forward to putting our words into action and giving top-notch presentations at the upcoming Spring Meeting in KCMO. If you have any advice or recommended resources, leave us a comment.

School’s In Session: Continuing Education for Professionals

If you read our post about New Year’s professional resolutions, you know that the goal of learning something new can benefit your career. By learning a new skill or topic that’s relevant to your work, you are advancing your skill sets, building your career portfolio, staying current and relevant, improving your confidence, and adding value to yourself as an employee.

Laptop and desk graphicNot sure where to start? Explore free online education sites like Udemy, Coursera, or Khan Academy, or take advantage of free course from universities like StanfordMIT, or Harvard. Here’s just a handful of course topics that can make you a more valuable and knowledgeable employee:

Once you’ve chosen a course, make sure you’re prepared to succeed. Here’s a few tips to make the most of your online learning experience:

  • Be realistic: Know what you have the time and energy to complete.
  • Identify your learning objectives and goals: Decide what you want out of the course and how you will use your new knowledge at work.
  • Make a study plan: Schedule time to complete coursework.
  • Seek support from your employer: Tell your employer what courses you’re taking and how you think your organization will benefit from your learning.
  • Participate in online discussions and forums: Get more out of courses by interacting with the instructor and other students.

Ready to learn more? Check out our Online Education Pinterest board for a collection of resources and articles about online professional education.

Ringing in the New Year: Five Professional Resolutions for 2017

Lose weight. Get organized. Spend less, save more. Enjoy life to the fullest. Stay fit and healthy. These are the top five New Year’s resolutions according to a study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology. While resolutions to do yoga every morning or to eat more vegetables are undeniably good goals, commitment to make changes in your professional life may hold equal or greater importance. The average person works 90,000 hours of their life, so a commitment to a change in your professional habits will noticeably affect the rest of your life.

Whether you are workforce professional staff, a job seeker, or an employer, we’ve identified five commitments to make in the upcoming year to improve your career:

  • Learn something new: Keep your skills relevant, your brain sharp, and your confidence up (“8 Benefits of Lifelong Learning”) by taking advantage of free online learning communities, where you can take classes on almost any topic. Many top schools like Stanford, MIT, or Harvard offer free courses, some with optional professional certification.
  • Read more: Reading improves your intellect and emotions and can be a great way to take a break and reset. You may think you have no time to read, but stolen moments—like waiting for a friend to arrive or for the coffee to be ready—equal pages read. If you read two pages a minute, and you have 60 minutes of spare time throughout your day, you can have a 300-page book read in 10 days (Khim). Don’t want to carry around a book? Try free reading apps like Kindle or OverDrive that offer a great selection of free ebooks and audiobooks.

    The Math of Reading in Small Chunks
    Picture from HubSpot
  • Listen to a podcast: If you can’t find time to sit down with a book, try listening to a podcast. Podcasts are great for daily commuting or traveling, and with plenty of great podcasts dedicated to business, you’ll be up to date with the latest news and topics.
  • Be a mentor: Do you have mentors in your life? If you do, you likely know how important they can be in your career. Well, it’s time to turn the tables and become a mentor to someone else. Being a mentor means listening and offering support, and leading by example. Mentors don’t come in a specific size, shape, or age; even younger employees can be mentors.
  • Take breaks: Short breaks throughout the day increase your concentration, alertness, and productivity, while decreasing your stress, aches and pains, and eye strain. Stand up, stretch, walk around, get a healthy snack, doodle, or read a few pages. Set a timer so you know when to stop for a few minutes; the Pomodoro Cycle suggests you take a 5-minute break every 25 minutes, then a 30-minute break after four sessions.

    One Pomodoro Cycle
    Picture from FastCompany

Whether you’re helping someone find a job, seeking a job yourself, or running a business, following through on these five commitments will result in a more positive work experience filled with opportunities to learn and grow. But don’t limit yourself to our five suggestions; make a list of your own professional resolutions. Check out the following articles offer for more ideas, and let us know in the comments what professional resolutions you’ve made for 2017.

AJL Works with Veterans: Transitioning from Military to Civilian Careers

November 11 marks Veterans’ Day, a day dedicated to honoring American service members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, American veterans numbered 21.2 million, and of those, 495,000 were unemployed. As workforce development professionals, assisting veterans in transitioning from military to civilian careers is an important service we can offer to honor our vets.

A recent “Veterans in the Workplace” report, published by Hiring Our Heroes on November 2, 2016, surveyed 400 human resource professionals and 1,000 recently transitioned veterans. The survey found that veterans who began their job search at least six months prior to leaving active duty had the most success in transitioning from military to civilian careers. In entering the job market, surveyed veterans reported difficulty deciding what career path to pursue, lack of communication from hiring managers, and insufficient resources or contacts.

As those who use our system know, America’s JobLink (AJL) is a great tool for recruiting and assisting veterans seeking employment. Job orders are posted in accordance with Veteran’s Priority of Service settings (which are customizable by state), so employers can be confident that veterans and covered persons have first access to job listings. Resumes from veterans and covered persons are easily identified using filters to return veterans and by icons next to resume titles. With specialized reports tracking self-service and staff-assisted veterans, other eligibles, and covered persons, workforce center staff can easily identify who needs to be contacted and who has been receiving services.

Sergio Estrada graphic
Sergio Estrada from Illinois Department of Employment Security–Thank you for your 27.5 years of service in the Marine Corps!

America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Steering Committee member, Sergio Estrada, Manager of Federal Performance Reporting for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, retired as a Marine Sergeant Major after 27.5 years of active duty and has worked with veterans in the workforce for 11 years. We asked him a few questions about working with veterans. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was your experience transitioning from a military to civilian career? What was most helpful during your transition?

A: My experience was good. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—which provides employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement—conducted at Great Lakes Naval Base was very helpful. The coordinator had a speaker from the Illinois Department of Employment Security who briefed those attending on the issues we were facing transitioning from military to civilian life, as well as how to register for the State Labor Exchange, write resumes, and interview for jobs. With those resources, a week after I retired from the Marines, I was employed with the State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Q: What would you say to a workforce staff member who’s new to working with veterans?

A: Listen to the veteran and try putting yourself in their shoes.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to veterans finding employment?

A: Pride! Most veterans hate failing. They feel that they can do it alone without the help of others.

Q: If you were to organize a workshop for veterans who are seeking employment, what would you focus on?

A: Inform the veterans that we are there to guide them throughout the process, and there’s nothing wrong with seek help.

Q: What resources do you find most helpful to refer vets to?

A: Federal and State Veterans’ Assistance (VA) benefits, such as VA home loans, and state and federal education assistance, and TAP’s employment services presentations on the military base.

This Veterans’ Day, let’s be especially mindful of service members who are transitioning from military to civilian careers. Every day, not just November 11, is an opportunity not just to thank a veteran, but also to offer our support and assistance as workforce center staff. Investing in the futures of veterans is the least we can do in return for their service.

Top 5 Things To Do in Nashville

In five weeks we’ll be gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, for our annual AJLA Winter Meeting. Join us at the landmark Renaissance Nashville Hotel from Wednesday, December 7, to Friday, December 9, for opportunities to collaborate and brainstorm about AJLA products during the day, and to enjoy music, food, and networking in the evening.

Interested, but still need convincing? We’ve rounded up the Top Five Things To Do in Nashville to persuade you.

Top 5 Things to do in Nashville graphic

  1. Pay tribute to the history of music.

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. While you’re there, join a tour of RCA Studio B, where greats like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton recorded some of their top hits. Love Johnny Cash? Visit his museum on 3rd Avenue.

  1. Take a stroll down Honky Tonk Highway.

Step out of the museums and into live music when you walk down Lower Broadway. Enjoy no cover charges and listen to up-and-coming musicians any time between 10 AM and 3 AM. There’s even a free Nashville Live Music Guide app that tells you who’s playing, when, and where.

  1. Eat hot chicken.

Treat your taste buds to a perfect fried chicken sandwich, breaded and coated with cayenne and other spices, served on white bread with pickles. This legendary Nashville dish will clear your sinuses and take the chill out of the December air.

  1. Take in the sights.

There’s more to see in Nashville than music venues. Tour historical mansions, botanical gardens (check out their Christmas lights!), and a full-scale replica of the Parthenon.

  1. Shape the future of AJLA–TS software and services.

Collaborate with AJLA consortium members and AJLA–TS staff to envision the future of America’s JobLink, ReportLink, and CertLink. Weigh in on enhancement requests and listen to each other’s best practices so you can bring home new ideas and solutions for your state.

Need more reasons to come? Check out our “Convince Your Boss” letter and look through the agenda to see what we have lined up! Be sure to register for the conference and snag the AJLA discounted hotel rate here by Friday, November 25. All conference information is available on the AJLA Events page.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!