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A conversation with: Karen Apple

A nonprofit helps Columbians find jobs in the rough economy

Alli Inglebright

Karen Apple is business consultant and job developer for Job Point in Columbia. Job Point serves nearly a thousand clients a year.

January 17, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Karen Apple recently left her position with Job Point in early January. The print edition of this article stated otherwise.

Beyond the economy, disabilities, long bouts of sickness or past brushes with the law can present challenges for job seekers. That’s where Job Point comes in. Established in 1965, the nonprofit employment placement agency in Columbia currently serves nearly a thousand clients a year. It’s funded by the city of Columbia, the state of Missouri, federal grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the United Way. Job Point’s mission is to encourage the abilities of individuals pursuing employment by providing them with training and education. Through its business partnerships, it helps find jobs for local citizens. Karen Apple, before moving to Colorado this month, was the organization’s business consultant and job developer. She provides a look into what it takes to get a job in Columbia.

Can you highlight some of the people Job Point helps?

Job Point is for Boone County residents with legal histories, extended periods of unemployment and limited work experience. We also have supported employment, which provides additional assistance in finding, learning and keeping a job for people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities. Then there’s employment services for people with social, economic, educational, physical or health conditions (including injuries).

We also have a skills training program that helps people learn or hone their office technology skills.
The Columbia Builds Youth program helps disadvantaged youth advance in educational level and obtain skills in the construction field.

How would you explain your role as a job developer?

One part is going out into the community and recruiting and maintaining relationships with the businesses. The other part of it is that I’m very active in the process of matching up our clients to the business partners with the jobs they offer.

What is the job situation like in columbia right now?

The national trend right now is that it is picking up. We have a lot of jobs for people; we’re not hurting to offer them jobs. We have a wide variety of partnerships in size from the small businesses (restaurants and retail)
up to the heavy lifters (hospitals and universities).

What are some difficulties Job Point applicants have experienced in seeking employment?

It’s like a pie. You could have everything you need in that pie, but one ingredient might put them back on the burner for another week, two weeks, a month.

We might have somebody that fits the groove, and they’re a good personality match for the culture at the company. They’ve got a car that they can drive to get there. They can actually work the hours.

But, they have theft in their background, and there’s no theft allowed at that business, so they’re not going to get the job. We can’t even let them apply for it.

What are some challenges you’ve had trying to find businesses to use your services?

Sometimes when I go to see someone, I realize and they realize the match isn’t really needed because of what they do and how they do it. They’re just not set up to bring in people. Overall, it’s an astounding, amazing response that I have gotten from the community as far as partnerships. Job Point is blessed with partnerships, and I think it’s a win-win opportunity for people. Columbia is super community-minded, support-based, and it helps everybody.

What is it about Job Point that makes it different and unique from similar sorts of services?

It’s the same in that we’re all helping change (people’s) lives. We’re different than a private employment service because most of the people we get, not all, come to us from vocational rehab services. Whereas the other services, people can just walk in off the street.

Is it difficult to explain Job Point to others?

I try to think of adjectives to describe what we do sometimes, and it’s just really hard because this can be a very emotional environment, and there are things that you do that you never thought you would do on the job that are good. It’s very humanitarian.

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