Oklahoma Works

Western Oklahoma Workforce Area One Stop Operator Yolanda Creswell (left) and Western Oklahoma Workforce Development Board Executive Director Christi Porter. (Photo by Dawnita Fogleman)

Oklahoma Works, partner of the American Job Center Network and most commonly known as “The Employment Office,” may well hold one of the best kept secrets of Northwestern Oklahoma. Not only does the program hold an important place in out community for unemployed individuals, it may also be a vastly untapped resource for local businesses and the farming community.

According to Western Oklahoma Workforce Development Board (WOWDB) Executive Director Christi Porter, the board is the responsibility of locally elected county commissioners in a 25-county area, making it the largest workforce board in the state, covering around 27,000 square miles.

The tax money is supplied through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and is earmarked for education and training with the focus of helping people find a job based on the demand in their community, according to Porter.

“We can help send them to training for demand occupations,” Porter said. “Because we didn't want any little community who has job openings for a specific job that's in demand to be left out.”

On top of that, businesses and farm owners who sign up with the program can essentially qualify for free, temporary labor for minimal out-of-pocket expense. Training, testing, wage and worker’s compensation can be covered.

“We can put them in a work experience,” Porter explained. “Then after the 520 hours, either they can keep them or they don't have to keep them. But most of the time, if they'll give them that chance, they're really good workers. And they will go ahead and hire them on. But we pay all the wages and the workers comp.”

The Work Experience Policy is just over 25 pages with a time sheet and simple evaluation sheet for the employer to fill out. A career manager will stay in contact through the whole process to help ensure success of the employee and a positive experience for the employer, according to Western Oklahoma Workforce Area One Stop Operator Yolanda Creswell.

Creswell helps businesses with job postings when a position needs to be filled, but can also come into a business and help transition when downsizing is needed. 

“Another service we do, it’s called rapid response,” Creswell said. “I would bring all the partners to that business. And that business would have those employees, that are going to be laid off, and they would talk about unemployment.”

Creswell said they also discuss insurance and OK Job Match services to help them find another job, sometimes even taking a list of similar job openings in the area for employees to consider. 

“Sayre hospital closed down. We did a Rapid Response,” Creswell said. “We had some openings for those employees that were, that lost their jobs. So we said, you know, if any of you guys are interested in these jobs, here are these postings. And that way they could get those [jobs].”

Creswell said businesses have to initiate the contact in order for Rapid Response to work.

“Because if we know ahead of time, we can get this scheduled and come to their business,” Creswell said.

Creswell is also in charge of accountability, ensuring tax dollars are spent efficiently between different agencies and services throughout the area. She said she does trainings and oversees the system.

“So I convene all the partners quarterly, and all the areas,” explained Creswell. “[We] make sure all the partners are working together that no one falls through the cracks.“

For more information, call Creswell at 580-748-0768