During my travels in Georgia this week I visited Atlanta’s Cascade United Methodist Church – the largest African-American United Methodist Church in the Southeast – where my department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships was hosting a symposium about job clubs and career ministries.
I had the opportunity to meet with a small group of job seekers and workers who have been helped by some of the career ministries in the Atlanta area. I heard from a woman named Audrey who lost her job in the banking industry in June. Her initial reaction was that the sky was falling, but thanks to support from family, friends, and the career ministry at Cascade UMC she now has a positive approach to the job search process and is excited about the chance to transition into a new field.
I also heard from Charlie, a computer software engineer who was out of work for two years. As he put it, every plan he came up with to land a job fell apart until a friend dragged him kicking and screaming to the career ministry at Roswell UMC. The ministry offered him the opportunity to expand his professional network and it provided him with spiritual motivation that lifted his spirits. Best of all, Charlie recently landed a new job in software development.
These are just two examples of job seekers and workers who are being supported professionally, emotionally, and spiritually by job clubs throughout the Atlanta region and across the country. The symposium at Cascade UMC highlighted these stories and also explored how job clubs and career ministries are partnering with One Stop Career Centers, employers, and other organizations.
One of the symposium panels featured Greg Bright, a human resources executive with Waffle House. Greg has been working with some of the career ministries in Atlanta over the past years to fill jobs at all levels within his company. “We look for people we can not only hire, but most importantly retain,” explained Greg. “The job ministries with deep roots in the community help us do that.”
Greg shared that he has been very pleased with the individuals he has hired through the ministry at New Birth Baptist Church.
Another panel included leadership from the Georgia Department of Labor, the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration’s regional office in Atlanta. These officials shared valuable information about the workforce investment system, including grant programs, tax credits, and web-based tools and resources. And they discussed how they can partner with job clubs and ministries.
I was honored to address the symposium audience of more than 350 people that included faith and community leaders, workforce professionals, and job seekers and workers. As part of my presentation, I was proud to share President Obama’s proposal in the American Jobs Act that prohibits employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
I also shared how the package of tax cuts and investments in the President’s plan, if passed by Congress, will help people like Audrey, Charlie, and all those served by career ministries.
I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to Senior Pastor Marvin Anthony Moss and his colleagues for welcoming me and the Department of Labor into his wonderful church and to the job club members who shared their stories.