There’s an old saying – “tough times bring out the best in people.” At McLean Bible Church in Virginia, this maxim could not be more true.
On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to visit the Career Network Ministry at McLean Bible, where I witnessed a community coming together and neighbors helping neighbors in the job search process.
The Career Network Ministry is one of the largest “job clubs” in the country. These groups rely on the selfless work of volunteers to provide unemployed members of the community with training in the latest job search tools, opportunities to expand their professional networks, and a good excuse to get out of the house and spend time with others in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.
They are working closely with my department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships as part of our new Job Clubs Initiative which provides technical assistance and connections to DOL resources.
Job clubs like the Career Network Ministry produce results.
Several members of the group shared their “victory laps” with the more than 200 people in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Karen, a single mom showed up at her office one day last December to learn that her position was being terminated. She was out of work for nearly nine months. But on Tuesday she announced to the group that she had landed a new management position with a technology firm – crediting her success to the support and resources offered through the Ministry.
Pastor Joe Henriques and Mallard Owen, one of the lead volunteers who himself found his job through the Ministry, gave me a tour of the various job workshops and activities offered at McLean Bible every Tuesday evening. That night a former executive from AOL was providing training on the professional networking website, LinkedIn; volunteers were hosting orientation sessions for new members; and human resources professionals were offering advice on how to better present skills and experiences during a job search process.
The ministry is open to all members of the local community. In fact, less than a quarter of the participants are members of the church’s congregation.
Mallard, Karen, and their fellow members of the Career Network Ministry are among the millions of middle class professionals who will directly benefit from some of the key proposals in President Obama’s American Jobs Act.
The American Jobs Act calls for the most innovative reform to the unemployment insurance program in 40 years. It empowers states to implement wage insurance to help reemploy older and more experienced workers. It provides a self-employment assistance program that makes it easier and less risky for unemployed workers to start their own businesses. It promotes work-sharing in the form of partial unemployment insurance benefits for workers whose employers choose reduction in hours over layoffs when business slows down. And it prohibits employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
These policies are game-changers for middle class professionals 50 years-of-age and older who were adversely affected by the recession. Across America, communities are pulling together to help these workers get back on their feet. There is a role for federal and state governments to partner with these communities to assist their unemployed. The American Jobs Act does just that.
The President’s bill is now with the Congress. It is time for them to act on behalf of these workers, including the couple hundred I met last night in Virginia.
To learn more about the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Job Clubs initiative visit https://partnerships.workforce3one.org/page/job_clubs.