When Jamie Sands was laid off from her job in 2018, it felt at the time like it was the worst thing to ever happen.

“I thrive on being helpful and useful and it was like having the rug pulled out from underneath me,” Sands said.

After that, she did what many people do when they get laid off: She applied for unemployment. As part of the application process at the time, Sands was required to take a class, which she did, maybe a little begrudgingly.

Sands said the class, which turned out to be a blessing, got her connected with the dislocated workers program through Duluth Workforce Development, the very same organization she now works for.

Duluth Workforce is a city department that helps dislocated workers get back to work or even learn new skills as well as connecting employers with skilled workers. Since March 21, more than 46,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits in Northeastern Minnesota, with 19,158 of those applications coming from Duluth.

The $600 additional unemployment payment authorized by the CARES Act, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, is scheduled to end July 25. With thousands of people out of a job — hundreds in Duluth alone — filing for unemployment each week, Duluth Workforce technician Betsy Hill said her hope is that people connect with them as soon as possible because it gives them more options.

“We have funding specifically to work with people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” she said.

Hill said the dislocated worker program is individualized and starts with career counseling to get to know the person better and what their interests and aptitudes are. Those in the program can get help with their resume, job search and receive suggestions of possible places to apply.

“Sometimes people have been in one certain field and realize this is their chance to try something new, and the wonderful thing about this program is it really gives people the tools to be able to do that,” Hill said.

Sands said when she went through the program they helped her sign up and pay for some classes at Lake Superior College, which allowed her to refine some of her skills while still collecting unemployment and searching for a new job.

The Duluth Workforce's dislocated workers program is part of CareerForce, Minnesota’s career development and talent-matching resource through the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Enrollees will receive career planning and counseling services, job search assistance, education and training support for qualified individuals and support services such as assistance with expenses for transportation or family to help an individual achieve employment or training goals.

Hill said even in this pandemic, employers are looking for people to fill positions.

Duluth Workforce services are free and open to everyone. Some programs may have eligibility requirements. Other programs offered include Converting Layoffs into Minnesota Businesses, commonly known as "CLIMB," and Pathways to Prosperity Competitive Grant.

CLIMB is designed to assist aspiring entrepreneurs with training and consulting for a successful business launch or growth. Pathways to Prosperity is designed to prove workforce development and training opportunities that help place people into high growth and demand areas of employment, such as truck driving, certified nursing and health services.

“My advice to folks is that you don't have to go through this alone,” Sands said.

To learn more about Duluth Workforce Development, visit duluthmn.gov/workforce-development call 218-302-8400 or email workforcedevelopment@duluthmn.gov.