Great Oaks’ employee honored as an Unsung Hero

Cincy Magazine recognizes Slutsky

Dr. Robin White congratulates Lisa as Adult Workforce Development Director Bob Scarborough looks on.
The hundreds of adults who have turned to the Great Oaks Return to Work Resource Center for assisting in finding employment know that coordinator Lisa Slutsky is a hero. Now, the region will know it too as Slutsky is honored as an Unsung Hero by Cincy magazine.

The story of the Great Oaks Return to Work Resource Center and Lisa Slutsky are intertwined. She began the Center and has served as its only coordinator.

In March 2009, the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board’s office serving northern Cincinnati closed. Of course, with unemployment skyrocketing and the economy continuing to falter, this was the worst possible time for the community to lose those services.

Great Oaks Career Campuses partnered with the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board to create the Return to Work Resource Center, a place to support jobseekers. With only an empty classroom, a few computers, and some emerging ideas of how best to serve unemployed and underemployed workers, Lisa Slutsky built this free service into a valuable, supportive, and welcoming place for those who need it.

The Great Oaks Return to Work Resource Center, located at the Scarlet Oaks campus in Sharonville, is open for jobseekers who need free access to computers, copy/fax machines, phones, advice on creating a resume, and other free services to help in the job search. The Center is open four days a week.

The Center also offers regular no-cost seminars to improve interviewing skills and other techniques in finding work, as well as the Kuder Career Test, free coaching, career testing, mock interviewing, and individualized help on job search strategies, resume writing, and more.

Since its inception, the Return to Work Resource Center has served more than 700 people. For the most part, these are not hardcore, chronically unemployed workers: 78 percent are over 35 years old, and 75 percent have at least some college education. 10 percent have graduate degrees. These are clients whose lives have been unexpectedly disrupted.

As Coordinator of the RTW Center, Lisa is responsible for all aspects of its operation. She recruits volunteers to work with clients; she networks with area businesses to learn about job opportunities; she arranges seminars and programs, and she markets the Center in the community.

Most of all, and best of all, she works one-on-one with clients, providing resume and interviewing advice, guiding their job searches, and often holding hands and offering emotional support.

Watching Lisa is like watching a whirlwind-except when she is with an individual. Then, the person she’s with receives her complete attention and knowledge.

She understands that the value of the RTW Center increases with the support of area business and industry, and she networks through LinkedIn and personally in order to gain that support.

But that pales in comparison to the impact she has on individuals. A recent email from her to a colleague said, “Today, a man sat in the room and talked with me one on one, with other folks in the room as well, and cried for an hour. It was so difficult.”

She sees and empathizes with the tears and fears of people who had achieved a great deal in their profession, only to find themselves unemployed and wondering if they’ll ever find another job.

Through her efforts, the RTW Center can be a place where individuals have privacy when they need it to discuss sensitive topics like finances, and also a place where individuals who share a common experience can support each other.

In fact, seminars and lectures sometimes take the appearance of a 12-step meeting as jobseekers trade tips, employment leads, and encouraging words, and the regulars know each others’ life stories.

Lisa supports and amplifies that atmosphere as she moves among the group, asking clients about their job search and daily lives. It’s an intangible but very real quality.

Of course, Lisa sometimes sees clients at their emotional worst-and she deals with those people with grace and empathy.