The Loudoun County Workforce Resource Center has been awarded a new level of certification that comes with additional funds for marketing and job training.

That's welcome news for the center in Leesburg, which had 600 visits from job seekers last month compared with 400 in October 2001, an indication of Loudoun County's rising unemployment rate and flailing economy.

The center, part of Loudoun County's social services department, has been designated an Affiliated SkillSource Center by the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board. The board's team of public- and private-sector volunteers works to attract businesses to the area, provide job training, match employees with businesses and provide career exploration opportunities for youths.

The board, which was founded in 2000, is one of 17 in the state. It operates in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park.

The board will give the Leesburg center marketing assistance and an undetermined amount of money for such things as job training in a range of fields, from cosmetology to information technology.

Janis Chamblin, director of the center, said receiving the certification "is a big deal. We're really, really proud."

Chamblin said the additional training money will "help people gain skills." If people who have been laid off meet certain requirements, and the center thinks training is a match for them, the center will pay for it.

David Hunn, the board's executive director, said certification is a guide to job seekers and employers "as to who is providing good services in our area." He said the Loudoun center has been awarded "affiliate" status, the first rung of certification.

Those with the top certification, or "full status," receive more funding and resources from the workforce board, but "affiliate status is a good first stage for them," Hunn said.

"The certification team was quite impressed with the information [the center] provides to customers," he said. "It's quite customer friendly; accessibility is very good. It's just a very good climate for job seekers to walk in the door."

The Prince William One-Stop Center, affiliated with the Virginia Employment Commission on Minnieville Road in Woodbridge, was recently awarded the top full-service certification.

"We think it is quite important . . . crucial to the customers," Hunn said. "They will begin to see an improved level of customer service."

The workforce board has worked with uncertified job centers but cannot give them resources after Dec. 31. The board's funding comes primarily from the federal Labor Department, and it applies for grant money elsewhere.

Since it opened in 1996, the resource center in Leesburg has grown from a small, part-time job assistance center with little technology to a full-time center with eight computers, literature, job-seeking software, trainers and more.

The number of job seekers using the center has grown, along with unemployment. The Virginia Employment Commission said Loudoun's unemployment rate was about 4.4 percent, or 4,474 people, in September, up from 4 percent, or 3,950 people, a year ago.

The Leesburg site is the only job resource center in Loudoun.

The workforce board reviews applications quarterly. It designates job centers as SkillSource Centers if they meet at least 60 percent of criteria that include:

* The organization's senior executive and those reporting to the senior executive must be directly involved in creating and sustaining values, directions, performance expectations and customer focus.

* The organization must set strategic directions for one to three years and determine key action plans and how they are translated into an effective system.

* Centers must use relevant data and information to help customers. They must determine customers' requirements and expectations and explain how they measure their satisfaction.

* Centers muse use and manage data and information effectively.

* They must build and maintain an environment conducive to participation, personal and organizational growth.

* An examination of how the organization designs, introduces, produces, delivers and improves goods and services is required.

* An organization must include partner performance, human resource performance and operational results.

Chamblin said the partnership with the board will help the center work with other groups that help job seekers move into new fields or jobs.

Representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission come to the center once a week to work with people laid off. A veterans representative comes every Friday. A Department of Rehabilitation Services counselor works with disabled people, and the Loudoun County Area Agency on Aging works with those over 55.

"We're going to blossom by networking and marketing and bringing a whole bunch of people with similar programs together," Chamblin said.

Employment counselor Stacy Sabin reviews job listings.Center clients Colleen McCarthy, standing, and Angel Serrano compare notes.