Origins of the Georgia Center for Opportunity: Why we choose to focus on work

Origins of the Georgia Center for Opportunity: Why we choose to focus on work

Origins of the Georgia Center for Opportunity: Why we choose to focus on work

You’ve probably heard that if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day—but if you teach him to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. And while the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) mission to alleviate poverty by removing barriers to human flourishing is grounded in the three core areas of family, jobs, and education, we know from years of experience that helping people secure meaningful work—teaching them to fish—is key to breaking the chains of generational poverty and building thriving communities. Work is about more than a job. It’s a key pathway to human dignity.

How did we learn this?   

In our early years—even before we changed our name to GCO—we were working closely with Neighborhood Planning Unit 5 (NPU-V) in downtown Atlanta. Here, the initial focus was on reforming the criminal justice system because nearly one-in-three men in this community had been incarcerated. 

As returning citizens most of these men were wholly unprepared to return to their communities. And with few-to-no job skills, they faced enormous challenges in finding—and holding onto—work. Not surprisingly, this set them up to return to a life of crime, with a high likelihood of going back to prison.

Given this devastating cycle of recidivism, GCO saw the need to work with community leaders, criminal reform experts, and state legislators to help former prisoners successfully re-enter society and learn how to become productive members of society. We also worked on public policy reforms to make it easier for returning citizens to obtain work:

    • Access to a driver’s license
    • Access to occupational licensing despite a felony conviction
    • Rehabilitation certification
    • Protections for employers who hire returning citizens

We modeled our approach off a sister organization in the United Kingdom called the Centre for Social Justice. Led by former Member of Parliament Iain Duncan Smith, this award-winning organization worked with gangs and achieved success with legislators to enact social welfare policy reforms to help people reach their full potential. 

And since research showed that holding a job for at least six months reduced the rate of recidivism by more than two-thirds, we developed relationships with key leaders in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government—as well as with local nonprofit, business and community leaders—to reduce recidivism by developing our ground-breaking BETTER WORK program in Gwinnett County and in Columbus.

The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.

The heart of BETTER WORK is collaborating closely with local businesses to hire ex-prisoners, offer job training and employment support, and do something good not only for the company, but the community as well. And since our first event in Atlanta in 2017—involving leading employers like Georgia Pacific, Uber and Tip Top Poultry—BETTER WORK events have expanded to other communities in Gwinnett County, Columbus, and beyond.

Beyond helping people find good jobs with employers in local communities, we continue to advocate on policy issues that keep people out of the legitimate job market, including child support challenges, relief from fees and penalties incurred while incarcerated, occupational licensing hurdles, and civil asset forfeiture.

And we continue to build coalitions of nonprofits, faith groups, and businesses to teach folks how to fish so that they are not reliant on government handouts. As always, our mission is to help people support themselves—and provide for their families in ways that break the cycle of poverty and create new trajectories that lead to individual and community transformation.

 

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

job fair

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett 

The current pandemic has made a massive impact on America’s workforce and wreaked havoc on certain business sectors. While we’re beginning to see a dip in the number of active COVID-19 cases around the country, parts of the economy are still in desperate need of finding workers. Until recently in-person meetings have been known to be the most effective way of engaging potential job seekers with jobs, but they’re not feasible in today’s environment of social distancing. Instead, organizations like Better Work Gwinnett are finding creative ways – like a drive-thru job fair – to connect businesses with job seekers.

We are excited to announce the Better Work Gwinnett Drive-Thru Job Fair on Thursday, April 1st at the Infinite Energy Center Parking Deck.

This event will connect job seekers with hundreds of full and part time jobs. Businesses will have booths set up around the ramp of the parking garage allowing job seekers to drop off resumes and learn more about each organization. Job seekers will also be able to collect information and engage with potential employers – all from their cars.  

The job fair is a result of a community collaboration among GCO, Goodwill of North Georgia, First Step Staffing, Lawrenceville Response Center, and WorkFaith – all Gwinnett County based organizations. Working together with a common goal of strengthening the community, the Gwinnett Coalition combines local resources to provide training and support services to help job seekers find meaningful work and businesses to gain valuable employees. 

For most people a job is more than a paycheck, but also provides purpose and dignity to everyday life. Unfortunately, there has been a steady rise in unemployment rates in the Gwinnett County area. Gwinnett County’s current unemployment hoovers at about five percent, which is on par with Georgia’s overall unemployment rate of 5.3 percent

“The global pandemic is impacting our neighbors,” said GCO’s Director of the Gwinnett Workforce Initiative, Jace Brooks. “When the pandemic started, Gwinnett County saw thousands of residents out of work, many of them faced housing and food insecurity. A drive-thru job fair will allow job seekers the ability to connect with potential employers while still practicing social distancing and safe health regulations. It’s been great to see local groups working together in such harmony for the good of the community. We know the job fair will be beneficial to our local residents, businesses, and economy.” 

The pandemic has produced a vanishing supply of skilled labor, and the growing local market’s demand is outpacing the supply of workers. Drive-thru job fairs in other areas have been largely successful for filling positions in various industries like, administrative, utilities, manufacturing, and warehouse work. 

To register to participate as a job-seeker, volunteer, or business click here.