The plight of the long-term unemployed and what is being done to help them was highlighted at the recent Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
Joseph M. Carbone, president and CEO of The Workplace, talked about the brutal impact the recession that began in 2008 has had on older workers and mid-wage-paying jobs.
“This recession has been a tornado for those age 55 and older,” Carbone said during the meeting at Grassy Hill Lodge in Derby.
He said most new jobs being created now are low wage or part time. “It’s a trend — the mid-wage jobs are going, and going fast,” he said.
National attention on program
Carbone has gained notoriety for The Workplace’s Platform to Employment program, which places long-term unemployed individuals in eight-week-long internships at companies at no cost to the companies.
Most participants end up finding full-time employment. “We give folks a chance,” Carbone said.
The program’s success has been featured on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” and other national news programs and publications.
“The impact has been unbelievable,” Carbone said.
With his guidance, Platform to Employment programs now are being launched in 10 locations around the country, funded by the private sector donations.
Thanks businesses for support
Carbone thanked Valley businesses for helping to support Workplace programs here, including the local Platform to Employment.
“The Valley Chamber and its members have never let us down,” he said.
The Workplace is the workforce development board for southwestern Connecticut. It assists those seeking work and skills as well as companies looking for properly trained employees.
Mayor Mark Lauretti said he found Carbone’s talk insightful, with the need to create jobs and match skills with those positions.
“I live this stuff every day,” Lauretti said. “It kills me when all these economists say everything is so rosy because it’s not.”
Chamber offers many programs
The chamber’s 49th annual meeting was attended by more than 100 people. The theme was, “Getting America Back to Work.”
Chamber board Chairman Philip White, president of Better Packages in Shelton, talked about the many programs sponsored by the chamber.
This includes the Women in Networking and Young Emerging Professionals leads groups, the Leadership Greater Valley program that has graduated 300-plus people, and the annual Valley Restaurant Week in the fall.
White noted the chamber advocates for business in government circles. He also emphasized the importance of manufacturing in the regional, state and national economy.
Two departing board members
Thanks were offered to two Greater Valley Chamber board members who are stepping down — Eric Hendlin of Shelton-based Dworken, Hillman, LaMorte & Sterczala, and Edward Cooke of People’s United Insurance.
Hendlin, a former chamber board chairman, was in attendance. Bill Purcell, chamber president, called him “a close and trusted adviser” who will be missed.
Purcell urged members to participate in the chamber’s summer youth program that provides positions to 400 young people at no cost to the companies where they are placed. “You can mentor these youngsters,” he said.
Structural change in the job market
During his talk, Carbone said the country is going through a structural change when it comes to jobs. Companies now need fewer workers due to technology and higher productivity.
The longer someone is unemployed, the harder it is to find a job. Some businesses won’t even consider a person for a position if they are unemployed.
And when someone doesn’t have a job for a long time, their self-esteem plummets and their skills grow stale. “It feels like the world has passed them by,” Carbone said. “They don’t get their calls returned.”
‘The road back’
In essence, he said, the long-term unemployed are being “weeded out of the workplace … The road back is very difficult.”
Carbone said everyone in the room knows people who fit into this category. They aren’t lazy or looking for a handout, he said, but feel “they’ve been discounted from the market.”
If places like the Workplace don’t help them, they could become dependent on social service programs, he said.