Monday, February 4, 2013

How to get the long-term unemployed back to work

Although things seem to be looking up on the jobs front (claims for state unemployment benefits just fell to their lowest level since January 2008), the same can't be said for America's long-term unemployed, especially those over 50.

  • Nearly 40 percent of unemployed Americans — roughly 4.8 million people — have been jobless for six months or longer. About half of them are over age 50.
  • Some 3.25 million Americans, CNN says, are “hopelessly unemployed.” They haven’t looked for work in more than a year because they’ve simply given up the search. They’re not even counted for the official unemployment rate.
  • Roughly 1.5 million of the unemployed are “99ers,” out of work for 99 weeks or longer.
  • The average time someone stays unemployed is now about 10 months, twice as long as six years ago, according to NPR.
The first is the national rollout of the successful Platform to Employment program created by Joe Carbone at The WorkPlace in western Connecticut.

Platform to Employment gives jobless people five weeks of training to restore their confidence, freshen their interviewing and tech skills and reduce their stress. Then the program places them as interns for eight weeks at a local employer.

At the end of the internships, the employers decide whether to offer the interns paid positions.

Most of them do.

Platform to Employment is about to start replicating the program in 10 cities, specifically for unemployed residents over 50 and military veterans. AARP Foundation and Citi Community Development are partners for the “over 50” offerings; the Walmart Foundation is the force behind veterans’ assistance. Together, the three groups have committed more than $1.5 million to the effort.

Carbone concedes that all the Platform to Employment participants who’ve been hired earn less than they did before they lost their jobs. “Yet they’re all very happy because they’re working,” he says. Susan Sipprelle, creator of the Over 50 and Out of Work multimedia project and writer/producer of the award-winning unemployment documentary, Set for Life, echoes Carbone.

“Most of the 100 unemployed Americans over 50 we initially interviewed have been able to find jobs over the past year or so," she says, "but they’re part-time or for much less money than they earned prior to the Great Recession.”

JobRaising Challenge
is a new crowd-funding competition from the Skoll Foundation, CrowdRise,The Huffington Post and McKinsey & Company. The Skoll Foundation will award a total of $250,000 to nonprofits who demonstrate “the most promising, scalable employment solutions.”

Here’s how it works: Between now and March 1, members of the public go to the JobRaising Challenge’s website,, and donate money (from $10 to $10,000 per donor) to any of the 74 competing nonprofits they think would be best at fighting the jobs crisis. The groups raising the most money will win the prize money. Next Avenue

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