The weak economy has forced many businesses to lay off employees, and Cabarrus County has taken an especially hard hit.
With large businesses closing or changing hands, hundreds of employees have been displaced.
Many have worked at their jobs for 10 years or more. Now the displaced employees are suddenly unsure of their next move. That's where the R3 Center comes in.
R3 stands for "Refocus, Retrain and Re-employ." The center does not do its clients' work for them; it gives them the tools to help themselves. It also provides emotional support for clients who are confused and worried.
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"We want our clients to come in and leave feeling self-sufficient," center Director Keri Allman-Young said.
Since it opened in 2007, the R3 Center - part of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College - has been a safe haven for the unemployed.
It began as an effort to help about 2,000 workers who had been displaced by a plant closing. Now it has multiple services and actively seeks displaced workers. It provides free workshops, career assessments and individual career coaches to guide clients through their job search.
Workshops teach important skills, such as proper interview technique, writing a résumé or rewriting one that's out of date, Allman-Young said.
Yvonne Quarrles was an agent at State Farm Insurance for 14 years when she was let go in December. Pursuing a career change, Quarrles visited RCCC's continuing education department, which referred her to the center.
For Quarrles, her job loss gave her hope for an exciting, new career.
Although Quarrles was ready for a career change, she had mixed emotions.
"In the beginning I was excited and looking forward to something new," Quarrles said. "But it's been about a month now, and I need some direction. It's new, but it's exciting."
For most of the center's clients, Excitement is the last emotion most clients feel. Allman-Young said most are scared, angry and confused, unsure of their future and worried about their families.
The center provides emotional support, but also gives its clients the tools to become competitive in today's job market.
The workshops, which are a major part of that training, include classes such as "Layoff Survival," "Looking for Work at 50+," and "Stand Out and Network."
Quarrles is enrolled in 12 workshops. She is most excited about the networking class.
"Looking at the job Web sites, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there," Quarrles said. "It all seems to be about networking - that's how you find a job. If you know someone who has a job, they often know about the jobs that aren't listed on the Web sites. The center teaches you that and how to properly network."
Her next step is to take a career assessment to help her identify what career would best suit her.
Many displaced workers wonder whether they can perform at a different job. The assessments help open their minds to possibilities.
"The sales industry has become really competitive, and I just wanted to do something different," said Quarrles. "I was in insurance for 14 years, and now I want to get into human and health services. I just love working with people."
Like many of the clients who come through the center, she's looking not for a temporary position, but for a long-term job.
Many of the center's clients end up going back to school to pursue a chosen career.
"I was very encouraged coming through the center," said Quarrles. "The lady I spoke with ... said ... this was the exact place for me, that it would give me direction and clarity. And now I think I'm going to go back to school and earn my degree."