Meet Omar Velazquez. As Outreach Youth Counselor for CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s an ambassador of sorts, and he has very good news for jobseekers searching for a new career.
Velazquez, raised in a single-parent home with eight siblings, shares an important message with youth: There’s help. Even if you missed out on college or other post-secondary training.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Velazquez spends much of his time on the road visiting churches, sheriff’s offices and community meeting places. He can relate to many of the problems people are facing. Problems like poverty, layoffs, and education and language barriers.
While dealing with his own challenges, he learned many good programs -- like ones offered through CareerSource -- are virtually “hidden,” says Velazquez, the single parent of a 19-year-old.
“You’d be surprised how many people have no clue. I give them a little bit, in bits and pieces. They’re flabbergasted,” he explains. “That’s the reason why I said goodbye to corporate America, and said this is where I belong,”
Funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, CareerSource offers free training that can help youths 18 and up become certified and/or ready to work in career fields like construction, welding and fabrication, soldering and cabling, hospitality and more. Some training might otherwise cost “thousands of dollars,” Velazquez points out.
A Microsoft Office certification, earned in three to four weeks, can qualify students 18 to 24 for a number of office jobs. Older persons qualify if they receive welfare assistance or food stamps.
Training is at CareerSource’s Career Prep Center at North 43rd Street and East Columbus Drive. Applicants must be allowed to work legally in the United States.
“After they train you, they have partnership with other companies that are willing to hire you on the spot,” the New Port Richey resident adds.
CareerSource also can connect job candidates with an employer who may want to engage recruits on a trial basis for two or more weeks first. CareerSource pays the salary for that trial through an agreement with the employer, he says.
Additionally, CareerSource offers technical education in connection with the federal TechHire program, which has trained more than 4000 people and connected them to higher-paying job opportunities.
TechHire was launched by then-President Barack Obama in 2015, with the goals of building a pipeline of tech talent to communities nationwide, creating jobs and spurring business growth. Training covers IT jobs and phlebotomy.
Candidates must be U.S. residents between 17 and 29.
Velazquez’s main focus is youth, but older workers also can benefit from job search, counseling and other CareerSource services. “We spread the word to everybody,” he says.
Although he’s often on the road, counselors are on hand at the CareerSource offices in Tampa, Brandon, Plant City, Ruskin and Pinellas County, to help walk-ins. “They can say Omar sent me,” he says.