AJC Highlight: From Job Seeker to Career Specialist

By Lillian Marcum 

American Job Centers (AJCs) of East Tennessee operate under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and are funded under a Grant Contract with the State of Tennessee. AJCs are there to assist job seekers address barriers to employment and pursue meaningful employment and to help businesses with staffing and employment needs. Amie Toner is one of the TDLWD Career Specialists serving at the Sevierville AJC. Her role as a Career Specialist is to share resources with the community, to partner with other agencies and to provide a personalized approach for each job-seeking individual. 

“The biggest draw to this position for me is the opportunity to meet someone where they are when they are going through a difficult time and see them leave with a sense of hope,” said Toner. 

Toner says career services is her passion, and after making the move from her home state Connecticut to East Tennessee she knew that was where she wanted to end up. She revealed that she was a job seeker herself when she first entered the AJC and was looking to find job resources and options in Tennessee. With Toner’s previous experience with career services, she was the perfect fit for a Career Specialist role with the American Job Center. She understands the value of the AJC and why it is so important to spread awareness of the organization’s resources. 

Some of the resources available through the AJC to job seekers include free access to computers, internet, telephones, and fax machines; on-site recruiting events, workshops on résumé writing, interviewing skills, and job search activities; intensive training or certifications for occupations that are in demand for those eligible.

Toner describes the phenomenon of some individuals coming to the AJC not realizing that they have experience or skills; whether they have been incarcerated or picking up odd jobs periodically, there is almost always something marketable about an individual to an employer. 

Toner emphasizes the importance of meeting an individual where they are so that those looking for employment can leave with resources to help their future and their family. An important part of the process when providing support to a job seeker is finding out their goals and what programs they can qualify for. The AJC can provide guidance to qualifying individuals for further educational opportunities, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, SNAP benefits and so much more. 

Another part of Toner’s job is finding potential employers in the community and providing them with the resources they need to be successful in employing. The AJC offers a wide variety of services to businesses, including virtual recruitment tools, job fairs, grants and much more. East Tennessee AJCs have worked with hundreds of employers this year in their efforts to hire new team members. 

When addressing those yet to utilize the AJC’s resources, Toner says to come right on into their local AJC office. However, if there is anything preventing the job seeker from doing so, they can utilize the resources of the Virtual AJC which is a user friendly online American Job Center that can match individuals with resources and schedule appointments or to find a Mobile American Job Center event nearby. 

Toner says one of the most impactful moments she has had at the AJC is the opportunity to work with justice-involved individuals who had just completed their manufacturing skills training. She had the ability to meet with each person individually and discuss possible services upon their re-entry to the workforce. She says being able to see the “hope and the spark” that was instilled in the individuals from the training and the realization that most of them were not aware of what the American Job Center could provide for them was incredibly moving. 

“Seeing individuals facing barriers to employment flourish after a one-to-one assessment of their needs and goals leave with a sense of ambition for themselves and their families is the best part of my job.”

Tags Workforce Development