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.