On a summer morning in Denver last week, the magic of faith-based partnerships was on display at a small church in the Five Points community.
In one of the three rooms at Agape Christian Church, children from the neighborhood were enjoying a nutritious breakfast thanks to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Feeding program. In the adjoining room, community members were working together at the computer lab, refining their resumes and discussing their job searches.
And in the last room—a historic sanctuary built in 1887—the Labor Department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership was hosting a Job Clubs and Career Ministries Symposium with 100 community leaders from across the Front Range.
For the past year-and-a-half, our center has been building civic partnerships with job clubs, career ministries, and job networking and support groups based at congregations, community centers, and coffee shops. We’ve connected job clubs to the department’s public workforce system, as well as other public and private programs that can help these groups sustain their efforts while providing job seekers access to varied resources. We’ve also been working with community leaders interested in starting up new job clubs. Finally, we’ve provided a venue at www.dol.gov/jobclubs where job club practitioners and others can find and communicate with each other and download resources.
Our event in Denver was part of a series of regional symposia we have been holding across the country that bring together job club leaders, faith leaders, nonprofits, and government agencies to discuss their respective efforts in helping job seekers and to explore the formation of new partnerships.
Our first panel featured a diverse set of local job clubs, including The 905 Group a volunteer-run networking group comprised primarily of executives from the Information Technology sector and a program at SHALOM Denver, a division of Jewish Family Service of Colorado that helps public assistance recipients expand professional networks through internships and consultations with employers.
We also heard from ministry leaders at Cherry Hills Community Church, Sacred Heart of Mary Church, and Agape Christian Church on the role that faith, motivation, and perseverance play in helping job seekers arrive at the right mindset for landing the job they love.
The second panel featured leaders from local agencies and nonprofits who presented a range of partnership opportunities for job clubs. For example, staff from the Denver Office of Economic Development expressed interest in working with job clubs to recruit employers and job seekers for their on-the-job training programs.
We wrapped up the event with an inspirational presentation from Liz Ryan, a former human resources executive for a Fortune 500 company. Liz presented her “whole person job search” approach that provided valuable advice to those advising job seekers.
Before the event ended, attendees were scheduling follow-up meetings, brainstorming next steps, and forging new partnerships. These conversations were music to my ears, as they exemplified the value-add of our office here at the Department of Labor: to connect communities and catalyze collaborations in the name of good jobs for everyone.
Ben Seigel is Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Labor.