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.

 

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

BETTER WORK adds direct-to-business job applications

Working to more quickly connect our communities to work.

In efforts to better address the needs of the unemployed in our communities, we have taken an evolving learning approach to how we support those in need. Not only are we looking to learn from those in need, but we also listen to the business and service providers that are vital to the success of programs like BETTER WORK (formerly Hiring Well, Doing Good). This has led to the rebranding of the project (you can learn more about that here) but has also helped us as we create tools and align resources.

We are excited because this week we launched our job application resource in the Gwinnett County and Columbus areas that we serve. Through this resource, we are able to help remove many of the obstacles that people may face to finding employment and connect them directly to businesses hiring people in their situation.

 

BETTER WORK is helping people connect more quickly and directly into jobs and providing additional resources to help those who are motivated prepare for better work opportunities in the future. When everyone is able to find the right resources, attain safe housing, and find gainful employment, we will experience less poverty, less crime, and greater prosperity across our communities.”

Kristin Barker
BETTER WORK Columbus

Through the job application resource, users will be able to quickly answer a few questions and apply for multiple jobs in their area. Local businesses also benefit because they have helped us craft the questions on the application itself. This means they know that each applicant meets their specific criteria to start working.

A great example is someone coming out of the prison system. Oftentimes returning citizens looking for work may only be able to work nights and weekends due to family and child needs. With our new resource, we can connect these individuals directly to an employer willing to hire returning citizens that offer nights and weekend work. Thus we alleviate the barriers workers face trying to find the right work. And we support our local economies through local businesses.

Work is a vital step in helping people feel a sense of purpose, belonging, and responsibility to themselves, their family, and their communities. It is why we constantly say that work is “more than a job”. This new tool will help remove another barrier faced by workers and will drive more people to independent and flourishing lives.

Learn More About Our
BETTER WORK Project

Through BETTER WORK we are able to connect local resources with local needs and restore dignity through work.

Putting Georgia’s employment numbers in perspective

Putting Georgia’s employment numbers in perspective

Putting Georgia’s employment numbers in perspective

homeless no job

Is there any reason not to cheer? Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in May. 

Here are three reasons why this looks good for Georgia. 

First, the unemployment rate is declining, giving optimism that the economy is bouncing back from the pandemic.

Second, there were only two periods in recorded history when Georgia’s unemployment rate was this low or lower. Starting from 1976—the extent of available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on unemployment rates for the states—the first period was between October 1998 and July 2001 when the rate reached as low as 3.4 percent. This period occurred after the long economic expansion of the 1990s. 

The other period—from April 2018 to the start of the pandemic—just occurred with Donald Trump in the White House. During this period, Georgia broke its best record by achieving 3.3 percent.

Third, Georgia’s rate is the 16th lowest in the country, beating out 34 other states. For comparison, the United States as a whole has a rate of 5.8 percent rate, considerably higher than Georgia’s.

 

 

But wait. Is the unemployment rate artificially low?

While optimism is merited, it is important to put the unemployment numbers in perspective.

Unemployment percentages do not capture those who do not participate in the labor force. According to the BLS, anyone not employed who had not actively looked for a job during the prior four weeks is not part of the labor force. Therefore, any person temporarily not looking for work is not accounted for when the BLS calculates the official unemployment rate. Especially now with all the repercussions of the pandemic, all those potential workers who have been sitting on the sidelines for the last four weeks are simply not counted.

The behavior of labor force participation is a loose link for unemployment numbers. Normally, when economic times are good, sidelined workers and even retirees come back into the labor force, which can push the unemployment rate up. When times are bad, the opposite happens. Workers drop out of the labor force, artificially lowering the unemployment rate.

During the depth of the pandemic, and as expected, the labor force participation rate in Georgia dropped—to 59.4 percent to be precise, compared to 62.9 percent just prior to the pandemic. In terms of real people, there were an estimated 260,575 fewer workers participating in the labor force—who were not counted among the unemployed, to emphasize the point. Participation bounced back some to 61.7 percent, but still there are 40,934 fewer workers in the labor force.

Other ways to measure it

BLS’s U-6 labor underutilization metric is another way to shed light on unemployment. It adds to the unemployed those discouraged and other “marginally attached” workers as well as part-time workers wanting full-time work but cannot find it. 

Nationally, the U-6 rate hit a historic high of 22.9 percent in April 2020 representing 36.3 million people. It has since dropped to 10.2 percent representing 16.5 million people. However, in the months prior to the pandemic, the rate was at historic lows—in fact, as low as 6.8 percent. Obviously, while 10.2 percent is far better than 22.9 percent, it is significantly worse than 6.8 percent, representing a difference of 5.3 million workers.

Unfortunately, monthly U-6 data is not available for the states, making any comparison difficult. The BLS currently publishes only experimental U-6 state data averaged over a year’s time.

More useful for the states is the Nonfarm Employment estimates from BLS’s Current Employment Statistics survey. Only two states—Utah & Idaho—have caught up with employment from where they were in February 2020 before the pandemic hit. In contrast, the U.S as a whole is still 5% behind. Georgia ranks 16th among the states and is 4.0 % behind. Hawaii (-14.8%), New York (-9.6%), and Nevada (-8.6%) are the three states furthest behind. 

If we use standard economic ARIMA Model time-series forecasting to estimate where employment would have been absent the pandemic, no state is back on track. The United States is 6.8% behind, and Georgia ranks near the middle in 27th place at −6.1%. Utah and Idaho lead the pack being the furthest ahead, while Hawaii, Nevada, New York, California, and Massachusetts trail the pack.

Observations on state differences and policies

In viewing the differences in employment among the states, the more rural states appear to be doing better. The states more dependent on tourism appear to be doing worse. State governments that implemented less severe lockdowns appear to be doing better. To test these observations, we will be running regression analyses to tease out any correlations. We will post the results when completed.

In the meantime, it is important for government to adopt policies that will help businesses to rebound and make it easier for startups. The goal should be not to just lower unemployment but also to bring those sidelined workers back into the labor force.


Erik Randolph is the Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

5 Ways to Impress an Employer (Soup to Nuts)

5 Ways to Impress an Employer (Soup to Nuts)

5 Ways to Impress an Employer (Soup to Nuts)

cropped impress employer

5 Ways to Impress an Employer (Soup to Nuts)

Let’s pretend you’re getting ready for an interview. You’re probably wondering what you should wear and whether you should prepare to shake hands or fist bump in the post-COVID world. You may even be practicing eye contact and commanding your best smile in the mirror. While these things are great, and I encourage you to pay attention to them, the real preparation to impress begins long before you even secure that interview.

The impression you will make on your future employer begins with the very first touch. Maybe that’s the instant your friend who works for the company sends an email inquiry on your behalf or the minute the hiring manager first views your application and resume. An impression is formed from those first moments and through every point of contact (whether virtual or in-person) until you accept a job offer.

This means you must consider every response to every email, text or phone call, and anything else that can be searched and discovered about you online as admissible in the court of employer perception.

Here are 5 ways that you can prepare to impress an employer and set the stage for a good relationship:

  1. Make a good impression by cleaning up your online presence

Search for yourself on Google to see what you find. (One tip is to include your city and/or state in search to refine the results.) Change your settings on your social channels so that only your friends can view your profile, and remember that employers expect to find some information about you on Facebook and other social channels. This makes it important for you to share a public post every so often that paints a picture of yourself that you are proud for employers to see.

 

  1. Keep your communication professional

When you respond to an email or a text inquiry from an employer, use full sentences and punctuation. Don’t talk like you would to your friends. Instead, pretend that you are already talking with the employer in an interview and respond like you would in that situation.

 

  1. Don’t over share

When responding to an interview request, it’s ok to ask for an alternate date or time. However, you don’t need to give a potential employer every detail of your situation. There is no need to tell an employer that your child has the flu or that you have to take your father-in-law to the doctor. You want to be honest, but this is far too much information to share right away, and there are much better ways to find out if an employer has family-friendly values. 

BETTER OPPORTUNITY is a project designed to bring together the communities we serve to BETTER the lives of our neighbors. As a first step we currently have work resources available that help individuals find and maintain work.

Over the coming months and years we will be expanding our efforts and locations to include family and education resources.

A job is so much more than a paycheck. BETTER WORK is proud to be serving local communities.

  1. Refine your resume 

Of course, preparation doesn’t end here. You will want to keep your resume fresh and mention the skills that make you a good fit for the job you’re applying for. If you don’t think you have all of the needed skills, find someone who can help you refine your resume. Working together, you can usually identify skills you do have that are transferable.

 

  1. Be able to explain during an interview why you are interested in the job you have applied for 

As a rule of thumb, everything you say and do must show that you care about the job and understand why it is important to you. If you can do this, you will have a good chance of getting a job offer. I recommend that you never answer the question, “Why are you interested in this position?”, with the response, “I just need a job. I’m happy to do anything you need me to.” This answer has kept many good candidates from receiving the offer they hoped to get.

 

Wrapping up

All of these steps are important and more. You must research the company before you apply and review that information before you show up for an interview. You will also want to prepare to follow-up in an appropriate way after the interview. It’s a good idea to ask the interviewer how and when you should follow-up. This is one way to show that you care.

As mentioned earlier, it can also help to have someone in your corner to encourage you and help you consider transferable skills or prepare for interviews. If you are looking for better work and would like someone by your side to help you prepare to find and keep a job that meets your needs, BETTER WORK communities have mentors who are available to walk alongside you during your journey. Visit betteropportunity.org to find out more.

 

Biden’s ‘Illusions Of Economic Magic’ Fail The Forgotten American | DAILY CALLER

Biden’s ‘Illusions Of Economic Magic’ Fail The Forgotten American | DAILY CALLER

In The News

Biden’s ‘Illusions Of Economic Magic’ Fail The Forgotten American | DAILY CALLER

In a very different time — yet in similar economic straits — then-presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the “forgotten man,” the American left behind by seismic trends and sweeping changes beyond his control.

“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power,” FDR told Americans on April 7, 1932 in a radio address. He went on to call for policies “that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”…

team of economists at the Georgia Center for Opportunity have for the first time published a study that demonstrates how people receiving government assistance from multiple programs —such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, free school lunches and Medicaid — face a difficult benefits cliff if they were to find work. The study calculates “benefit cliffs” for families in 888 counties across eight states. For example, a working single mom with two children in Memphis, Tennessee, would astoundingly lose more than $8,000 in combined earnings and benefits if her pay were bumped up less than $2 to a $15 hourly wage.