US DOL awards nearly $170 Million in Ready to Work Grants

Exciting things are taking place to help the long term unemployed (LTU) in our country.  The momentum has continued since my last blog post.  On Oct. 15, the US Department of Labor (DOL) awarded almost 170 million dollars to 20 states and Puerto Rico to help long term job seekers.  These Ready to Work grants are a culmination of efforts that started in January when President Obama made a pledge to help Americans get back to work and those efforts have been strengthened by actions from DOL.  To see a list of the award recipients, click here.

There are three key features of the winning programs.  First, they provide employer engagement and paths to high demand occupations.  Second, the services are tailored to the LTU.  Third, some of the programs incorporate occupational training and on-the-job training.

Employer involvement is important aspect of this campaign to help the LTU.  Starting in January, leading corporations joined this movement and later shared their best practices for hiring long term unemployed job seekers.  To date, 80 employers have signed onto this effort including 20 members of the Fortune 50.  Even the OPM is getting involved to implement better hiring practices of the LTU within the federal government. On January 31, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to enhance safeguards to ensure federal hiring is treating people who have become unemployed, due to no fault of their own, fairly when applying for federal jobs.

Along with this progress, the lapsed legislation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was finally addressed after many years of neglect, when the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed by President Obama on July 22, 2014.

Many of these actions above have already helped lower the unemployment rate for the LTU.  The Ready to Work grants are one more way to lower this number.  Congratulations to all of the awarded programs.   Make them count, spend the money wisely and create national models to help our country get back to work!

P.S.  If you want to read more about this topic, here is a Fact Sheet on efforts to help the LTU –

P.P.S.  This initiative has produced some resources to help employers and job seekers.  To see them, click on the Resources tab above on the main menu bar.

Working together to create “Opportunity for All” one step at a time

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

It is an exciting time to be in the arena of workforce development.  Our field is expanding, more people are realizing its importance and the federal government is taking action affecting our industry and those we serve.   For 2014, the White House and the Department of Labor (DOL) have announced an ambitious but much needed focus on improving our economy by helping the long-term unemployed, improving workforce training programs, and raising the minimum wage.

It was especially energizing for me to be a small part of this movement to help the long-term unemployed.   At the beginning of 2014, I was asked to attend a meeting held by the DOL Secretary Thomas Perez along with Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Officials Eric Selznow, Acting Assistant Secretary and Ben Seigel, Senior Policy Advisor.  The invited guests were a few dedicated job club leaders and a group of long-term job seekers.  The purpose:  to start a dialogue discussing the challenges and potential solutions for the long-term unemployed.

Walking through the long and tall corridors of DOL and waiting for the meeting to start were somewhat intimidating but once it began, the warmth felt by the administration was heartfelt and I was impressed with the genuine concern and sincerity from DOL Secretary Perez.   Hearing the personal stories and struggles of each talented and motivated job seeker was very emotional.  One man who was diagnosed and battled cancer while being long-term unemployed said that by far, being unemployed had more negative impact on his life than the cancer.  While I was saddened to hear this, I was not shocked.  As a career advisor I have seen the effects of unemployment.  Not only does it attack your self-confidence and cause financial strain but the process of finding decent employment in this job market can really take a toll on your soul.   Thanks to these folks for telling their compelling stories.  I know it was hard to share with a room full of strangers but the impact was huge and led to positive action.

As a career and workforce professional, I must take a brief moment to challenge the opinions out there that the long-term unemployed are unmotivated and happy to be receiving unemployment insurance.  There are many honest and hard-working job seekers and there are a variety reasons why it might take someone a long time to become re-employed.  Sometimes people need to change careers, which is a much longer process than just finding a job.  Sometimes the health of the person or a close family member takes necessary but critical time away from the job search.  Below are a couple of posts emphasizing the point that the long term unemployed are not lazy and expecting a handout.  They want to contribute to our economy; they just need to be given a chance.   Eric’s Selnzow’s blog post about our January 8th meeting shared that it is often not a lack of motivation and effort creating the length of unemployment.   Also, John Fugazzie wrote a moving article about the recent efforts from DOL and the White House while continuing to dispel the myths surrounding this group of job seekers.

Then, on January 31, only a few weeks after our DOL visit, President Obama stood in the East Room of the White House and announced new partnerships with companies to improve hiring practices that are singling out people in this “long term unemployed” category.  For more information, here is a fact sheet on this effort Here is a list of best practices and the names of companies already on board.  If you run a company and want to sign on, click here to do so.

Building upon this momentum, in February the Department of Labor announced a Ready to Work Partnership initiative to competitively award around $150 million (in revenues from the H-B1 visa program) to high performing workforce organizations for providing a variety of training and services to get people back to work.

Activities surrounding this topic are continuing.  On May 6th, many of the same group headed to Boston for a conference at MIT addressing long term unemployment and solutions.  And just last week some former colleagues of mine went to the White House to speak with DOL Secretary Perez, Eric Selnzow, Ben Seigel and others to continue this conversation.  Thanks to DOL and the White House for keeping this conversation going and taking action steps to help the long-term unemployed.

There are two lesser known champions who have made great efforts to help job seekers behind the scenes, Ben Seigel and John Fuggazie.  Kudos to Ben Seigel for his efforts for organizing the January 8th meeting that started the ball rolling.  In recent years, he has been dedicated to bringing this issue to the forefront at the highest levels of our government.   Also, many thanks to John Fugazzie, an inspirational leader for job seekers who tirelessly promoted the case for extending unemployment benefits.   John created Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA, Inc. a free, volunteer-led job search support and networking group targeted to adults who are actively looking for work. He writes a regular column for AOL.  Click here  to see his article about the January 8th meeting with DOL Secretary Perez.  Thanks to everyone who is helping in this effort.   It is an important one!

Related posts:

White House Blog post on helping the long-term unemployed:

National Economic Council Report addressing the negative effects of long-term unemployment:

DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

The White House encourages you to join a job club (and so do I)

I would like to devote this blog to a recent personal experience, which was both an unexpected surprise and an enjoyable event in my career path. I was honored to be invited to speak as a panelist at the White House Job Clubs Forum on Sept 20, 2012.   This once in a lifetime event came as a result of my involvement with job clubs in my area (I run a local job club through the Arnold Station Career Center and I assist job clubs in Anne Arundel County, MD).   I hope by sharing this information, you might be encouraged to get involved in a job club near you. Job clubs offer support, networking and excellent resources for job seekers. They also help employers connect to qualified candidates. Most powerfully, they create an environment where members become contributors.

Visiting the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was a very unique experience. The intricate architecture and design was amazing from the outside all the way into the Indian Treaty Room where the event was held. Hope and excitement were in the air at the start and followed throughout the event. Administration officials shared Obama’s support for the job clubs initiative. One of the highlights was hearing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’s words of encouragement to job club supporters and recognition of the power of job clubs.

The information and camaraderie were excellent. It was a great way to share information and make connections with others contributing to the job club movement. Panelists shared their learned experiences in running job clubs and the success clubs have shown in preparing people to get back to work. Topics included: the development of job clubs within faith-based communities, job club efforts within the workforce development system and model programs for the future of job clubs.

As I listened to the speakers throughout the day, I was reminded of the many ways job clubs touch peoples’ lives. There were accounts of employers working together with job clubs to fill positions. There were stories of tireless leaders who give their time to assist job seekers. There were chronicles of people who gained employment through a job club connection as well as those who stayed on to help the job club, after becoming re-employed. All of the speakers demonstrated that job clubs have the power to change people’s lives.

Job clubs are helping others make connections and access resources, moving people toward jobs and offering the support needed during a job search. They have always been around, but until now, they have not had the national recognition they received at this event.   My hope is that this occurrence will create many ripples that will further this movement because job clubs are an important part of getting through these difficult economic times. Across the nation, they are helping people get back to work by providing support, hope and humanity to the un/underemployed. If you are in job search, I challenge you to attend a job club in your area.

Useful Links:

To find a local job club near you, go to:

To find out more about job clubs, go to the Department of Labor Center for Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships homepage:

Kudos to Ben Seigel for organizing the event. His efforts are a great benefit to job clubs across America. He blogged and provided a nice summary of the event: