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 

 

 

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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.

 

 

June CPI exceeded expectations and was the fastest pace for inflation in four decades

June CPI exceeded expectations and was the fastest pace for inflation in four decades

inflation swells

June CPI exceeded expectations and was the fastest pace for inflation in four decades

Key Points

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 1.3
  • June CPI exceeded expectations
  • Fastest pace for inflation in four decades

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in June the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 1.3, not seasonally adjusted. Year over year, the CPI has gone up 9.1% in the last 12 months. The June CPI exceeded expectations and was the fastest pace for inflation in four decades.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “This new inflation reading ranks among the worst monthly inflation rates in U.S. history, and the worst in recent history,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research. “We have to go back to March 1980 — the last year of the Carter administration — to find a higher monthly inflation rate. The bottom line is that we may not have reached peak inflation, and there’s no telling how long the price level crisis will persist. Meanwhile, the rhetoric from the White House and Congress will do little to rectify the situation. There needs to be new thinking within the Washington Beltway.”

GA unemployment 3%
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%

the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%

UNEMPLOYMENT CASH

the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%

Key Points

  • Total nonfarm payrolls for the U.S. rose by 372,000
  • Unemployment rate remained at 3.6%.

On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that total nonfarm payrolls for the U.S. rose by 372,000 in June and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%. The increase was higher than expected.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “The job numbers are seen as positive overall, but the real story is at the state level where economically free states are performing so much better than more restrictive states,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research. “Of the 14 states that have recovered all their jobs lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 of them are governed by leaders more friendly to economic freedom. Recent migration data show that businesses and workers are leaving more restrictive states — like California and New York — to migrate to more free states, like Georgia, Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. These states are far better positioned to weather an economic recession as well.”
GA unemployment 3%
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.

 

Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Frankie and Luisa

Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Key Points

  • Frankie made an unexpected choice when she turned down a $70,000 a year job opportunity while living in hotel housing.
  • Oftentimes people on safety net services make rational choices to stay on these services because the system would punish them before they have a firm place to land.
  • Frankie,  in a place of crisis, was unwilling to gamble with a stable choice despite a potentially great job opportunity.
  • Our safety net services must be reworked to address these “cliffs” and rebuilt to encourage and support the move into the workforce.

The thought of someone turning down a well-paying job to stay on welfare seems absurd. But that’s the exact scenario Frankie Johnson faced. It’s a real world example of the way benefit cliffs hurt people. Thankfully, Frankie found the BETTER WORK program and is on a new path to success.

 

An unexpected journey in life

Frankie Johnson, a Washington, D.C. native, grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and spent time serving her community. Through her community service work, she connected with many individuals who were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, job loss, and poverty. By the time she’d reached her teens, Frankie knew she found fulfillment in working alongside others to improve their lives. 

At age 14, Frankie became pregnant with her first child, Evelyn. She gave birth just before her 15th birthday. She went on to get an internship through Job Corps, then earn her high school diploma. After graduation, she attended California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where she planned to study photography and 3D installation. 

But leaving Evelyn in Maryland with her parents while she studied in California proved to be too difficult a separation for Frankie. She moved to New York instead, which allowed her to see her daughter more often. 

At age 18, Frankie married a member of the military who was six years her senior. His deployments and resulting war-related trauma proved to be difficult on the family and the couple’s marriage. For the next six years, they lived in Texas and the Midwest before returning to Maryland. Steadily, the situation with Frankie’s husband deteriorated. 

 

It’s time to stop funding poverty.

And start finding solutions.

It’s time to stop funding poverty. And start finding solutions.

High aspirations, hidden pain

Despite the trouble at home, Frankie was a high achiever, building a career in human resources and working for firms such as Monumental Sports and the Nick Cannon Foundation. She worked as a high-end event planner, where she regularly brushed elbows with celebrities and influencers. 

When the family returned to Maryland, Frankie found herself heading up events for women who were victims of domestic violence. Meanwhile, at home, she was living in an abusive environment herself. 

“At home, I never knew what was going to become of my peace or if he was going to get triggered,” Frankie says. “I was serving in the community as a social worker. I put on events for women, took them on yacht parties, and tried to boost their self-esteem. No one knew I was suffering so much.”

Finally, the situation in Frankie’s home came to a head, and she fled to Atlanta with her children. Her uncle lived in the city, and she planned to make a fresh start there. 

But that fresh start didn’t come quickly or easily. 

 

Seeking safety in Atlanta

Without a job or a place to live, Frankie was forced to seek out government assistance and transitional housing in Gwinnett County for her family. 

“This was my first time being on the opposite side of transitional housing and understanding what the women who would talk to me [in the past] were going through,” she says. “It was strange to see the scarce resources, and to see women locked out of their hotels because the projects or community partners ran out of funding.” 

Transitional housing in hotels and apartments can cost women $500 or more per week, and according to Frankie, the living conditions are unsafe and unsanitary. Worse, residents got a chilly reception from their case workers when they raised concerns. 

“The water makes your skin itchy, and there are roaches coming up out of the sink and the drains,” Frankie says. “We were told we needed to boil our water to use it. It comes [out of the faucets] brown, and we had brown rashes on our bodies.”

While Frankie’s family was living in transitional housing, she experienced relentless prejudice, racism, and ridicule. 

“I had people come to my hotel, and ask me if I was a prostitute because my daughter said we were living in a hotel at school,” she says. “Someone from [the Department of Family and Children Services] came to my apartment and asked if I left my children [alone] at nighttime. He asked me if I was a stripper.” 

 

Forced to choose between assistance and higher income

While Frankie was waiting for available childcare and a pathway to affordable housing, she was forced to turn down a job placement that would have paid $70,000 per year. While she needed employment, she also needed the support from the government program. That was her ticket to a home she could afford, but she wouldn’t qualify if she took a new job that raised her income past eligibility requirements. 

“I never thought it would come to this,” she says. “I hadn’t prepared financially; I spent through my savings because I was waiting on childcare.” 

Frankie found herself trapped on what we call the Benefits Cliff — torn between taking steps toward a more secure future, but ultimately forced into making decisions that trapped her into long-term dependence on government benefits. Individuals and families who make over a certain amount of income per year are automatically struck from the list, and are no longer qualified for affordable housing, food support, or other government assistance. 

“They want to see your pay stubs, your bank statements. They want to make sure you’re poor,” Frankie says. “If you have a car, they want to know what kind of car you’re driving and if you have insurance. They want to make sure there’s no possible way you can work a job.”

“If there are no daycare facilities within a 30-mile radius of where you place me in my hotel and I don’t have a car to take my child a city over, I’m not going to be able to get a job,” she added. “Who’s going to watch my child all day?” 

Families in these transitional programs often find themselves stuck paying high bills while they await affordable housing. Frankie was forced to pay more than $2,000 per month for the hotel she and her children stayed in. Financially, staying put made no sense, but Frankie held on in hopes that affordable housing would come through. 

Leaving transitional housing puts parents at risk of losing their children to CPS, particularly if they’re perceived as living out of their vehicle. On the other hand, getting a higher-paying job disqualifies them from further government and charitable support. 

“It’s like a loophole to keep you destitute,” Frankie says. 

 

Dreams for a brighter future 

After three months in transitional housing, Frankie was able to connect with BETTER WORK Gwinnett. Her case worker, Luisa, formed a close connection with her, encouraging her and checking in on her as she prepared for a fresh start. 

“We lost our jobs during the pandemic,” Frankie says, “and that was the time when we needed encouragement and to find our way again — laugh again. Ms. Lusia provided a lot of that. She called me every day just to check on me.”  

After experiencing the frustration, humiliation, and helplessness of transitional housing herself — including witnessing another mother abandon her children when her time at the hotel was up — Frankie wants to help other women in similar circumstances. She hopes to go to law school to provide legal aid to other families who have suffered at the mercy of the system. 

“We need to get them their GEDs and diplomas. Start them off as home health aides, CPAs, LPNs, RNs, physician’s assistants, or doctors,” Frankie says, “But no one’s willing to help. They just want to enable their programs to get money for housing us. After that, you’re out on the street like a dog.”  

As for Frankie, she’s working with Luisa to get back into the human resources field, and considering a move to a more affordable city in south Alabama. 

“I’m not going to sit and wait for anyone to take care of me,” she says. “For the women who don’t have options, I’m going to school to fight for them.”