Last Friday I attended an orientation session for a program into which I've recently been accepted. The program is run through Chicago Career Tech and supported by large corporations, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. Although I haven't even started the program yet, this orientation was a real turning point for me on my unemployment journey. I felt it important to share with everyone out there, especially those going through this same journey.
This is a program initiated by organizations like Microsoft, Charter One and other large corporations about 2 years ago in the middle of the Great Recession. According to the presenters, these business leaders realized a real need for a program like this as a result of a labor shortage.
Labor shortage, you ask? But, there are millions unemployed and looking for work, you say! Yes, but many of these organizations cited statistics of large numbers of unfilled vacancies within their organizations. These position remained unfilled not because there aren't millions of people looking for jobs, but because the millions unemployed do not posses the skills necessary to do the job. There is a huge skills gap for so many unemployed people despite the organizations that crave to hire more employees.
This explanation was a real positive moment for me. Throughout this Recession, and my unemployment journey in particular, there has been a lot of negativity: rejection to the thousands of resumes sent out, rejection from in-person interviews, politicians who blame the unemployed for being unemployed, articles about how companies are actually advertising that the unemployed "need NOT apply" and, most damaging, my fellow employed citizens who comment on stories all over the internet calling us names like lazy, mooching off the system and so on...
Having worked since the age of 14, sometimes at 2 jobs, having gone to college and having done all the 'right' things, everything has felt so incredibly wrong.
But to hear organizational leaders recognize that the unemployed are not lazy, but ready and willing to work given the right opportunities and given the skills to do the jobs that are in demand actually got me choked up. I felt that someone "got it." There are companies who 'want' me. All the companies out there don't scoff at something that was beyond my control. They realize that we, the unemployed, are eager to get back to work and get on with their lives! It was inspiring to hear examples of companies that took on 40+ interns during the program and then offered all of them jobs at the end of the program!
So I begin my program in just over a week in Social Media Marketing at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. At the end, I am expected to obtain certifications in Google Adwords and SEO. I'm so very excited because I love social media and I have always loved marketing. I am also excited because this is the "now" and this is the future. I'm excited that I'm entering a (hopefully) stable area of the market so as to avoid ever having to endure unemployment and all its challenges again.
On a side note, this program is being constantly evaluated and studied across the country. It is being looked at as a potential model for other states to get people back to work.
I would like to encourage you, especially if you are in Chicago, to mention this program to your company. Your company can be part of the solution to getting America working again. They may not be able to hire a student after the program, but the experience gained during the internship will be so important to the student and a stepping stone to get them back to full time work. Please consider passing along this site to your boss or HR department and encourage them to participate!