Preparing 20th century workers for the 21st century workforce; these words describe the mission of Tuesdays with Transitioners, a job club run by Jennifer Oliver O’Connell at the Congregational Church of Northridge in Northridge, CA.
This week, I had the opportunity to hear first-hand how job clubs like Jennifer’s are helping Americans get back to work during a roundtable event organized by my department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP). For example, Jennifer utilizes social media and the latest technology, including tools such as LinkedIn to train all of her job club members how to network.
The event also marked the launch of a new project by the CFBNP to reach out to the many job clubs – also known as career ministries, network groups, and work search roundtables, among other names – across the country and link them with the public workforce system, including DOL’s network of 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers.
To encourage collaboration between job clubs and the workforce system, CFBNP has partnered with DOL’s Employment and Training Administration to issue a Training and Employment Notice on job club partnerships. They have also launched an interactive web site, a Community of Practice where job club coordinators and others can connect with each other to share success stories, promising practices, as well as tools and materials.
For displaced workers, many of whom are out of work for the first time in 20 or 30 years, job clubs provide advice and guidance on employment opportunities. And more importantly, as I learned listening to our roundtable participants, they create a sense of belonging and a community of emotional support, understanding, and empowerment for individuals who have lost a job through no fault of their own.
Job clubs are truly an American institution. Many are hosted by churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions, as well as secular community organizations like local public libraries. They are often run by volunteers who answer the call of duty to help out their fellow neighbors and community members. I think Ken Soper, who has set up jobs clubs in Grand Rapids and throughout Western Michigan, summed this notion of service well when he stated that job club coordinators follow one of the most universal maxims across religions and beliefs, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
To view the recorded webcast of the roundtable visit: http://www.dol.gov/dol/media/webcast/20110524-jobsclubs/.