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Labor secretary: JobGateway site more than just employment listings

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Julia Hearthway is Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry.
Julia Hearthway is Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry. - (Photo / )

Give her the chance to talk about the JobGateway website, and Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway will jump at it.

Hearthway, who was confirmed in her post in June 2011, says the state-run website designed to get the unemployed into jobs is much more dynamic than people realize.

JobGateway was started in June 2012 and has an average of 203,333 jobs listed on it daily. There were 88,139 employers and 407,675 job candidates registered on the site in May.

Hearthway spoke with the Central Penn Business Journal late last month about the site and some of the criticisms of it.

Q: How many unemployed people have been connected to employment through the JobGateway site since it was started?

A: We don't keep track of that number, because you have to rely on people to come back and say they got the job. That's burdensome on them, and few do. Plus, it is difficult to tell what exactly got the person the job. There are a lot of factors. Plus, they aren't always searching only JobGateway; they may have seen a job posting that also appeared on another site.

I'm not sure how valuable that statistic would be, so we've not spent time and the taxpayers' money on it. We've done more to make it a more robust spidering feed. As long as you got the job, it's not a critical number for the taxpayer. We tell employers that there are a little over 400,000 talented individuals on our site. There are almost 600,000 visits (based on statistics from May), and 66 percent of them are return visits. More than 61,000 (of those 600,000 visits) are using a mobile device.

There were reports that 50,000 people in the state did not receive unemployment benefits because they did not register on JobGateway, a requirement passed by the General Assembly in 2012 but not enforced until September. What happened?

They were not denied benefits. They were delayed benefits, if they were eligible for them. The General Assembly passed a law that said if you are collecting benefits, you need to register on the website and be searching for employment weekly. We are obligated to enforce that, and, by the way, Pennsylvania is the very last state to do this. Over the years, we've tried to educate people. Eighty percent of people who applied registered, no problem.

There are a group of individuals that need to have that pressure on them. And it turns out half of those 50,000 people were denied benefits for one reason or another, so they weren't going to get benefits anyway. We are now 94 percent compliant. Some people just procrastinate. And it's not, “No benefits for you!”

There has been some criticism of JobGateway, that it lists outdated or bogus job opportunities. How do you respond to the criticism?

There might be some dubious ads, but how do you limit them? We want the site to be as open as possible, for people to be able to see everything available. We make it clear that, when you click on a particular job link, you are leaving the site. Meanwhile, we have registered employers who post on the site who are more secure. We decided it was better to open the site up to as many jobs as possible. Just be smart.

What are some features of JobGateway, other than job listings?

In addition to job postings and résumés, there are other tools, such as the “Big Interview.” It offers tips, questions and answers, and does it by industry. It gives you the chance to practice and has three levels: easy, intermediate and difficult. An interviewer (automated) will pop up and do an interview with you. The thing is that you can record it and can critique yourself. You could practice in your bunny slippers if you wanted. If you've been out of the industry, it gives you the confidence with the technology and the questions you might encounter that you've not thought of. If you're graduating from college, it's good practice.

For employers, there is data mining. Previous searches (for employees) ended up knocking out candidates or included some that it shouldn't have. We have a filtering mechanism for the employer that looks at things such as education level, geographical area, salary level. The employer gets back, let's say, 200 potential employees. Then, they can electronically send out an email to those candidates with questions formulated in a yes-or-no format or on a scale. The responses to those emails mark the candidates that they are looking for. It's customizable for each employer. 

Julia Hearthway

Confirmed as Secretary of Labor and Industry: June 22, 2011

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Stephens College in Missouri; juris doctor degree from Rutgers University School of Law

Experience: Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office starting in 1993; named chief deputy attorney general in 2001, managing the office’s insurance fraud section; assistant district attorney for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office; private legal practice

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