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SALEM — For 23 years, the North Shore Career Center on Washington Street in downtown Salem has been a place where people can go for help finding a job. The center’s mission hasn’t changed, but some of its methods have.

On Monday, the center held a grand reopening to show off its renovated office space — and a new resource using artificial intelligence.

Job seekers who walk into the career center can now use AI goggles to see what it’s like to assemble a desktop computer, change the oil in car, or greet a customer from behind a hotel lobby desk, among many other tasks in other fields.

The idea is to give people a virtual glimpse inside a potential workplace to decide if that’s something they might want to pursue.

“If you’ve never been on a manufacturing floor before it’s hard to imagine what it’s like,” said Katie Crowder, manager of youth programs for the North Shore Workforce Board, which oversees the career center. “As soon as you put (the AI headset) on you know what it looks like.”

Crowder said the North Shore Youth Career Center in Lynn has been using the artificial intelligence system since March. The center has helped placed more than 1,000 youth in jobs this year, she said.   “The kids love it,” Crowder said of the AI system.

The North Shore Career Center is one of 29 MassHire career centers across the state. The centers offer free job search assistance, skills and educational training, career fairs, networking events, and access to the state’s online job search system.

The grand reopening at the Salem location was attended by dozens of local and state officials, including Massachusetts Labor Secretary Lauren Jones.

“We think of the career centers as the front door where we’re able to connect job seekers and employers,” Jones said. “We want to make sure that we can continue to upgrade and support the resources for the community, and the career center is a tremendous resource.”

Paul Ventresca, North Shore Career Center’s executive director, said the impetus for the center’s new look came during the pandemic, when it became clear that the nature of work would be changing. The newly renovated center is more open, with stand/sit desks and mobile file cabinets instead of cubicles, “Zoom rooms” for online meetings, and more workstations and space for employers and trainers as well as customers.

The center’s computers can be programmed for multiple languages, which he said will benefit immigrants who are becoming an increasingly large part of the workforce. The artificial intelligence system is located in a room called the “career exploration center.”

“We know the landscape has changed,” Ventresca said. “Workforce services are different. It’s going to be our obligation to make sure we provide those services.”

Mary Sarris, executive director of the North Shore Workforce Board, pointed out that, with a historically low unemployment rate of 2.3% on the North Shore, employers are “hiring like crazy.”

“This is an incredible part of our economy right now, more than every before,” Sarris said of the North Shore Career Center. “We need to find a way to bring job seekers and companies together so we can keep this amazingly strong economy going. I’ve had too many companies say to me, ‘Mary, if I can’t find workers I’ve got to leave.’ and I don’t want anyone to leave so it’s our job to find the workers.”

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.