New JVS technology center aids Bay Area job seekers

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Laurent-Paul Perroud hadn't held a job in 10 years when he walked into the Technology Access Center.

Perroud, who had worked as a veterinary technician before HIV forced him onto disability, started working again full time in early August — as an assistant to the employment director of Jewish Vocational Service, which runs the San Francisco center.

But the job was no hand-out.

"They really brought me a long way," said Perroud, a native of France who moved to the Bay Area from Vermont a year ago.

"After 10 years, I was really starting from scratch. I wasn't even sure what I could do. They kept me from just grabbing any kind of a job I could find, which I really didn't want to do."

The center, which opened three months ago, offers computer access, job listings, research materials and software tutorials.

It is open to the public. Renting time on an as-needed basis costs $15 an hour, plus $2 a day to scan job listings. But if one signs up with JVS as a client, the rental fee drops to $10 an hour with free, unlimited access to the library and job bank.

"It's all consolidated," said Leah Abrams, JVS client services manager. "They can look at the job listings, go print out a resume and mail it on the spot. I know from personal experience it's so much easier, and you're so much more likely to follow up promptly, if everything is in one place at one time."

Up to 50 people a day think so, too. Most work, or are seeking work, in the nonprofit world: in the arts, education, social services. Only a smattering of people peruse the job listings in the morning, but by early afternoon, the room swells with job seekers, most in their late 20s and 30s.

While there, many sign up for personal job counseling. Perroud did.

"We did mock interviews, and that really relieved the pressure of going through real interviews," he said.

It also helped when he interviewed for the job at JVS.

"There were two interviews, and they were tough," Perroud said. "They didn't cut me slack just because I was a student here."

Like many, Perroud lacked up-to-date computer skills. But the center's classes and tutorials are designed for the electronically challenged.

So what is the most common mistake of job seekers in 1999?

E-mailing out sloppy resumes, according to Kim Mazzuca, associate director of JVS.

"By the time you send out a hard copy, you've reviewed it 10 times. But you look it over once more and all of a sudden realize you forgot to change the job objective to match the job, or forgot to change the name to match the return address," she said.

Job-seekers aren't as meticulous when they switch from "hard copy" to e-mail.

"People are quite careless with e-mail resumes. Or they send it in a zip drive, and the employer can't even open them up."

Hence the new workshop, "How to E-mail Your Resume."

Many who arrive in the center, like Perroud, are at a crossroads."We definitely see a lot of people in transition," Mazzuca said. "A lot of women re-entering the workforce, college grads with no work experience, who don't know what they want to do or found out they don't want to do what they thought they did. We expect they've had this sort of guidance in college, but they haven't."

Gone are the dislocated workers of five and six years ago: the management professionals downsized out of a job with a family and mortgage.

"It's a job seekers' market right now," Mazzuca said.

The center also serves the welfare-to-work population, providing skills, job development and placement.

Last month, the technology center was slated to undergo a major redesign. The center's two rooms will become a single, open room surrounded by a glass wall.

And, by popular demand, hours will be extended "to perhaps 9 or 10 in the evening, maybe Sundays," Mazzuca said.

The agency has patched funding together from different sources. Another grant now in the works could provide more workstations and more full-time staff.

Said Perroud: "It's like having an office with a secretary."

Rebecca Rosen Lum

Rebecca Rosen Lum is a freelance writer.