Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Key Points

  • A disproportionately large number of able-bodied adults have checked out of the workforce.
  • This Labor Day, we’d like to acknowledge five reasons why work remains so important.

Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 under President Grover Cleveland. The core meaning of the holiday is to celebrate the achievements and value of everyday workers. But here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we see another important part of Labor Day celebrations — to acknowledge the value of work itself.

The United States has a rich history of viewing work as ennobling. That’s part of what has helped each succeeding generation of Americans have a brighter economic future than the one before. But in recent history, we’ve witnessed an anti-work spirit arise in our nation.  

A disproportionately large number of able-bodied adults have checked out of the workforce. Even though the unemployment rate in the U.S. is at historic lows, the labor force participation rate has not caught up — indicating that millions of workers are absent from the workforce who could otherwise be working.

This Labor Day, we’d like to acknowledge five reasons why work remains so important.

  1. Work provides a key source of dignity

Work is about bettering one’s self and one’s family materially, that’s true. But that is not the only benefit. Another benefit is the way the work itself benefits the individual, the intangible but no less important side benefits of work.

When we are separated from work, we lose more than just monetary compensation or the food, shelter, clothing, and other basics that money can buy. We also face a loss of social connection, meaningful activity, self-respect, and overall purpose.

  1. Work helps to establish our daily rhythms

Work establishes the daily rhythms of life. It dictates when we rise from bed, when we eat our meals, how we schedule our weeks, how we interact with our families. Work provides important structure for our lives.

  1. Work benefits all of society

Workers make contributions that extend beyond their own families to society as a whole. They generate value and rely on themselves rather than government assistance. Employed people are also less likely to commit crime and their families tend to be healthier.

Bringing The Dignity of Work to every individual.

 



We believe that every able-bodied individual should have a path to fulfilling work. We do this through initiatives that create a flourishing job market, remove barriers to those unable to find work, and work directly with communities to move the un and underemployed into work.

  1. Work provides an opportunity to be generous to others

Work gives us the monetary resources to be generous to those in need. Maybe that’s why the U.S. is one of the most generous nations in the world for private philanthropy — historically, we’ve valued hard work and the generosity made possible by it.

  1. Work honors God

Our religious traditions teach that work has intrinsic value. In the Hebrew account of creation, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and instructed him “to work it and keep it.” In the New Testament, Paul stated that “if a man will not work, he will not eat.” The Calvinist work ethic brought to our shores by the Puritans equated diligent work with duty to God. 

Meet Eric Watson of Express Employment Professionals

Meet Eric Watson of Express Employment Professionals

Meet Eric Watson of Express Employment Professionals

Key Points

  • Express Employment professionals works with 70 companies in Gwinnett and in DeKalb Counties to help them find top talent.
  • Eric has utilized the BETTER WORK portal to help job seekers streamline the application process. 

  • Workers are getting multiple jobs to cover all these expenses to sustain their quality of life amidst inflation.

A BETTER WORK Partner who helps job seekers find positions where they can thrive

Eric Watson and his wife started Express Employment Professionals almost two decades ago. They focus primarily on long-term contract staffing in manufacturing, warehousing logistics, office administration, and professional placement. Express Employment professionals works with 70 companies in Gwinnett and in DeKalb Counties to help them find top talent. 

“Once we’ve helped these companies find good people, the company will either hire them immediately as a direct hire, or they’ll attempt to hire,” Eric says.

For employees who aren’t brought in as immediate direct hires, Express Employment professionals takes them on temporarily for a 90-day period, after which they’re released and hired full-time by their respective companies.

 

Helping a diverse job seeker base find employment

Eric and his team work with a wide range of individuals, communities, and organizations to place strong job candidates with the companies that need them. They partner with nonprofits in both Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties. Some of these organizations include Goodwill, resettlement agencies in Clarkston, and Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) in Chamblee. 

Additionally, Eric works with Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries in Norcross, who ultimately referred him to BETTER WORK. Since our partnership with Eric began, he has utilized the BETTER WORK portal to help job seekers streamline the application process. 

“It’s very easy for us because BETTER WORK applicants apply on the portal,” Eric says. “We get emails periodically from folks who are interested in applying for our open positions.

“We have someone designated in my office who determines if we’ve got a position, and whether applicants match the skill set and experience there we’re looking for. Then, we schedule them for an interview, bring them in, and hopefully get them placed very quickly.”

Eric and his team provide a monthly flier highlighting the top job openings available through BETTER WORK. It’s a one-page sheet listing positions they’re trying to fill, including jobs in office administration, accounting, human resources, manufacturing, warehousing, specialty staffing, and more.

“It’s very easy for us because BETTER WORK applicants apply on the portal.”   

               Eric Watson 

 

 

Insert the same content here to work on mobile and tablet.

Common employment obstacles in Gwinnett County 

In the current environment, both employers and job seekers alike are facing a plethora of obstacles. According to Eric, Gwinnett County’s greatest employer obstacle is finding workers. 

“Our biggest challenge is finding workers who are work-ready,” he says. “There seems to be a huge shortage of folks who are available and willing to work. I think we’re very close to, if not at full, employment. It’s just very, very difficult.” 

Eric says that it’s common for workers to leave the jobs they’re placed in within days to weeks of beginning work. Company loyalty has become a thing of the past, and workers are more prone to moving from one job to another rather than staying in one place. 

“I think workers are trying to seek out the best compensation package,” Eric says. “A lot of times, that includes more benefits. On the flip side, I think employers are starting to offer more flexible work schedules to attract folks.” 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Eric says it was more difficult for workers to find flexible jobs. However, he’s observed that employers are more willing to consider flexibility these days. 

For workers, the greatest roadblock is making enough money to sustain their quality of life amidst inflation and skyrocketing prices of gas, food, and necessities. Since disposable income is dropping, Eric says workers are getting multiple jobs to cover all these expenses.

“Workers may have a primary job,” Eric says, “but then they have a secondary job after hours or on the weekends just to make ends meet.” 

Because of companies’ need for workers and workers’ need for flexibility and a stronger income, Eric says this is a workers’ market. One of his most memorable job placements was a woman from Lilburn who was looking for a company that would accommodate the schedule she needed. 

“A packaging company in Stone Mountain, about 15 minutes from her home, accommodated her on the schedule she asked for,” Eric says. “It’s not a traditional 8-to-5, Monday through Friday. She was able to work in the middle of the afternoon till the early evening hours.

“The company was able to accommodate her in order to be able to get her. She’s very happy and is working toward permanent employment.”

BETTER WORK is proud to partner with businesses and community organizations like Express Employment Professionals. This collaboration in the Georgia communities of Gwinnett County in metro Atlanta and Columbus prepares lower income populations for a better future through meaningful work and upward mobility. Businesses, nonprofits, community providers, religious institutions, and job placement agencies all come together to provide a local safety net.

Learn more about Express Employment Professionals here.

 

Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Man on steps holding sign that reads jobless, will work for mortgage

Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Key Points

  • The hindrances to people finding work goes far beyond an unwillingness or inability to work.
  • Those looking for work face many barriers that range from circumstantial to systemic and even policy roadblocks.
  • It is important that we understand the roadblocks faced by those looking for work so that we can properly address them as we move people into work opportunities.

A story about work barriers

I met a gentleman earlier this year (we’ll call him Lenny) who stated that “he just wants to work”. His basic needs are being met, at least for now, but he can’t stand the idea that he isn’t able to contribute. While talking to Lenny and hearing his story, I realized just how many physical roadblocks he has to overcome in order to start a job, show up at a job site every single day to do the work, and get a paycheck. There are basic requirements, the things that most people take for granted as necessary and easy, that create huge barriers for Lenny.

I will share a few of these physical roadblocks below that Better Work is addressing as we work with Lenny.

Joyelle wasn’t looking for a handout, she was looking for an opportunity to provide and support her family.

Joyelle wasn’t looking for a handout, she was looking for an opportunity to provide and support her family.

 Transportation

This is one of the first barriers Lenny has to consider that impacts his ability to work. His main mode of transportation is walking. He walks to shop. He walks to appointments. He walks to work when he can. Lenny will also take the bus if it is available when and where he needs to go. He has no other options for transportation.

This means that Lenny can’t work in positions that start before the bus can get him there or end after the bus stops running (currently at 8:30pm) unless that business is close enough for him to walk. He also can’t accept jobs that require him to work on Sundays because no public transportation is currently available then.

Inconsistent Work

The transportation challenges described above have caused Lenny to leave a position he worked in faithfully for 2.5 months to look for another. A change in scheduling meant he was no longer able to stay in this job. This can lead to job hopping and means Lenny is unable to get the traction he needs to set goals, get raises, and improve his current situation.

Technology

Lenny has never really used computers as most of his past work has been in jobs requiring physical labor. He has a phone and recently set up an email address but doesn’t really understand how to check it or communicate that way. This creates additional limitations in a world that more often than not requires communication via technology at every level and for any occupation.

Applications and Hiring Paperwork

Most job applications are online as well as the forms that must be completed during hiring. All of this is necessary. How else will hiring managers collect the information they need to pay you and to protect your data. These online requirements can become a roadblock for someone like Lenny.

Lenny is not so very different from others I talk to on a weekly basis. He is actually in a better position than some. Fortunately, Lenny has an ID. Many don’t. Lenny doesn’t have children at home. Many do.

Society is quick to judge people who are not working. We are quick to label them as lazy. I ask you to consider what you would do if you were in Lenny’s place. The barriers mentioned above are just a drop in the bucket for people who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of need.

Meanwhile, Lenny continues to fight for what is important to him – the dignity of work!

Better Work Columbus will continue to fight alongside Lenny and support others like him. I urge you to be slow to judge, wary of pointing fingers, and quick to show encouragement.

 

 

Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

In The News

Local Nonprofit Breaking Down Barriers to Poverty | Peachtree Corners Magazine

With gas prices soaring and supply chain issues driving up consumer prices, it’s not hard to imagine more individuals are struggling to make ends meet. Complicate those issues with a lack of education, medical issues, trouble within the home or other barriers to success and you find some families hanging by a thread. Some find themselves homeless.

The Peachtree Corners-based Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is working to break down those barriers to ensure everyone has access to a quality education, fulfilling work and a healthy family life.

 
It’s Graduation Day!

It’s Graduation Day!

It’s Graduation Day!

Key Points

  • First graduating class of Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK Columbus partnership
  • Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK are joining forces to get help lift people out of poverty
On July 7th the first group 11 men and women graduated from the Better Work Jobs for Life class at the Asbury UMC training site. This course was the first of its kind in partnership between Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK Columbus.The goal was to give men and women a stronger foundation in life skills so they can go on to be reliable employees for local businesses.

“The Jobs for Life job-readiness training course helps men and women understand their dignity and God-given identity and gifts, develop character, and foster a supportive community that will equip them for work, life, and their overall goals. This method, combined with soft skills training, has proven to enable unemployed and underemployed men and women to find and keep meaningful employment.”

The Columbus community came together to support this group of students overcome their circumstances, and we are excited to see this partnership become a staple of the BETTER WORK program.
Jobs for Life BWC graduation
Jobs for Life BWC graduation
What freedom and liberty mean through the eyes of the poor

What freedom and liberty mean through the eyes of the poor

What freedom and liberty mean through the eyes of the poor

Key Points

  • Economic challenges are a key factor that hinder family, education and mental health.
  • The highest inflation rate in four decades is pinching low-income and impoverished households.
  • It will take community-sized efforts to help expand freedom and liberty’s opportunities to the poorest among us.

We just celebrated Independence Day in the United States., a time to reflect on the blessings of freedom and liberty that we enjoy as citizens of this great nation. In the words of Lee Greenwald, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

But even as we give thanks for all that America has to offer, we can’t forget that so many of our neighbors are struggling. Those struggles extend to every area of life — whether it’s a breakdown in relationships, mental health challenges, lack of access to education, or distrust of major institutions — but let’s focus on the area that oftentimes leads to these struggles, economic challenges.

The poor are hurting

The highest inflation rate in four decades is pinching low-income and impoverished households, as the price for essentials like groceries, gas, and rent go through the roof. Meanwhile, wages, while improving, are struggling to keep up with these spiking costs.

Given this reality, what do freedom and liberty in the U.S. mean through the eyes of the poor? At its core, those things mean the opportunity for a better life, both for themselves and for their children. But the steps to achieve that better life don’t come in isolation. And the only solution is not more government intervention. The social safety-net is important, but habitual reliance on it leads to cycles of dependence, not long-term flourishing.

So what do our neighbors who are struggling most need in this environment? A hand up, not a hand out — one that comes when communities come together for good.

 

The Success Sequence is about opening the path to opportunity for everyone.

The Success Sequence is about opening the path to opportunity for everyone.

Opportunity is knocking

We live in a unique time economically: While many households are struggling to survive, the demand for workers in the labor market is at an unprecedented level. “Help wanted” signs are everywhere. In this environment, we have a rare window of opportunity because the Georgia business community is desperately looking for qualified workers.

Matching these non-workers with the skills and opportunities they need to thrive is our goal here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, specifically through our BETTER WORK programs in Gwinnett County and Columbus.

To flourish, people need a great job with a clear path of upward mobility. They need a job that pays a living wage and one that gives dignity and meaning. BETTER WORK offers a pathway to achieve this goal through the cooperation of local businesses, nonprofit service providers, staffing agencies, churches, and other community organizations. 

Through BETTER WORK, those who are struggling get the life-stabilizing help they need — food for their pantry, or help with housing assistance so they have a pantry to begin with — while receiving job training plus assistance. They also are linked with a mentor as the job search continues.

It takes a community

One of the more depressing statistics in 2022 America is how low our view of institutions remains — whether it’s government, business, or similar examples. But that is where “homegrown” institutions can step in, on the ground in our communities where we actually live out our lives. Where trust and authenticity already exists.

That requires you and I to step up to help the less fortunate around us. These are the values born out of freedom and liberty and these are the traits that make the United States the great nation that it is.