American Job Centers: Where Everyone Can Get Help Finding a Job

By Lauren Pearcy

About the Author

Lauren Pearcy is the public policy director for the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Council is a state agency that leads initiatives statewide to improve disability policies and practices, educates policymakers and the public about promising practices in the field of disability services, and facilitates collaboration and coordination across public and private organizations.The Council produces informative publications about disability policy and practices. Subscribe to their Breaking Ground magazine and email newsletters at www.tn.gov/cdd; you can also email Tnddc@tn.gov or call 615-532-6615 to sign up. Follow them at www.facebook.com/TNCouncilonDD and @TNCouncilDD.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org.

American Job Centers are designed as a “one stop” place for assistance finding a job. Never heard of them? Never thought of them as a resource for helping people with disabilities find employment? That’s what we’re hoping to change.

Background about American Job Centers

Once known as “one-stops,” American Job Centers exist in every state, established under federal law. The U.S. Department of Labor coordinates a national network of more than 2,400 American Job Centers. After the 2008 recession hit, these centers played an important role helping “displaced workers” of all sorts get back to work. American Job Centers offer their services free of charge and are connected to all sorts of other community services that are particularly helpful for reaching all job seekers. In addition, American Job Centers are connected to labor market information from state departments of labor, which means they can help people find jobs – or be trained for jobs – in fields that are growing in their areas. Historically, even though these job centers have always been required to serve individuals with disabilities, they have not always been equipped to do so. Compounding that problem, AJCs report that job seekers with disabilities rarely visit AJCs. You can read about those issues here.

In 2014, the federal law creating American Job Centers, which is called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, was updated to put an even greater emphasis on serving people with disabilities. As a result, disability organizations in Tennessee, including the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, have been interested in helping Tennessee’s American Job Centers serve more people with disabilities – and encouraging more Tennesseans to use the AJCs.

American Job Centers in Tennessee

In Tennessee, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development oversees our state’s network of AJCs. Thus, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development can provide the centers with information and statistics about jobs in each area, like the fastest-growing types of jobs, which companies are offering training opportunities, etc. We have approximately 30 American Job Centers and mobile units (which travel to rural areas!) in Tennessee. All 95 counties are served by an American Job Center. Find yours here: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/jobs-and-education/job-search1/find-local-american-job-center.html.

What kinds of services are offered by an American Job Center? (Note, services vary by center)

  • Career counseling and skills assessments, if you are not sure what kind of job you want
  • Job listings in your area and help applying for the jobs you want
  • Help finding job training opportunities in your area
  • Workshops about preparing for interviews, résuméwriting, and job searching
  • Use of computers and Internet either by yourself or with assistance
  • Referrals to related support services that can help with barriers to employment, like day care and transportation

Why should Tennesseans with disabilities use American Job Centers?

  • American Job Centers offer free help that you can useeven if you also use other employment services like Vocational Rehabilitation or Medicaid waiver employment services (through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities waivers or the Employment and Community First CHOICES program).
  • American Job Centers have the state’s most accurate information about which jobs are most “in demand” in your area. That’s because they work directly with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • American Job Centers have staff trained in assisting with job searching who can help you one-on-one. Many also have quiet spaces where you can work on a computer on your own or with others to help you.
  • American Job Centers are federally required to specialize in serving everyone, including people who have disabilities but also youth, older adults, veterans and veterans’ spouses, people who are experiencing homelessness, ex-offenders, and others.

Are there special accommodations for those with disabilities? 

  • Yes, American Job Centers are required to be universally accessible for everyone, including accommodating individuals with disabilities – this includes physical accessibility, as well as accessibility of Job Center programs, communications and technology
  • The national website includes a page for job seekers with disabilities with information on reasonable accommodations, disclosing disability to an employer, and other topics: https://www.careeronestop.org/ResourcesFor/WorkersWithDisabilities/workers-with-disabilities.aspx

The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities and other disability organizations in Tennessee are committed to working with local American Job Centers who want help to better support job seekers with disabilities. Since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was enacted, we have worked with the American Job Center in Clarksville to draft recommendations for disability training needed at Tennessee’s AJCs. Most recently, the disability resource coordinator for Clarksville’s AJC gave a presentation to the Council on Developmental Disabilities’ monthly Employment Roundtable, a group of nine state agencies serving Tennesseans with disabilities plus the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Disability Rights Tennessee. Our next step is to bring the Roundtable group to tour the American Job Center and schedule trainings. Please contact us (tnddc@tn.gov) if your area American Job Center would like to connect with us or if you or your family member has gotten help finding employment through your local American Job Center and you’d like to share your story!

Learn more about AJCs and how they can help job seekers with disabilities:

Many of Tennessee’s American Job Centers are on social media – follow your local AJC to stay informed about job openings, job fairs and other events and important information.

While Lauren was kind enough to write this blog for me, I would like to ask anyone with a disability who has had experience working with an American Job Center to email me with a brief description of your experience—good, bad or so-so. You can write me at janet.shouse@vumc.org. I look forward to hearing from folks. Thanks!