In an economy where job openings outnumber job seekers, work still eludes people with employment barriers. Maybe they spent time in jail. Or they can’t afford reliable transportation. Or child care costs more than the pay check they’d bring home.
Take Joey Holz, of Fort Myers, whose 30-day jobs experiment went viral on social media this fall. He submitted 60 applications and got only one job interview at a time when employers say they’re desperate for workers. Some people praised the experiment, some railed against it, but it struck a chord with us at Better Together because we know it’s hard to find a job when you have an employment barrier — no matter what the market or the economy is doing.
The Naples Daily News reported that Holz has a felony drug charge on his record from nearly 20 years ago, when he was fresh out of high school. That was a long time ago, but it’s there.
To us, it makes sense why he wouldn’t get in front of employers. Algorithms don’t work for people with barriers to employment.
Our jobs ministry connects employers who are open to second chance hires with people who want to work. We know there are employers in the community who understand the value a second chance applicant can add to a company. Like a matchmaker, we bring them together.
Our own job fairs aren’t seeing the numbers of job seekers we did a year ago, but if we can help even a small number of people find meaningful work, we will have succeeded. You see, our ultimate mission is to prevent the need for foster care. The two are deeply connected. To help struggling parents we connect them to the resources they need to stabilize and strengthen their families while a volunteer host family cares for the kids just long enough for the families to get on their feet. When we dug into the root causes of their struggles, in 76% of cases, it came down to a lack of employment. So we started Better Jobs.
Our church partners see the value in continuing these job fairs, even when attendance is light.
Turning Point Church in Bonita Springs had a great first job fair with us in April 2021. It was a second chance job fair and full of inspiration. They saw firsthand how one job fair could turn the tide of someone’s life.
“We had a lady come in that she had some holes in her jeans, her hair was a little messed up, but she was doing the best she could to present herself,” said Ryan Windsor, operations director for Turning Point. The job fair offered free haircuts and professional clothing. The woman got a mini make-over. “She ended up with some job offers, but it was her story afterward that got our attention. What she walked into the building with was literally all she had.” The woman was going through a divorce. Her husband had kicked her out without any belongings. “She came in with no hope, no anything. Just, I mean, no money, nothing.” But before the woman left the job fair, she said she felt God was still present, that he was telling her, “No, I got you.”
Turning Point’s October job fair wasn’t as fruitful. “There’s other incentives out there that make it easier, either not to work or just don’t make it possible to work right now,” Ryan said. But the church is undeterred.
That second job fair showed them two important lessons.
“One was that companies are out there,” Ryan said. “They are looking for people, they do offer good benefits, good pay, and they’re willing to train people. So the jobs are there, which is a positive.”
The second lesson was that the job fair inspired other churches to take on a jobs ministry. Churches like Grace Church in Fort Myers attended the job fair to see how to conduct their event on November 16.
“Grace Church alone serves hundreds of homeless people every week,” Ryan said. “So they now have the courage by seeing our setup and seeing the process of everything. They can take it on now to where they are ready to help people there.”
And so we continue undeterred in maintaining our jobs ministry and continuing to connect the helpers to the hurting, tearing down one employment barrier after another.
Posted November 11, 2021