About 18 years ago, a company built a brand new distribution center in Edison, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to recruit three high-level information technology professionals to get their operations center up and running. The technology being installed was chosen to be compatible with that of their primary retail customer. This was not the most popular system used in NJ at that time and the jobs posed a challenge to fill.
From snooping around (internet was not very helpful back then), I learned of a retail company who had just about shut down their distribution center a few miles south that used similar IT packages. Word got to me that the people I needed were operating their job search efforts out of a small office in New Brunswick called the Professional Services Group (PSG), run under the support of the NJ Department of Labor. I established contact with this group and filled all three positions in less than a month. From that point on, I have always networked with the PSG when looking to find candidates with deep experience for hard-to-fill opportunities.
Fast forward to 2011 for a moment. My wife went to work one April morning to find out that her position with a major telecommunications company had been suddenly eliminated after 24-plus years. She was offered three months of assistance from an outplacement service which was good but not spectacular in quality. As her unofficial coach, I strongly suggested she check out the PSG in Somerville. Even after she returned to work, she has kept her ties with them and volunteers whenever possible.
The PSG consists of 11 groups throughout NJ staffed primarily by volunteers who provide a wide range of services from career coaching, resume writing, and cold calling skills to career fairs and workshops delivered by professionals from a variety of backgrounds at no financial cost to those who are unemployed. The only cost is to donate a few hours of your time each week to serving on a committee, running coaching sessions, etc. Through this effort, I know scores of friends, former colleagues, and clients who have gotten back to work relatively fast regardless of the environment. Check out this link to learn more: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wnjpin/findjob/career/PSG.html
Unfortunately, you may have to act swiftly to participate as NJ's Department of Labor is attempting to shut down the PSG at the end of May, http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wnjpin/findjob/career/PSG.html and reinvent the process in July as job clubs according to Associate Commissioner Mary Ellen Clark. She cites costs that seem unrealistic to me as she mentions each group has a dedicated facilitator which is not accurate. After staffing cutbacks last summer, each group sees a facilitator stop by a few hours per month at best as part of their larger job duties. She claims that only 1 percent of the state's unemployed utilize the PSG for assistance. Perhaps this number would increase if unemployment offices were better trained to promote this service. My wife would never had known of them if she did not hear about them from myself and other friends who had benefited from their programs.
In all fairness, the PSG could probably use some tweaking to remain current and effective but not a complete dismantling. Please read the article I cited in the prior paragraph and also ask around and learn about the great work of the PSG. If you agree with me, contact your local Assembly and Senate representatives and ask them for help. Of course, feel free to share your observations and constructive comments with me as well!