Pat Donovan is the eyes and ears of the Tri-Valley One-Stop Career Center in Pleasanton.
With her office directly across from the reception desk and her door always open, Donovan doesn’t miss a chance to greet a visitor she recognizes or answer a tough question she overhears.
Both participants and staff know her as the gregarious director of the government-funded job-help center, who pops in during first-time orientations and shows concern for every person who walks through the door seeking employment.
What most people don’t know is that Donovan is a pioneer of this streamlined system that gives jobseekers the opportunity to make just “one stop” to find resources and training to lead them to a job or to be referred to a community partner.
It was while working in the county probation department in the 1970s, that Donovan realized Alameda County may not be prepared to handle the burgeoning unemployment problem spawned by the recession gripping the nation.
“Thirty years ago, no one in the county really understood what a big problem this was and how quickly it was growing,” says Donovan.
“So about 20 of us from county offices and community-based groups left and formed our own organization to look at the needs and expand employment services.
“It was a gamble,” she says. “There was no guarantee that we’d be there for more than a year.”
But the gamble paid off. Armed with federal, state, and county grant money, the program with a very long name (Alameda County Training and Employment Board/Associated Community Action Program) took off and continued for years as a pre-cursor to today’s One-Stop Career Centers.
The centers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are members of EASTBAY Works and operate in partnership with local cities, community colleges like Las Positas Community College, and other community-based organizations.
The Pleasanton center, located at 5020 Franklin Street, is a true haven for the 50 to 70 jobseekers who visit each day.
Besides offering current job listings, it has workshops in job search skills like resume writing and interviewing, as well as computer skills such as MicroSoft Word and Excel. Participants are welcome to use computers and phones and visit the extensive resource library.
Individual services are also offered for advice or personal counseling. And the center’s small, friendly staff make the facility a warm and friendly place to be.
Donovan keeps a close watch on what’s going on at the center every day—it’s a big part of her job. Since the program is grant-funded, the centers’ performance and usage is essential to the continuation of funding.
“I’m here to check on who’s using our services, how things are going, what the needs are, and how I can increase services to meet the needs of the community,” she says. “No two days are the same and no two people are the same.
“I’m always coming up with new approaches and finding ways to bring more people to the center. It’s all about networking and information sharing, word of mouth, and referrals.”
Donovan is the center’s chief job developer, linking employers with clients to try and make perfect matches. Recently Safeway representatives were in the center recruiting for multiple positions .
She is also part of the Rapid Response Team, which visits plants that are closing to offer the services to the soon-to-be laid-off workers.
“This is a challenging job, especially in this economy,” she says.
“A big component is to keep people motivated so they’ll keep looking. I know it is very disheartening to not hear anything when you send out 20 or 30 resumes.
“So it’s good for us to be able to talk to people, look at their resumes, and get them focused in the right direction,” she adds.
“Perhaps they’re not giving themselves credit for the skills they have.”
By all rights, what Donovan, 64, could be focusing on at this point is her own retirement. After all, she officially retired from the county six years ago. But when she was offered the opportunity to head up the Pleasanton center shortly after that, she jumped at the chance.
“I love what I do and I look forward to coming to work every day,” says Donovan, who likes the small setting where she has access to everyone.
“I was born and raised in Oakland, Hayward and Fremont and was taught to help my neighbors and friends, so that’s what I’m continuing to do.”
So after more than 30 years of experience helping laid-off workers, welfare recipients, veterans, senior citizens, disabled people, and everyone else who asks for help, Donovan continues to have a fulfilling career doing what she does best—giving to others.
“Everyone is looking for the same thing no matter where they come from, what their age, or how much experience they have. They just want to know, ‘Is there an opportunity for me and can you help me find it,’" she says.
“As long as this center is here and I can provide that help, I consider myself to be successful.”