For more information about the Georgia Department of Labor, go to www.dol.state.ga.us.
CUMMING — Georgia’s Commissioner of Labor touted his department’s efficiency and customer service during a visit Tuesday to Forsyth County.
Addressing members of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce during a lunch roundtable discussion, Mark Butler said the office has eliminated some 650 positions and several locations over the last three and a half years.
Butler, who also spoke at a morning Rotary Club meeting and toured Scientific Games earlier in the day, added that the labor department has also “made a lot of services more mobile to where we now have individuals who move around, they’re not stationary in one place.”
He noted that he has also tried to focus on improving areas of the department with which the public was unsatisfied.
“We take those comments and complaints to heart and we try to do the best we can, given the tools we have, to give you the kind of service that you want to have,” said Butler, who took office in January 2011.
“You know, a lot of government agencies don’t necessarily react that way. However, this one just happens to be run by somebody that you elect, so that gives me a little bit different motivation.”
Among the changes made to the department, Butler said, is the addition of a regional coordinator system.
“The idea was that we need people out there who are better connected with not only our business community, but also with our technical colleges and our economic developers and other government agencies,” he said.
The regional coordinators field questions and concerns from the business community, connecting them with services from labor department and other resources.
Another new program helps companies in the hiring process.
Butler said rather than holding open fairs where 1,000 people — most of them unqualified — might show up for 100 jobs, the department sifts through unemployment databases for qualified individuals.
“We can give a company a list of 300 or 400 people who are all qualified for the jobs, so that saves them a lot of time,” Butler said.
In turn, that helps get people off the unemployment rolls.
“That’s what we’re supposed to be doing right there,” he said. “Our goal at Department of Labor should not be how many people can we get on unemployment ... it’s how many people can we get off unemployment and into a career.”
A third program Butler discussed is called Georgia Best, which focuses on soft skills, such as arriving on time, dressing appropriately and having a strong work ethic.
Butler said 20 high schools helped establish the program, which works with students to help them develop strong soft skills. It has grown to include some 200 high schools across the state.
“We teach these [skills] to the kids during all their classes throughout the day,” he said. “They don’t have to take a test, they’re graded by how they perform every single day.”
Most of the schools involved in the program go beyond soft skills to offer help with tasks such as resume writing, developing a portfolio and going through mock interviews.
Also during the meeting, Butler touted a new employer hotline for businesses. They can call (855) 436-7365 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blanca Cuello, a human resources manager for Tacos and Tequilas restaurant, was one of many who attended Butler’s presentations. She said she learned about several offerings.
“Me as an operations manager, we have three restaurants and each one carries 60 employees, so we have a large number of employees,” she said. “Since we started as a small company, you have grown very fast and we definitely have a lot of HR questions so I call the Department of Labor a lot.
“I like to get the up to date HR information as quickly as possible … and today I was taking a lot of notes.”