Maintaining the faith despite economics

POULSBO — Sound Works Executive Director Bob Middlebrook greets every visitor to the job center with a smile and a friendly hello.

Even so, he admits he’d rather not see them come through the door day after day — because that would mean they’d gotten jobs.

“We’re seeing the jobs are getting harder and harder to find and, of course, the economy is going south really quickly,” Middlebrook commented. “We’re seeing a lot more people coming in lately and they’re staying longer, doing longer searches and we’re seeing them come in for a longer period of time.”

Middlebrook likes to say that Sound Works has been “Poulsbo’s best kept secret” for the last 15 years.

The non-profit organization offers job placement services like resume, cover letter and interview counseling, the use of computers with Internet capabilities, a small reference book library and referrals to other job and social services. Middlebrook added that some of the center’s assistance is even as simple as helping people understand which job listings in the newspaper are misleading and offering a hot cup of coffee and a kind ear.

“In our area there aren’t a lot of places people can do this,” he said, noting that the next closest unemployment service is located in Bremerton, which makes it difficult for North Kitsap residents to visit every day like many Sound Works clients do.

With the drop in available jobs recently, Middlebrook said he’s seeing more and more professional people seeking employment, where once the majority of visitors were casual labor seekers. He also said the average time most people take to find a job has risen to between three and six months. With this in mind, Middlebrook said he’s hoping a new partnership with Kitsap Community Resources will help a greater number of people in North Kitsap go from job seekers to employees.

Through Federal Workforce Investment Act grant money, the partners are offering local employers the opportunity to provide positions with on the job training. Sound Works is looking for businesses to take part in this program by coming up with positions of “meaningful work,” where a potential employee has an opportunity to advance in skill and pay.

“We’re working with a couple of people already,” said employment counselor Mary Wilson. “One is in training as a dental hygienist. She was working in a restaurant before, so this is going to have more progression than that.”

Wilson became the second paid staff member in Sound Works’ 15-year history three months ago through the KRC grant money as well.

Besides the addition of a staff member and the purchase of a new computer for Sound Works, Middlebrook said the partnership money will mostly help job seekers by creating more entry-level positions. He also said KRC intends to use Sound Works primarily as its base for Workforce Investment Act money expenditures in North Kitsap.

A soon-to-be-opened office in Port Orchard will handle South Kitsap.

“It’s great for us and it helps the North End,” Middlebrook added. “We’re constantly dumped on. All of the resources and all of the money typically goes to Bremerton.”

Sound Works client Robert Kindsvater, who has been coming to the center since September of 2001, said he hopes the new partnership will be a boon for him. While he’s been able to find part-time a short-term employment here and there, Kindsvater said he just hasn’t seen much meaningful employment available. The former quality control specialist for an aerospace is out of unemployment and said he’s unable to refinance his home to a lower mortgage rate because he’s unemployed.

He said ideally he’d like to find on the job training in something like carpentry or food handling, but his wish now is a simple one, a good job at a living wage.

“I just want to work,” Kindsvater commented.

Sound Works Job Center

780 NE Iverson St.

(360) 779-1160

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