Help Wanted: Motivated, dedicated job counselors

Kai Ryssdal Jan 6, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: One jobs number that unfortunately didn’t budge last month was the one that counts the long-term unemployed. The technical definition is those who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or more. It’s still almost half of all the people who’ve lost their jobs since the recession started.

We’ve spent the better part of the last three years looking at the American labor market from pretty much every angle you can think of: people who’re unemployed, people who’re hiring, the applicant who’s lucky and persistent enough to have found a job. But there’s one group we haven’t really heard from: those whose job it is to help people find work.

Caryn Velie: My name is Caryn Velie, and I work with people that are unemployed.

Caryn is a jobs counselor at Wilshire Metro WorkSource, one of more than 50 employment centers in the Los Angeles County.

Velie: It’s really difficult. I have a slew of employers that I work with for the year, and I’ll call them, and they used to say, “Sure, I’ll to your job fair, I love working with you Caryn, but I don’t have the jobs.” And that’s what I’m hearing.

Caryn’s got more than 100 case files on her desk — people of all ages, all educational backgrounds, people unemployed for as long as two years or just a few months. All of whom are — or are getting — angry, tired, discouraged and desperate. People like Brilly Bridges.

Billy Bridges: I don’t want to be a janitor or a streetsweeper, but I am basically going to look into any kind of jobs, and I’ve gone to some really, totally ridiculous interviews.

Billy was laid off about three months ago from a nice-paying job in online advertising. Now, he comes to Wilshire Metro three times a week to send out 200 to 300 resumes a day. He says — and we’ve all heard through this recession — that a job is so much more than just a job. It’s a lifeline. So Caryn, no pressure?

Velie: I’ve been doing this job for many, many years, and this has been the hardest ever, ever, ever. But you know, you do it.

Ryssdal: How do you do it though? Because you are talking to people who have been unemployed for years and years and years.

Velie: Well, you know, you can have your pity party for 10 minutes, but if you are a survivor, you can’t give up. You know look at all the resources out there. Don’t be that statistics, be the one that gets the job.

If Caryn seems inprobably positive it’s because she says she has to be in that job. But here’s the thing: Wilshire Metro WorkSource, where Caryn works, gets the majority of its funding from the government — local, state, county and federal. And that government is cutting its budget. They’ve cut 30 percent of their jobs counselors the past two years. Another one to two positions are gonna be elimintated at the end of this month, which means the people who help people find work are going to be out of work.

Velie: All it means to me is that I have to work three, four, five times as hard, you know I have to wear many, many, many more caps. Luckily, I love what I do and I feel like this is my mission.

A mission not quite impossible but really, really hard.

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