Letter from the CEO – July 2014

Dear AWEE Stakeholders,

The headlines tell the story. Or do they?

A Wall Street Journal Market Watch headline stated: “Why companies are wary to hire long-term unemployed. Millions of Americans still can’t find good jobs with no easy solution in sight.”

The article pointed out that “even though the ranks of the long-term jobless have thinned dramatically after peaking in 2010, more Americans today have gone without a job for a longer period than any other time since the 1930s.”

Yet, a Bloomberg story proclaimed that “Long-Term Unemployed Make for Just as Strong Hires: Study” based on research showing no statistically significant difference in job performance measures “between two pools of entry-level call center agents: those who hadn’t held a single full-time job in at least five years before they applied for the position, and the rest.”

In the AARP Bulletin, Carole Fleck cited a university sociologist who calls “the plight of 3.1 million long-term unemployed Americans who have been shut out from the gains of an improving economy a ‘forgotten story'” facing bleak job prospects, adding that “almost half of jobless workers ages 55 and older are long-term unemployed.”

“…maybe it’s time to rethink, retrain and reinvest in education and job training.”

U.S. Labor Department statistics in July indicated that people out of work 27 weeks or longer made up 32.8 percent of unemployed Americans when the overall unemployment rate stood at a nearly six-year low of 6.1 percent.

But, Jody Greenstone Miller told Talent Management.com that “there are hidden skills and qualities the long-term unemployed might provide, and most of the old perceptions about unemployed job candidates simply don’t apply in the current talent economy.”

At AWEE, we tend to agree with both Miller and the Wall Street Journal’s conclusion that one reason many of the 4 million open positions remain unfilled is “a mismatch between the new kind of talent companies need and the skills the unemployed possess – the so-called skills gap.”

Based on our anecdotal evidence, one critical element is access to additional training or certifications.

Victoria came to us at 51 after losing a job that only further complicated financial challenges for her husband and four children. She wanted to explore new job opportunities and add skills

complementing those she already had. For her, that meant computer training and certification. Unfortunately, without a job – and despite multiple visits to job fairs, job recruiters and online job sites – those prospects were dim.

With guidance from AWEE’s Sue Gitell, Victoria completed a number of job-readiness classes and received financial assistance to attend a local college where she will earn her Microsoft Office Certification in September. In June, she started as a case worker at South Phoenix Healthy Start.

Now, no one is calling this a trend, but this positive step sends a strong message to those still struggling to find work, employers struggling to find workers and a Congress that has spent more money subsidizing banks than helping families put food on the table: maybe it’s time to rethink, retrain and reinvest in education and job training.

In a year when we’re celebrating the first moon landing and its “small step for man” 45 years ago, maybe it’s time to start working toward that “giant leap for mankind” by changing lives through the dignity of work.

Marie A. Sullivan
President & CEO

Letter from the CEO – July 2014