Job Hunters Boot Camp nets success stories

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John Abrahamson can still remember the panic that consumed him not long ago, out of work for 10 months, struggling to support his family.

“When you are trying to take care of a child, and you’re out work … it’s utter despair,” the 48-year-old Burlingame resident said. “There’s nothing worse than trying to find that job that you know isn’t out there.”

Abrahamson found a new job with full health care benefits in the restaurant industry, where he has worked for 20 years, after reading about the Job Hunters Boot Camp and deciding it was worth a try.

He enrolled in the camp, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo-San Francisco, in April and landed the job two weeks later. He called the session “a shot in the arm.”

About 1,000 people came to the first boot camp in January 2010 at the San Mateo County Event Center. The boot camp has evolved from a job fair to a series of workshops, focusing on issues such as résumé-building, job hunting tips and interview skills.

The one-on-one-style workshops are intended to help the unemployed feel like they “are not alone,” Speier said.

About 500 people registered for last month’s job boot camp on Jan. 28, and more than 200 were turned away because such a crowd would have violated Crown Plaza Hotel’s fire code.

“We never want to turn people away,” Speier spokeswoman Katrina Rill said. “That’s the last thing we want to do.”

Speier is planning another boot camp in April, this time at a facility with a larger maximum capacity.

The City’s metro division unemployment rate, encompassing San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, is down from last year, according to a report released last month by the state Employment Development Department.

The local metro division recorded an 8.7 percent unemployment rate in December, down from 9 percent the prior year.

“It’s better than it was a year ago,” EDD Labor Market Analyst Jorge Villalobos said. “It’s definitely a milestone.”

Though pleased with successes such as Amrahamson’s and the dip in the area’s jobless rate, Speier said she still considers the district’s unemployment rate “unacceptable.”

aterrazas@sfexaminer.com

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