Unemployment or Welfare?

What happens in an unemployment office–or regional employment board or career center, whatever current term is being used? Here is what happens in Massachusetts.

First, after you lose your job and apply for unemployment benefits, you are required to attend a career center seminar to acquaint you with the services available at the center. Then you are shown how to do an online search for job openings (especially helpful for young people who have never looked for a job before and for older people who held their last job for many years and haven’t been on the job market in decades).

After learning about online job search, you will be trained in how to write resumes and cover letters for new online submission standards where computers look for certain words at the top of the resume and select only those that specifically mention keywords the employer is looking for (usually skills and knowledge–sometimes mentioned in the job description). Less than 5% of resumes make it through this screening process.

Next you will be helped to write an “elevator speech”, something to highlight your talents in one short answer (it is called this because it should be short enough to complete as an elevator goes between floors). This will help you get that first interview or make your skills known to people you may not even be aware are looking for employees.

Finally you will be helped with your interviewing skills. When asked “Tell me about yourself” you will know how to use words and phrases that reflect the job requirements and how your previous accomplishments make you the ideal person for this position. When you meet with your employment counselor you practice interviewing skills and learn how to present yourself. Your counselor also makes you aware of new job openings that have just been listed.

When you are not meeting with your counselor, you are attending classes available through the career center in how to use technology or you spend time in the resource room where you can do online searches, write, submit and print your resume and make phone calls to prospective employers. If necessary, you are referred to educational programs to continue your education. This may consist of getting a high school diploma, attaining a license in a particular industry or continuing your college education

In order to qualify for your check each week you are required to submit the list of applications you have sent to prospective employers in the past week. Some customers are selected at random and are required to meet with an employment counselor on a weekly basis, others choose to set up regular appointments to meet with a counselor if they have not been on the job market for years and feel they need additional help in this new economy.

As you can tell from this list the employment office is a busy and necessary place for the many people who now find themselves unemployed. What happens to these people when their unemployment runs out and they are still looking for work? They end up on welfare. Would we rather see people who have motivation and hope spending time in the employment office or would we rather they were sitting for hours in an office waiting to get a welfare check?

If you think the former is preferable to the latter, you should call your legislator and tell him/her to extend unemployment benefits for those who are actively looking for work and hoping to be employed soon.