St. CLOUD – Roughly 16,000 people in Stearns and Benton Counties are facing unemployment, a consequence of efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Tammy Biery, Executive Director of St. Cloud-based Career Solutions, says the statewide shutdown to fight the virus has affected the nonprofit’s ability to reach those who may benefit from career counseling or job skills training.

“Generally, (dislocated workers) come to reemployment sessions offered by the (Unemployment Insurance) department,” Biery said. “Because of the quantity of people, and the situation with COVID-19, they’ve skipped those sessions. This means we’ve lost our communication mechanism to let dislocated workers know that there’s a program out there for them.”

Biery says word-of-mouth and social media have been helpful in pointing dislocated workers toward assistance. Career Solutions is currently enrolling people in programs with Zoom and conference calls, and adding to their staff in advance of reopening their offices on a yet-undetermined date. Many job-seekers are navigating unemployment for the first time and need some advice on first steps, Biery explained.

“Polishing up your resume is a great idea,” Biery said. “Even if you’re not sure if your employer might be calling you back, it never hurts to take the time to work on your resume. It’s one way for people to prepare for whatever may come their way.”

Those who have been laid off can be enrolled in programs with Career Solutions to help retrain them with the help of a one-on-one coach. Biery says dislocated workers should also be on the lookout for remotely-based professional certification opportunities.

“Now is a great time to up-skill,” Biery said. “It’s a great time to look for training opportunities in order to add things to your resume. For example, take a Microsoft Word or Excel certification course. It’s wise to increase your proficiency so that when you’re headed back into the job market, you have additional things to list as part of your skill set.”

For more information, visit Career Solutions’ website.