While the new year is usually the best time to look for a new job, unprecedented spikes in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic may prove otherwise. Notwithstanding, job placement continues to be one of the most effective ways to break the poverty cycle, and more organizations can benefit from it through data management.
THE STATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT
In the first half of 2020 alone, over 40 million Americans filed for unemployment1. The rates of unemployment have drastically fluctuated throughout the year, starting at around 3.6% in January and peaking in April at 14.7%2, indicating a much more unstable employment rate. Now more than 10.7 million Americans are out of work, relying on social services and unemployment benefits to try and make ends meet.
The cause of this extreme rise in unemployment is directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic—the coronavirus has forced thousands of businesses to cut back, reduce staff, and lower salaries. However, the burden of unemployment is not born equally between the different classes of people.
Pew Research found that unemployment rates this year were significantly higher among individuals with lower levels of education, correlating with other measures of socio-economic status such as income, areas of residency, and alternate forms of financial help3. Those who typically worked lower-paying jobs were, unfortunately, also the most likely to lose their job.
Disadvantaged peoples, such as low-income communities, commonly face additional hurdles when looking for work. Incarcerated people, those experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, those with limited education, and refugees are often viewed as risks, and hiring managers generally avoid such prospects4. Challenges then quickly become compounding—individuals cannot improve their situation without income, yet they cannot secure income without first improving their situation—and thus the cycle of poverty reinforces itself.
NON-PROFITS AND JOB PLACEMENT
The good news is that many non-profits dedicated to workforce development are seeing success in their job placement efforts5. When individuals are trained, given work opportunities, and regularly assessed, rates of job abandonment significantly decrease. Furthermore, these non-profits are showing that jobs are statistically one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty6.
However, workforce development should not be left to specialized non-profits alone. All organizations and programs benefit from job acquisition, as income can act as one of the most effective ways to improve living circumstances. Even more so, difficulty in finding work affects some areas of social services more profusely, such as prisoner re-entry, homelessness, refugees, those with disabilities, youth, and welfare recipients7.
If your organization focuses on one of these topics (or one related to them), then incorporating work force development into your program may be one of the most crucial improvements to success.
USING DATA FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Workforce development relies heavily on data to inform and improve services. For programs to help individuals find sustained work, it is important to gather data on skills, experience, and the current marketplace as well as to track goals, efforts, and achievements. When such data is used properly, job placement and retainment can exponentially improve.
Case management tools like ClientTrack™ make data use for workforce development clear and simple. Such software can generate employment reports, track employment history, and create and track employment goals. Combining employment tracking to other program initiatives (like HMIS care or nutrition services), organizations can better serve their communities.
Although barriers to employment will continue to face disadvantaged communities, learning to talk about and gather data on them can act as an important step to combating such hurdles. Once more individuals find sustainable work, we can continue to work on ending the poverty cycle.