Getting People into Jobs Who’ve Been Out of Work the Longest

by admin on December 14, 2010 · 4 comments

Unemployment benefits can help following a layoff, but a new job is the only thing that can replace one that has been lost.  When benefits run out, the job search takes on even greater urgency.

One session at this week’s re-employment summit focused specifically on creative strategies to serve individuals who have exhausted unemployment insurance benefits.  During the UI Exhaustees: Strategies for Serving the Longest Unemployed session, panelists and attendees from across the nation shared their successes to not only replicate, but build upon, each other’s experiences.

“The reality is that this employment and training system, and many of us who have dedicated our lives to it, is basically not designed for the challenges we are facing today,” said Michael L.  Thurmond, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor.

In some cases, becoming one’s own boss is the solution.

Bonnie Elsey, director of workforce development for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, discussed how Project GATE, a Labor Department-funded program operating in several states, creates jobs by fostering self-employment.  Project “Growing America Through Entrepreneurship” provides participants orientation, paid training and consultation with the Small Business Administration.  At the end of the most recent phase, 57 individuals started their own businesses.

At least one state agency is tapping into the ingenuity of the same people it serves.

Karen Coleman is the director of the Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions for the New York State Department of Labor.  In New York, where 525,000 people are collecting UI, a group who call themselves the “99ers” – because they have exhausted all of their benefits – publicizes weekly meetings through Facebook and holds public protests that attract media coverage.  Impressed with the group’s ability to organize, on Monday, Coleman’s staff met with the 99ers – for four hours instead of a scheduled two – to exchange ideas.  One suggestion that emerged is a “Hire Me!” campaign that could profile talented candidates for employment.

Sometimes it’s necessary to join forces, literally, to get the job done.

To applause, an audience member from Richmond, Va. described how her office handled an unprecedented “tsunami” of highly degreed, unemployed clients who applied for services alongside others with less education and fewer skills.  Likening herself and a co-worker to the characters of Hawkeye and Radar on the television series M*A*S*H, she talked about the conscience and vision required to serve everyone with already stretched resources. The pair enlisted volunteer clients to run workshops.  This partnership allowed the office to serve more workers during a time of great need.

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December 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

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1 Wendy Gleich December 14, 2010 at 7:46 pm

You are right about the problems we must face together is getting re-hired in the fields in which we already hold advanced degrees. There should be no one with a Master’s degree in teaching early childhood literacy unemployed right now for any reason, let alone be someone among the long-term unemployed (99 weeks). When there are people who still need to learn to read, write, and comprehend texts then there is no reason to try to force someone with a Master’s in Reading Education from a university that is a well-known leader in this field, to be asked to “re-learn or change career fields.” Instead of offering unemployment benefits and more tests and help finding another job, why aren’t we identifying whatever the problem is that is keeping a highly-educated and highly competent early reading teacher from teaching children to read today and fix that problem. I bet it would be much cheaper to ask states, universities and employers what they could be doing differently that would put qualified people back to work in their fields than it would be to keep paying out 99 weeks of unemployment benefits to people who have such “high-need qualifications” who sit home without the financial means to do their jobs. Everyday that I am kept from earning a living by teaching children to read and write as well as I do not only costs tax-payers in unemployment benefits…you are losing the contributions of unemployed, highly-educated, and qualified professionals in terms of their work and in terms of the taxes we used to pay when we were employed in our fields, and the donations of our time and resources to those less fortunate and to those in need of our expertise.

There is no logical reason to prevent anyone from working and teaching children in our schools when this person has earned a Master’s degree in Reading Education from a well-recognized university program for teachers of reading. There is no reason that is acceptable to put someone who has been teaching reading to children in schools for the last 10 years, out of their job in an elementary school only to replace them with someone who does not have a background in the teaching of reading nor a Master’s degree in any field. What would it have cost an employer to have prevented the wasting of our tax dollars paid out to those of us unemployed by them? What logical and positive reason is there for interfering with the educations of young children in reading as well as with the ability of highly-qualified reading teachers or others with Master’s degrees in teaching in their fields—to use what they have learned to help others in their communities through their work, their paying of income taxes, paying their bills, their student loan debt, their ability to donate to charities their time and talents, and their ability to care for themselves and their families…including purchasing things needed for living and working with their incomes from teaching reading.

If there is something the teacher needs, such as a state issued license then why are we spending all of this money on unemployment and on trying to find new jobs. For goodness sake, there is a cheaper, simpler solution to this problem. The employer simply applies to the state to license this person that they are hiring to teach their children to read. The solution is not to make such individuals change their career fields when there is a need for the knowledge and qualifications and experience that these unemployed highly-educated people already have. The solution is to hire them to do the jobs they are already competent at doing; the sooner employers do this with the assistance from government policymakers and licensing agencies—the sooner you will see the unemployment problem improving in America….and we will have many more taxpayers, bill payers, and workers spending money in the stores again…creating more jobs for everyone.

What are we waiting for? I know I am not the only unemployed reading teacher in America who should not be out of work at all, unless, every child in America already reads and writes as well as a teacher does with a Master’s in Reading Education from a university that is highly-recognized for programs that produce some of the best reading researchers and reading teachers in America.

2 Virgil Bierschwale December 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I am near the point of giving up.
I would like to volunteer to be a guinea pig by using my computer skills that are no longer valued by Corporate America to open a small automotive repair business that specializes in the complex computer drivability problems in today’s cars.

3 Pat Simonik April 4, 2011 at 1:06 am

How many people employment assistance programs pushing people into lower level jobs just because they have been out of work for more than 1 or 2 years? Is there cut off point where you are no longer eligible to apply for a type of job you once held just because you have been out of work in a tight labor market?

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