Bakker named top job counselor
By Carolyn Lange
WILLMAR -- Helping low-income families go to work instead of going on welfare is what Sharon Bakker does every day at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building.
Bakker has been an employment counselor at Job Service since 1998 and currently manages the Diversionary Work Program, which is a four-month plan to put low-income parents to work while they receive financial assistance from the Minnesota Family Investment Program to meet basic needs.
Last month Bakker was given the state's top career service award for her work with those two programs.
She was also recognized this week during the meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.
Pat Jacobs, office manager for the Workforce Center in Willmar, said Bakker's "calmness and understanding" is a "gift" for the department and the clients she works with.
Jacobs praised Bakker for her "steadiness and tact" in being able to discuss sensitive issues with clients, while at the same time giving them the respect they deserve.
Jacobs said Bakker has also been a role model for other employment counselors and has implemented tools to make the job easier for co-workers.
"This award does not occur in isolation," said Bakker, adding that her co-workers share part of the award. "We really have a good team," she said.
Bakker, who works closely with Kandiyohi County's family services department, also had high praise for the county and its staff. She said having family services and Job Services located in one building allows staff from the different departments to work together to better serve clients.
"We have good people working here, we have good programs and we have good outcomes," said Bakker.