Did you know that the age group most impacted by long-term unemployment − that is, 27 weeks or longer − is workers 55 and older? And while the ranks of the long-term unemployed have been steadily declining over the past year, there are still 4.7 million people in this category according to the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Local job clubs, career ministries and job search support groups across the country are uniquely positioned to help unemployed older workers, including those in the long-term category. Take Roddy, a 52-year-old product manager who lost his job when his company relocated.
After a six-month search yielded zero job offers, Roddy decided to join the Ridgewood, N.J., chapter of Neighbors-helping-Neighbors, a volunteer-run network of job clubs across the state. Networking through the club provided critical job leads, and the club’s support system helped Roddy stay positive and motivated throughout his search process. These elements, Roddy says, were missing from his solo job search, and ultimately they are what helped him land a new job in his field.
Last month, I was honored to speak at Neighbors-helping-Neighbors’ two-year anniversary celebration. To date, NhN has helped more than 230 people land jobs, most of whom were unemployed for 6 months or more and over the age of 50.
This is why the department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been reaching out to groups like NhN for the past several years, connecting them to the public workforce system and other partners, and helping new clubs get started. We’re seeing a huge payoff, and even major media outlets are taking note. USA Today recently ran a cover story on NhN and its founder, John Fugazzie, as well as our efforts to provide support.
What’s even more exciting is how these groups are innovating and finding new ways to connect people with jobs. For example, Crossroads Career Network, a national network of more than 90 congregation-based employment ministries, launched a new Web tool last month that can be used by job clubs, employers and job seekers. Job seekers can search by ZIP code for local job listings, as well as find career tips and upcoming workshops. Employers can search for quality candidates, and job clubs and other groups can learn more about how to help those who are searching for work.
And later this month, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina will officially launch an innovative program called the Professional Center. The center will specialize in working with professionals, including older workers, who are now experiencing long-term unemployment for the first time in their careers. With a focus on networking skills, social media training and image consulting, the center’s services will be offered in person as well as through video recordings and webinars.
With these efforts and many more like them in hundreds of communities across the country, we are looking forward to the number of long-term unemployed people declining even more dramatically in 2013.
To connect with the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership’s Job Clubs initiative visit www.dol.gov/jobclubs.
Ben Seigel is the deputy director of the Labor Department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.