"Danger gathers upon our path. We cannot afford - we have no right - to look back. We must look forward." - Winston Churchill

As the beginning of March started to roll in and the COVID-19 virus pandemic evolved, the realization that we had a national emergency on our hands became glaringly apparent.

Just like most Florida citizens during hurricane season, CareerSource Brevard (CSB) was well-versed in dealing with a fast-approaching crisis situation. I organized a COVID disaster steering team to meet regularly allowing for quick decisions and responsive actions.

That’s where the similarities to a hurricane disaster ended.

We didn’t have to address possible building damage, sparse communication, and power outages. Instead, we were addressing an invisible virus.

Virtual New Reality

A COVID-19 Condition plan was developed and shared with staff, board members, and the State. It became increasingly clear that teleworking was the most viable option.

Career Center staff had never worked from home. In one week, a three-pronged plan was developed to include the following: Technology Plan, Teleworking Agreement, and Staff Continuation Plan — detailing operational instructions and teleworking job duties for each person.

The following week was spent implementing these plans to include technology upgrades and staff training. Laptops and headphones were issued, and virtual Career Center operations were initiated.

Flexibility is Key

Teleworking opened up a whole new set of challenges that were met with staff ingenuity. In-person workshops were converted to virtual workshops.

Technology included Cisco Jabber (phone), Skype for Business, Chat Lines and Text Lines. We procured and implemented an e-signature solution, an on-line training platform with access to over 5,000 online courses, and a Virtual Job Fair platform. What does this mean to our jobseekers and business customers?

As we continue to utilize these enhancements, CareerSource Brevard can ensure greater flexibility of services to Brevard’s citizens. For example, businesses can decide if they want to participate in a job fair or hold a recruiting event in-person or virtually. As we increase our service options, we will also be expanding office hours by way of virtual services. Some processes that formally required a personal appointment can now be done virtually due to expanded technology.

Needs Ramping Up

With the sudden onset of layoffs due to government mandates and effects of the virus, people reaching out to CSB were not only in shock, but their fear magnified as job loss and health concerns loomed. Although we don’t administer the Reemployment Assistance (RA) claims program, we help with addressing frequently asked questions and other inquiries regarding completion of the online application. With the RA challenges, people are sometimes grateful to connect with a live person to talk with on the phone.

Opportunities to Learn and Grow

Whether working remotely or at the career centers, CSB will continue to offer some of our workshops through recorded videos.

Video workshops include, “Top 5 Resources to Get You Back to Work”, “Preparing for the Interview”, “Resume Writing”, “Career Strategies for the 50+ age group,” and “Basics of Microsoft Word,” to name a few.

Other events will continue to be scheduled such as our Information Technology Virtual Job Fair (May 19-23). We recently hosted an online webinar where job seekers were able to meet virtually with representatives from Embraer discussing key job search techniques and ways to introduce yourself to employers in a virtual environment. The previous months have created challenges. I am thankful for the CSB staff who continue to work so hard to support Brevard’s citizens as they navigate through the hardships of this pandemic. In parallel to these efforts, CSB has created and implemented another virtual dimension to our services.

Working Together towards Excellence

Whether working remotely or at the career centers, my staff rose like shining stars in the midst of uncharted territory, achieving many new milestones. It remains clear to me that success, in the midst of rapid change, can only be accomplished by a team of remarkable people like the employees working at CareerSource Brevard.

Although no one can predict how this pandemic will play out, I believe Brevard County is in a good position to rebound. One promising statistic is that we are ranked #2 in Florida for the most diversified economy. While some industries could take longer to bounce back such as “Accommodation and Food Service,” others will do so rather quickly. For instance, at onset, healthcare workers were near the top in Brevard County for filing the most RA claims, but as dental services and elective surgeries are brought back, this industry should recover faster.

CSB will be monitoring Brevard’s workforce needs, including the short– and long– term impacts of COVID-19. Ensuring the success of businesses and job seekers, we will continue to crosswalk the skills of unemployed job seekers to other high demand industries, offer training and certifications, and stay on top of emerging workforce opportunities.

As we re-imagine what the future holds, our country will be focused on returning or creating domestic supply chains. With Port Canaveral as an avenue to expand trade and logistics, and our strong manufacturing capabilities, the future is likely to hold very positive and interesting prospects for us.

CareerSource Brevard is the area authority on workforce development. CareerSource Brevard is a partner of American Job Center network and supports business & career seekers with training, recruitment, hiring, education, job search and incentives. For more information, visit online at careersourcebrevard.com

Compelling Numbers from CSB

From February to March 2020, the volume of phone calls to the Career Centers increased by 50%, chat line requests by 400%, and new Brevard registrations into the Employ Florida database increased from 1,384 in February to 5,135 in March.

CSB is facing a new dichotomy. In a very short period of time, as certain industries are having layoffs, others are ramping up. We waste no time in letting the public know, through many avenues and platforms, who is hiring.

At the start of the pandemic, employers who were hiring include grocery stores, major retail chains such as Walgreens and Walmart, Amazon, hardware stores, food delivery services, and some businesses advertising work-from-home opportunities.

Simultaneously, we have businesses asking us for Reduction-In-Force (RIF) services. In the last two weeks of March, 74 businesses had reached out asking for these RIF services. We continue to query local businesses, via email surveys, to let them know we are here to help.

Marci Murphy
Marci Murphy
President at CareerSource Brevard