Unemployment Dry-up Primer: Depressing but Informative

JVSWorks highly recommends readers checking out "Long-term Jobless benefits Expire," the Q&A primer written by David Lauter for the Los Angeles Times concerning the loss of jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans including 222,000 Californians. The story is not partisan. Nor does it lobby for another extension of benefits. Straight ahead facts on who is affected, how we got here and what this means.

Scary but good stuff to know. Check it out here.

The State of the Art at the JVS WorkSource Center, MDR

One doesn’t necessarily notice the appearance of, say, a doctor’s waiting room, but it helps if you’re a little anxious about being there and the office space doesn’t contribute to your anxiety. In fact, the look of a space should instead be working to make a visitor feel better, more comfortable. Which brings me to the anything-but-bare walls of the JVS Marina del Rey WorkSource Center, and the intent behind all those colorful new pieces of art.

If you go, you will see mosaics, water colors and acrylics. Lots of them. These works of art are accompanied by identification cards that label them and give information about what the artist was trying to achieve. Not included is the fact that - in the case of the mosaics – many of these artists were once homeless. Very recently homeless, in certain cases.

These mosaics, several which were recently in storage, are part of an arrangement between JVS and fellow nonprofit Piece by Piece which employs professional artists to teach classes and workshops to impoverished and under-served populations of Los Angeles including those living on Skid Row. Using entirely recyclable materials, the Piece by Piece clients produce these colorful works

JVS’ Elisa Taylor had worked with Piece by Piece Managing Director Nicole LaBeaud before either woman joined their respective agencies. Davis saw the bare walls of the WorkSource center as an opportunity not only for inter-agency collaboration, but for some client inspiration.

The mosaics are for sale, with the artists and Piece by Piece each getting a share of the purchase price. While they hang on the walls at JVS, which they do through Taylor’s Artist in Residence (AIR) initiative, the art helps JVS job seekers feel like they are in a more comfortable environment. JVS MIS Technician Nazrin Khatibi also has 15 acrylics and watercolors on display.

“The goal is to inspire people when they come in so they feel that they are at home in a clean and beautiful place with beautiful art," says Taylor.

The folks at MDR tell me that clients are taking notice, studying the work and occasionally writing an appreciatory e-mail. As one client named Barbara wrote: “The beautiful pieces of artwork make me happy when I look at them. Thank you so much for having them here; what a difference it makes in the ambiance."

Khatibi is the first of what Taylor and Director of Workforce Development Director Marguerite Womack expect to be many Artists in Residence represented at MDR in the months to come. But the entire WorkSource Center staff will get in on the artistic action during a different kind of initiative.

Womack invited every member of her staff to bring in a photograph or some sort of representation of an inspirational image. This could take the form of a self-portrait or a photograph, anything they chose. Most people went the photo route with a few pulling images of the Internet rather than snapping the shot themselves.

The pictures ran the gamut: pets, scenery, favorite places…

“A lot of sunsets,” says Gennifer Wecker, a photographer as well as a JVS a Career Development Specialist who was assigned to generate enthusiasm and collect the images. “I know that every single person who gave an image is from California.”

Wecker and JVS Information and Referral Specialist Kristin Orellana mounted the staff art in a beautiful set of frames which had been donated by Allan Marion of Allan Jeffries Framing

. In the weeks to come, JVS staff will probably have an impromptu gathering to match artists to their art, a process which will allow the co-workers to learn something new about each other.

“We don’t know much about each other,” Wecker says of her fellow work mates. “We know who likes to go out to eat and who brings in lunch. But as far as our interests, a lot of us don’t know unless we talk about it all the time. Everybody knows my picture is a picture of my dog because I love him. But we might look at someone else’s and say, ‘Wow, really? Who knew?’ It’s a morale builder.”

Art can have that effect, both on the creators and the viewers.

The Numbers vs. the Faces

Merry Christmas and an early Happy New year, blogosphere. JVSWorks is not only working today, we're wishing the world of job seekers a less than 7% for 2014. We can dream, right? We can ask for the moon. Heck, if we got to 7%, then why not 6.5%? Why not lower? Why not day after day of an empty waiting room at the JVS WorkSource Centers?

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the Department of Labor and its mighty Bureau of Labor Statistics released the November job numbers providing some early Christmas (or, if you prefer, late Hanukkah) cheer. The news was rosy. The nation added 203,000 jobs in November, revised its October total to 200,000 and announced that the unemployment rate dropped .3 percentage points to 7%.

Spinmeisters, start your engines. The jobs were spread across numerous industries: transportation, warehousing, health care, and manufacturing. Retail was up, probably in response to the peculiar scheduling of the holidays and shoppers anticipated a potential fiscal cliff. CEPR's Dean Baker noted a 0.1 uptick in the increase of the work week, potentially signaling more growth.

How about a 455,000 increase in the civilian labor force in November, compared to a decline by 720,000? We had once furloughed federal workers returning to their jobs.  And the number of involuntary part-time workers dropped by 331,000 to 7.7 million in November.

Admittedly, 7.7 million people working part time for economic reasons is no small number and the number of long-term unemployed (those out of work 27 weeks or longer) remains unchanged at 4.1 million.  The BLS notes that over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has dropped by 718,000. Better that this number should decrease, but if you think these people are now happily employed, you have been perhaps consuming a bit too much eggnog.

"On the whole, the November report is clearly positive," Baker says, exactly one breath before reminding us that we would need six years of 200,000 new jobs per month to get the economy back to where we were pre-Recession.

All the same, 7% unemployment and the healthy November numbers are nothing if not encouraging. In fact, they may be too encouraging. Washington is now cutting back on its stimulus efforts and the long-term unemployed are in as desperate straits as ever.

How desperate? The Huffington Post solicited e-mails from unemployed Americans and got plenty of good responses. In his excellent round-up, Arthur Delaney interviews to Mike Schillim who was earning $65,000 a year last year as a materials manager in Warren, Michigan and is now unemployed with no job prospects, living in a cramped house with his three grown sons. His unemployment benefits are about to run out. There is no Christmas in the Schillim family this year.

This is, unfortunately,a  popular story topic. Last week, in the midst of company holiday parties, I went down to the JVS Marina del Rey WorkSource Center to help a reporter from KNS-1070 find clients who were due to have their unemployment benefits disappear shortly after Christmas. This was a short notice request, and a part of me hoped we wouldn't find anybody in those dire straits.

But of course we did. We found people who were facing eviction, people who couldn't pay for a procedure that might save a beloved pet's life, people who were just plain tired of burning through their savings. Our caseworkers see it all, and the holiday season can really bring out the desperation.Check out Margaret Carrero's report.

Kinda makes 7% not 't seem like such a lucky number anymore.

The Spirit of Giving - #GivingTuesday 2013


At home the presents are wrapped for tonight, the seventh night of Hanukkah. E-mails are flying in and out of assorted inbox with the #Giving Tuesday symbol from the thousands of nonprofits and charities who are celebrating this still new and quite wonderful initiative. Happy #Giving Tuesday! Take advantage!

Even if you’ve blown your wad during Black Friday, Wrecking Ball Weekend or Cyber Monday, today is still a good day to give. Hanukkah’s almost over, but there’s still Christmas.

#Giving Tuesday isn’t about the kinds of gifts you unwrap. Started by the 92nd Street Y in New York, the philanthropic initiative has mobilized thousands of nonprofits and their supporters to push for a national day of charity.

Here’s from the #Giving Tuesday website which, given the volume,  may not be the easiest site to access today:

“Giving Tuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second annual GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. We ask that partners create and commit to a project for/on #GivingTuesday and then help spread the word to their networks."

Good stuff, right?

Then again, who needs a holiday or a day of recognition?  Every day should be giving day, and I dare anyone out there working for a nonprofit to tell me otherwise.

Kevin Bacon, whose SixDegrees.org is a Giving Tuesday partner said it best on the Huffington Post, which was reprinted on the #Giving Tuesday website:

“In a perfect world every day would be #GivingTuesday, full of the spirit of generosity and paying it forward…Given recent news headlines, it may not seem like there's much generosity going around, but if you're paying attention, you can spot random acts of kindness all over the place.

From strangers paying for the purchases of the person behind them in line to middle-school football players (aka the cool kids) conspiring to help their learning-disabled classmate score a big touchdown to a retiree giving haircuts to the homeless and only asking for a hug in return, examples of generous deeds are everywhere.”

In the case of JVS, our clients continually need help. Every day. They need training, new skills and the confidence to know that, yes, despite a hugely challenging economy, they can and will find meaningful employment. Through our training and mentoring programs, career counseling and scholarships, that’s what we give them. We are a charity, but around the halls of JVS, we like to say that it's our practice to give our clients a leg up rather than a handout.

Even so, this is the holidays and many of our clients need some basics. We try to help with that, too.

As we speak, JVS' Joyce Cele, who is both our Vera Harris Memorial Fund Manager and Emergency Cash Grant Coordinator is working on a gift card drive. Through targeted donations, we buy and distribute Ralph’s and Target gift cards to some of our neediest clients. With these cards, our clients can buy whatever is most necessary whether it's household items, food or presents which they might not otherwise be able to afford.

If you would like to participate, you can reach Joyce at (jcele@jvsla.org or (323) 761-8888, ext. 8883. The drive ends on Dec. 13.

As a general rule, JVSWorks is not the place where we solicit donations. This being Giving Tuesday, however, it feels appropriate to invite contributions to JVS, to the JVS Holiday Gift Card drive or to simply remind readers to remember your favorite charity or nonprofit today.

JVSWorks wishes everyone a happy and generous #Giving Tuesday.


"Happyness" Found - A Chat with Chris Gardner


Entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Chris Gardner was a special guest at the recently concluded JVS Gala Honoring Marshall Geller. Gardner is the author of best-selling autobiography "The Pursuit of Happyness," which was adapted into the film featuring Will Smith. Along his journey from homeless single parent to millionaire stockbroker, Gardner caught a break from former Bear Sterns Senior Managing Director Marshall Geller who helped the then homeless Gardner get a position at Bear Sterns.

Twenty-five years - and quite a lot of success - later, the two men met up again at the SLS Hotel where Gardner presented his long-time friend with the JVS Lifetime Achievement Award.

Before the ceremony, Gardner spent a few minutes chatting with JVSWorks. Here's a few selections from the interview.

JVSWorks: When you were asked to attend this event and give Marshall his award, what went through your mind?

Chris Gardner: "Done. Honored." The truth of the matter is when this became something that I was aware of, I had just come off one trip where I had done 10 countries, four hemispheres and three continents in 18 days, but when they said it was for Marshall? "Done. Honored to be here."

JVSWorks: Given your respective schedules and the fact that you are based in Chicago and Marshall is in Los Angeles, do the two of you get a chance to stay in touch?

Chris Gardner: Yes. My whole life has changed dramatically over the last five to six years, and when something like this happens, it instantly changes everything. You have to make some decisions about opportunities you may or may not want to pursue. I wouldn’t do anything without talking to Marshall first.

JVSWorks: What sort of advice or counsel does he give you?

Chris Gardner: This whole idea of trying to create a brand and how you do it, I learned from Marshall that you say no a lot. People are going to come to you with things that are not consistent with what you’re about. By saying no, you get to define what you are about. Marshall must be doing something right. You know how you’re doing something right? You get your picture on a box of Cheerios. All those nos, that’s how you get your picture on a box of Cheerios.

JVSWorks: We get to know your children through the autobiography. How are they doing?

Chris Gardner: (laughs) I don't know! Ask me how my grandbaby’s doing. She’s doing FINE! Oh yeah she is 5 years old, and she is ringing and swinging and making merry like Christmas. Children don’t understand that once the first grandchild comes, your child becomes obsolete. People ask me about my children all the time. I don’t know! They’re old news. The grandbaby comes, and that is news. My granddaughter just lost her front tooth. That’s news. She just started kindergarten. That’s news.

JVSWorks: Were you familiar with the work of JVS before the Marshall tribute dinner?

Chris Gardner:Absolutel


y. There’s a JVS in every major city in this country in some form or other, and thank God there is. There are a number of initiatives that JVS supports that I think are crucial. They reach out to veterans which is crucial to me personally since I'm a veteran myself.

We just celebrated Veteran’s Day, whatever that means. Everybody talks about, "support our troops." What about when they come home? 30% of all the homeless people in this country are veterans. Suicides among returning Army and Marine Corps reservists is the highest it has been in the history of this country. Nobody talks about that.

Everybody says, "Oh thank you for your service." That’s something you say to a waiter in a restaurant when you know you’re going to stiff them on the tip. The work that JVS does with veterans is crucial.

A Potentially Awful Holiday-New Year's Gift

Gift, nothing. The only thing yule-ish about this black cloud is the date. We got through the shutdown. Barely. Now there's another deadline looming. This one's at the end of the year. By Dec. 31, 2013, if Congress does not renew the federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), more than 2 million of the long-term unemployed nationwide will have their unemployment benefits cut off.

This tasty bit of holiday cheer comes from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) which, in a recently released report detailed that 850,000  workers will run out of state unemployment insurance in the first three months of 2014, with no access to federal EUC. At least those folks get a little way into 2014 before the axe falls. 1.3 million will be cut off during the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Sing along with me..."We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas..." C'mon. Give it some feeling!

No? We don't blame you.

Per the NELP report, the economy is still far below the pre-Recession numbers. The 4.1 million long-term unemployed nationwide is still higher than at any point during the Great Recession. The average duration of unemployment  is an unsightly 36.9 weeks is more than 20 weeks longer than pre-Recession levels.

The federal cuts and sequester have reduced benefits to a large number of workers. "Since March 2012, the average number of long-term unemployed receiving EUC benefits has declined 50 percent, twice the rate of decline in the number of long-term unemployed workers," says the report. "And those workers who are collecting benefits are receiving far fewer weeks of assistance and reduced weekly checks (recently averaging less than $260 per week)."

The NELP estimates that, at the rate we're going, we won't be back at the pre-Recession unemployment rate until, wait for it, 2021.

"...and a Happy New Year!"

The federal EUC was enacted in June 2008 when national unemployment was at 5.6%. The EUC has been reauthorized, expanded or amended 11 times, most recently in January of 2013.

What do you think, readers? 12th times a charm, right?

Here's from the NELP's Executive Director Christine Owens:

“Congress cannot conscionably ignore or dismiss the economic realities facing far too many unemployed workers and their families. Unemployment levels are still unacceptably high, labor market conditions are persistently weak and long-term unemployment remains at crisis levels.  Lawmakers in Washington must renew federal unemployment insurance for 2014, and should do so without delay or brinksmanship.”

Do you agree? Let Congress know.

"I don't look like a typical Marine"


We had already heard from the dignitaries, and from the administrators of JVS and the Salvation Army Haven, the two entities which were working together in the service of a single cause. At the L.A. CARES


symposium, we had seen two videos focusing on the efforts of both JVS Veterans First  and the Salvation Army to help returning United States veterans get re-acclimated to civilian life through training, counseling support groups, a safe home and – hopefully – a path to a new job.

Then Daniel Berkovitz, a purchasing agent in corporate purchasing for Activision/Blizard stepped to the microphone. Berkovitz  had been one the veterans featured in the Salvation Army video.

“I know I don’t look like a typical Marine,” said Berkovitz. “I was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps in Iraq and in 2005 Fallusia. I was responsible for the supply operations of my regiment.”

Berkovitz sported a long brown beard and wore a yarmulke. He clearly had a sense of humor as well as a sense of the occasion. And, no, perhaps he didn’t fit the profile (stereotype) of what you might see on a U.S. Marines recruiting poster any more than he fit the profile of someone who would work for a company that designs video games.

Neither did Ibrahim Brewer, a former college football player, aspiring standup comedian and Office Depot employee  who followed Berkovitz to the microphone. But he was. Brewer was a Lance Corporal who had seen combat duty.

“I served in Iraq during the initial invasion. I supported air strikes and Medivacs, helping casualties on both sides of the lines,” he said. “When I got out of the military, when I ended my tour of duty, like a lot of veterans, I didn’t’ have anything to fight for anymore. It was like the end of a video game when the credits roll.”

But Brewer was still in his early 20s and leaving the service was not “game over” for Brewer any more than it was for Berkovitz. Brewer went through some difficult times and eventually found his way to JVS where case manager Jason Pondexter helped clean up his resume.

Brewer says that, with Pondexter’s help, he went on job interviews with considerably more confidence and could wait until just the right opportunity came along. That was at Office Depot, and Brewer hopes to further his career as both a stand-up comedian and as a potential counselor to other veterans.

“Because of the difficulties I went through, I want to help other people by being a counselor or a therapist,” says Brewer. “I feel like I have a gift and the reason that I have that gift is because of the help I received. In order to use it to the best of my ability, I have to give back.”

You will note the irony. Brewer is talking about giving back at a symposium focused on employers giving back to U.S. servicemen.

Opinions are subjective based on what you know of the world, or maybe based on what TV or movies you’ve seen. I don’t know what a solider looks like or is supposed to look like. Neither, I very much suspect, do the more than 20 employers who attended L.A. CARES precisely because their companies prioritize the hiring of U.S. servicemen.

As more and more companies commit to hiring veterans, it will become increasingly difficult to separate the vets from the non-vets. Someday soon - we hope it’s soon - the person processing your order, managing your Starbucks, designing your web page, the person you encounter while doing any business in life  will be just as likely to be a person who served his or her country in the military as someone who didn’t.

There are worse dreams.

JVSWorks wishes you (early) a happy Veteran’s Day.

Now that the Government is Running Again, we can Officially Tell you About September Unemployment…

7.2% unemployment! Woohoo! We should be popping champagne corks, right? Anybody?

The Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report for September – which should have come out on the first Friday in October – was delayed until practically November because, well, the government was closed.

So was it worth the wait? Depends who you ask. The fact that unemployment hit 7.2% - its lowest level since November of 2008 – is certainly better than the rate increasing. The DOL is now estimating that we have averaged 143,000 new jobs over the as three months, compared to an average rate of job growth of 186,000 per months a year ago.

As we have said many times before, the declining rate is more indicative of people leaving the labor force because they can’t find employment (and have stopped looking) than because they can. The long-term unemployed (those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer) remains at 4.1 million. A big number, certainly, and this is actually a decline of 725,000 over the past year.

Which, again, probably means that a substantial number of those long-term unemployed ran through their benefits, and stopped looking for jobs, thereby leaving the labor force.

Who’s doing comparatively “well” in the recovery? Surprisingly, in September at least, it was people without even a high school degree who dropped a full percentage point to 10.3% unemployment in September.

“This is also likely due to the aging of the population since older workers disproportionately lack high school degrees,” writes Dean Baker Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. (CEPR) “The strong relative gains by workers with the least education does not easily fit with accounts of the economy increasingly demanding higher-skilled workers.”

As always, JVSWorks steers you to the full DOL report and do Mr. Baker’s invaluable – if rarely rosy – perspective on said report.

“On the whole, this is not a very encouraging report,” Baker concludes. “It reinforces the notion that the economy had slowed in the third quarter. This is before any negative effects of the shutdown.”

And we’ll learn what if any discernible effects the shutdown had on jobs in November which is just a few short days away.

Gridlock is the Opposite of Progress

Whatever your politics or opinion of the Affordable Care Act, we can perhaps all agree on one basic principal: Gridlock is the opposite of progress.

As the impact of the government shutdown ripples across the country,  JVS is fortunate that, for the moment at least, our client services and WorkSource Centers are continuing to operate at full strength.

For now. Should this federal stalemate drag on, there is no telling what might happen. We are one of the countless nonprofits leveraging crucial federal, state and local public funding to support our critical work. The people JVS serves include the long-term unemployed, veterans, foster youth, homeless individuals and those with disabilities, many of whom already feel they are invisible and voiceless in the national debate.

It is on their behalf that we urge Congress to do their jobs – and enable rather than prevent the country from getting back to work. Our clients were already facing overwhelming obstacles. The last thing they need is another delay and a further roadblock.

The day before the shutdown, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce (LAACC) – of which JVS is a member – joined the United States Chamber of Commerce and more than 250 business organizations from across the nation in signing a letter to Congress. The letter urges Congress to raise the debt ceiling and avoid the shutdown that has since come to pass.

You can read the letter and LACC President Gary Toebben’s thoughtful Business Perspective here.

Find me a Match

The following was written by Sherilyn Shamoiel of JVS WoMentoring program Can you think of a person who has really made a difference in your life?  Someone who really impacted you and left you feeling confident, empowered, and ready to take on whatever life throws next?  Was it a professor?  A family member?

Maybe it was a mentor

Mentoring presents an opportunity to build your network and seek support, encouragement, and guidance towards your goal. Everybody can benefit from having a mentor.

A common misconception is that you need to be part of a formal mentoring program in order to be mentored.  On the contrary, a mentorship between two people oftentimes grows naturally in the course of their relationship.

Follow these three tips to help build a successful mentoring relationship:

1. Keep the lines of Communication Open:  Mentoring relies solely on communication, just like any other relationship.  Talk with your mentor/mentee.  Don’t assume they know everything.

2. Set Goals and Objectives:  What do you want from this mentorship?  Consider why you are interested in mentoring and what your goals are.  Define your goals and separate them into short term and long term goals to help make them more attainable, and provide a focus for your mentoring meetings.

3. Provide and Accept Feedback: An important component of a successful mentoring relationship is feedback.  Be open to receiving and giving constructive feedback to your mentee/mentor to improve your relationship and increase your professional and personal growth.

JVS WoMentoring™ is a 6-month program which gives women the opportunity to focus on personal growth and career planning, improve and increase their professional network, and seek encouragement, advice and coaching from an experienced professional woman.  As a WoMentee, you will be paired with a woman who has experience in your career field of interest.  Our mission is to empower, educate and support women in career transition or change.


For more information about our program or to apply, please visit our website: http://www.jvsla.org/programs-and-services/career-services/womentoring.

To School or not to School?

In between talking to a whole bunch of people associated with the JVS Scholarship Program, JVSWorks got to reading…and thinking. The impetus for said ruminations is an enlightening and alarming story from the L.A. Times written by Alana Semuels provocatively headlined “Degrees not needed, college grads find.”

Reading on, we learn that in New York, where Semuels conducted her research, a bar tender can make $80,000 to $90,000. The bartenders Semuels interviewed had advanced college degrees, but had accepted these better paying jobs – which are not usually thought to need formal higher education -  rather than hold out for something more suited to their training. Semuels quotes a bartender with a Master’s degree in economics and a taxi driver with a Bachelor’s in accounting.

A woman with a Master’s in biochemistry paid for her education – undergraduate and graduate – and her wedding by tending bar. Then she took a job in a lab and earned 2/3 of her former salary.

The take-aways here are numerous and conflicting. Thanks to the effects of the recession, the labor market is flooded with well-educated candidates who could end up being offered jobs over candidates who don’t have degrees. Thus, you’re finding more highly educated people in fields where college hasn’t typically been a requirement. Firefighting and taxi driving, for example. By this logic, it would seem to make sense for someone to earn that college degree and remain competitive for all jobs. Plus, by being in school, you can presumably wait out the effects of the recession and hopefully hit the job market at a time when there are actually more jobs to be had (optimism: it’s a good thing)

On the flip side, education costs big time. So how much sense does it make to rack up a ton of student loan debt only to earn a degree you won’t end up needing or using?

From Drexel University economist Paul Harrington, as quoted in Semuels’ article:

“It puts college grads in a condition that’s unique out of the last 30 to 40 years. The yield from investing in college, students’ ability to pay off debt, has diminished.”


Food for thought, certainly. Maybe the take-away is “school or no school, get a New York City bartending job while you figure it out.”

A Hopeful Day for BankWork$™ Graduates


One of the great features of our periodic JVS BankWork$™

graduations is the atmosphere of hope that hangs over the proceedings.

And why not? After eight weeks of not-so-easy training, learning the ins and outs of being a bank teller and of customer service in general, the carefully selected graduates put on their best professional suits, are handed a well-earned certificate of completion, pose for multiple pictures and are introduced by a BankWork$™ instructor via a few very flattering remarks highlighting what a great asset they will be to whatever bank decides to hire them.

Then after the praise, photos and congratulatory hugs are over, those same graduates move into another room where they meet with representatives of up to 10 banks, many of whom have actual jobs they are looking to fill.

Graduation ceremonies can get any more hopeful than that, no?

At our most recent event, we even had two past BankWork$™ graduates who have found employment with Citibank and U.S. Bank and who came back to tell the latest class how great they looked on this, their big day, and how they would all meet with great successes as well.

“You guys are in very good hands,” Khai Edwards told them. “I learned so much in this program. The most important factor is attention to detail: pulling your hair back, coming in dressed appropriately and smiling the entire time. Those things really are important, and they’re overlooked a lot by other people. If you do it, you do stand out.”

It obviously worked for Edwards. He started as a teller, is now pursuing his notary certification and will get additional education through Citibank’s tuition reimbursement program.

Jasmine Guzman struck an equally optimistic chord. “I would like to ask you ‘have you ever wondered what success feels like?’” she asked the graduates. “You’re almost there.”

Guzman graduated BankWork$™ in January of 2012. She had previously worked at Little Caesars pizza and had been eying a career in banking with the goal of moving into marketing and advertising.

Reaching this goal is a step-by-step process. In the year that she has been at US Bank, Guzman has moved from being a peak hours teller to a teller position with more hours. She is always on the lookout for ways that she can take the initiative and make her supervisors’ lives easier, and they are taking notice.

“If I have any words of wisdom for all of you I would say dress professionally, take pride in your work and always take initiative,” she told the new graduates. “Ask a lot of questions and take notes and the bankers and your supervisors will definitely like that about you.”

Guzman’s path to BankWork$™ was not an easy one. Raised by her biological mother until age 7, she was eventually placed in foster care and spent the rest of her childhood in and out of more than 20 foster and group homes. When Guzman was 24 and living in a transitional housing facility, a mentor brought BankWork$™ and JVS to her attention.  Guzman, who was unemployed and had been thinking about a career in banking, thought the timing was right to pursue this dream.

Her class was small: eight total graduates and Guzman distinguished herself.

“I have almostno words to explain how grateful I am for this type of program,” she says. I have friends who are $15,000 in debt from their schooling and they’re in fields you really can’t grow. This is a field where you can. You can actually make a career out of this trade.”

From Resume Blues to Interviews


As anyone around here will tell you, it's never the wrong time to heed some practical advice about revamping your resume. JVSWorks welcomes guest contributor Sherilyn Shamoiel of JVS WoMentoring Program. Shamoiel who works with both WoMentoring participants and with students at the Pasadena City College Career Center.

Schools are back in session, summer is ending, and it’s time to get back on the job market.

So where do you start?


Start with the basics – your resume.  For many people, the job search process, specifically writing a resume, is a scary and challenging experience.  But don’t worry.  JVS can help you turn your resume blues into interviews!  Follow these tips to get your resume in application shape.

  • Prioritize Your Resume: Employers spend approximately 15 to 30 seconds looking at a resume.  For this reason, it is important to prioritize the information and present it in a clear and easy way to read.  Add most relevant information at the top of the page and work your way down.  Use headings, bolding, capitals, and bullet points to emphasize sections of your resume and highlight key points.
  • Create Multiple Resumes:  In order to strengthen your resume, have several versions.  Target each resume to the position you are applying to by using keywords from the job description and industry you are applying to.  You don’t need to put all of your experiences on your resume.  For a stronger resume, only add relevant experience and highlight your transferable skills.
  • Proofread Your Resume:  Before sending your resume to an employer, proofread, proofread and proofread again!  Then have another person read through your resume to look for any grammatical or spelling errors.  Remember, first impressions count, and typos don’t impress!

JVS is dedicated to helping people overcome barriers to employment in order to find stable jobs and support their families.  For more tips on writing your resume or for help with your job search, please visit our website or visit one of our WorkSource centers.

Closing the Gap - Veterans, General Population Lining Up

First the standard disclaimer, there is NO good news about unemployment except perhaps that it has disappeared (don't hold your breath). That said, the recent front page missive from the L.A. Times "U.S. veterans making gains on jobs front" by Alan Zarembo was interesting on a number of fronts.

Maybe even a little bit hopeful, too.

The gist of Zarembo's article is that unemployment among post-Sept. 2011 servicemen and women - categorized as Gulf War Era II veterans - had shot down to 7.4%. Balanced against the 7.2% that non-veterans were experiencing, (considered "not statistically different"), that seemed to indicate that the barriers preventing our recent servicemen and women from finding employment were starting to fall and that, in fact, veterans appeared to be getting hired faster than non-vets.Male veterans ages 25-34 were at a lower unemployment rate than non-veterans of the same age.

About time, right? JVSWorks has consulted numerous staff and clients from our JVS Veterans First Program about the difficulties that returning servicemen face as they try to reenter the civilian labor market. Well, since 2010, when veteran unemployment spiked to an unsightly 13%, the unemployment rate has plummeted and risen like some freaky EKG chart with sharp declines as we turned the calendar on 2012 and then again at the beginning of 2013.

Now the caveats. There is no indication that this trend will continue. Younger veterans, ages 18 to 24, are still experiencing particularly high levels of unemployment and the situation of women veterans is of particular concern.

Whatever stories the numbers tell, there is no let-up to the numbers and unique needs of the clients who meet with our Veterans First caseworkers. JVS also recently learned that we have been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Swords to Plowshares Foundation to target the needs of female veterans. A special edition of the trade magazine Working World

dedicated to veterans will feature JVS Veterans First and is due to hit the stands in September. Watch for it!

So the fight continues.

We'll leave you with a couple of very telling nugget from Zarembo's article:

"Elevated rates of joblessness among recent veterans have been widely blamed on a failure of civilian employers to recognize the value of military training and experience. With fewer than 1% of Americans having served over the last decade, the military in some sense has been cut off from much of society."


Same article: this from Rand economist Paul Heaton...

"The research seems to suggest that over the long term, serving in the military is beneficial. People who have been in the military tend to be better employed and earn more."

A One-Stop by Any Other Name...


…was  a WorkSource Center and is now America’s Job Center… Or some combination: “America’s Job Center Operated by JVS,” perhaps.

Confusing, no? To us, too, but we’ll get there eventually.

By federal mandate, all WorkSource Centers (alternatively known as One-Stop Career Centers) are now being re-branded as America’s Job Centers. Whatever state the center happens to occupy, that state gets in the title. So the Marina del Rey and West Hollywood locations formerly known as JVS WorkSource Centers now become an America’s Job Center of California SM or AJCC, with a sparkling new red, white and blue logo to match.

Whatever the federal government chooses to call them – and co-branding is encouraged - the centers are a product of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), enacted to create places that help residents find training, employment services and help employers in finding skilled workers.

Here are the stated goals of the America’s Job Centers:

  • Meet the workforce needs of high demand sectors of the state and regional economies, by providing quality training, employment services and business resources to California’s workforce system with integrity, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.
  • Ensure the services and resources throughout the network meet the needs of an evolving economic climate.
  • Strengthen awareness of network services and resources to California’s workforce by supporting system alignment and continuous improvement efforts.

The centers are a partnership between the Employment Development Department (EDD), the California Workforce Investment Board (WIB), and 49 Workforce Investment Boards that administer the more than 200 America’s Job Centers of California, which include the two operated by JVS.

Prior to now, the operators of these more than 200 centers had as many as 20 different types of names, according to California Workforce Investment Board (WIB) Brand Manager Jessica Dailey.

Because the names varied so widely (both from city to city and from state to state) administrators felt that clients were not taking as full advantage of the available services.

The solution was the creation of America’s Job Center as a unifying brand.

“Our hope is to give a unifying face to the one-stops so that they become more of a unified resource and recognizable brand,” says Dailey. “Everyone kind of had their own branding going on and their own type of publicity. We felt that by giving the whole system a consistent brand it would create an environment where people could know that if they go to Sacramento or Los Angeles, they would get the same services.”

So in what way, you may ask, does this affect the JVS clients who have made a practice of visiting a WorkSource Center as part of their job search?

It doesn’t. Building locations don’t change; just the name.  The services – and hopefully the helpful and sensitive people providing them – stay in place.

As names adjust, we’ll keep you posted.

Read more at the America’s Job Center portal and find a Job Center near you here.

“I’m Starting Tonight … and Plan to Keep Giving for Many Years to Come”


Fact: the costs of higher education are through the roof, be it in California, out-of-state, public, private…there’s no escaping the fact that to reach a level to become competitive in the job market, you first have to pay. And pay and pay some more. Anywhere from $7,500 to $24,3000 per year in tuition alone according to the U.S Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics. We routinely say that the JVS Scholarship Program helps recipients make their educational dreams come - the key word being “help.” Our students receive scholarships of $2,000 or $5,000, sometimes to fund a year or two of their undergraduate studies; sometimes through the entire course of their undergraduate and graduate school tenure. Our recipients are required to demonstrate significant financial need, which they do. In certain cases, the donor gives substantially more than the $2,000 or $5,000 allotted by the JVS Scholarship Committee.

All the same, this is “help,” not a full free ride. Our students “get” this concept, and they get the need to help others as they themselves have been helped. Every summer, the recipients of the JVS Scholarship for the upcoming academic year gather for a dessert reception during which many of them meet and thank their donors face to face. On this occasion, many pledge to “pay it forward,” to donate to the JVS Scholarship Program once they are out of school and in the workforce. JVS even provides an avenue to endow a student of their own via the JVS Alumni Scholarship.

This year’s reception is July 25 at Temple Sinai. On that occasion, the Scholarship Committee will award $492,000 in scholarships to 163 deserving students, our largest yearly totals (both in numbers of students and in total dollars) to date in the program’s 41 year history.

We’ll also hear from an alumni, Ilya Zolotnik who was funded for all four years of his medical school education at Wayne State University in Michigan. Having recently started his medical residency in neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Dr. Zolotnik is looking to follow in the professional footsteps of his grandfather Leon, who was a doctor in Russia.

Leon passed away recently at the age of 80 and Zolotnik keeps his grandfather’s stethoscope as inspiration. Utterly swamped by the demands of his neurology residency – which gives him only four days off per month – Zolotnik requested the night off to address fellow JVS Scholarship awardees at the annual dessert gala on the 25th.

When he addresses the awardees, Dr. Zolotnik will emphasize the value of perseverance and hard work. And he’ll make a pledge: a portion of his first paycheck will go to pay it forward to the JVS Scholarship Program.

“My grandparents didn’t have much, but when someone needed help, they always helped. It’s what we do,” says Zolotnik. “I don’t see myself not helping. The intention is that I’ll be able to help pay it forward and help others the way I was helped. That’s common sense to me.”

Learn more about the JVS Scholarship Program here.

June Job Numbers Higher than Expected, but...

Yes, I know…more doom and gloom from your friendly neighborhood JVSWorks job numbers watch. The news should be good, no? The June job/employment numbers from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) trumpets the addition of 195,000 new jobs. Better still, the numbers were revised upward for April and May meaning we averaged nearly 200,000 new jobs in those months as well.

So, better than expected projections…

Lots of new jobs…

Why the long face and the morose prognoses?

Let’s start with unemployment, holding steady at 7.6% which equates to 11.8 million people out of work, 4.3 million of them for more than 27 weeks qualifying them as “long-term unemployed.” We added 322,000 new involuntary part-time workers, people whose hours were cut back or who couldn’t find full-time work.

Let’s concentrate on the new jobs for a moment. As two of JVS' signature training programs are in the fields of finance (BankWork$™) and health care (HealthWorks™), it is encouraging to note that both industries saw job growth in June (20,000 for health care and 17,000 for finance).


Of course, that accounts for only 37,000 of  the 195,000 new jobs. So where are the bigger numbers? Correct, in leisure and hospitality (75,000), retail (37,000) and professional and business services (53,000). The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s (CEPR'S) Dean Baker notes that more than half the new June jobs are “all low-paying sectors to which workers turn when better-paying jobs are not available.”

Federal payroll dropped by 5,000 in June and 65,000 over the past 12 months, not awful numbers given the panic over the presumed Armageddon over the sequestration cuts.

Reporting in the L.A. Times, Don Lee and Alexei Koseff say that, with the higher than expected jobs figures, the federal reserve might start pulling back on the bond-buying stimulus in the fall, although the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that won’t happen until unemployment falls below 7%.

By far the darkest assessment of where things stand – 195,000 new jobs or otherwise – comes from Paul Krugman’s “Conscience of a Liberal” blog in the New York Times. Writing that we could be headed to a “permanent stagnation,” Krugman basically foresees a level of acceptance settling in with no possible events taking place to force policy action.

“We can probably have high unemployment and stable prices in Europe and America for a very long time — and all the wise heads will insist that it’s all structural, and nothing can be done until the public accepts drastic cuts in the safety net,” Krugman writes. “I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.”

You can review the June BLS numbers and data here.

Take it to the Bank – JVS Training Program BankWork$™ is Officially a Winner

July 5, 2013 - The world already knows that JVS BankWork$™ is a training program that shines. For those who don’t know – or those who periodically forget – JVSWorks is more than happy to publish frequent reminders. Every time we have a graduation, a group of jazzed-up, new would-be bank tellers get their certificate, pose for a few pictures, funnel into a room filled with recruiters from partnering banks and start down the road of their new life in the finance industry. Most of them have come through some serious barriers to reach this goal, and – as long as they’re qualified - the training doesn’t cost them a dime.

These graduates tell us how happy and grateful they are. Sometimes our alumni even come back to talk to new graduates. At our most recent graduation, Alicia Robinson, who celebrated her one year anniversary working at Wells Fargo, listed her BankWork$™ graduation as a career and life-shaping milestone right up there with getting married and having a child.


27 graduates heard Robinson’s remarks  at that recent June graduation, one of whom had been trying for three years to get into BankWork$™. Including those 27 new graduates, BankWork$™ has produced more than 650 graduates in the program’s six year history and placed more than 500 of them in jobs with our partnering financial institutions. Many of these graduates have overcome huge obstacles in their lives to reach this plateau.

The timing couldn’t have been more fitting. A couple of hours later, JVS’ BankWork$™ was awarded the Project Collaboration Award at the 2013 Los Angeles Business Journal's Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards. The Project Collaboration Award "recognizes a collaborative project that encompasses involvement of multiple stakeholders in the community, engagement of the community being served and innovation in approaching a community problem of issue."

BankWork$™ is nothing if not collaborative. We have nearly a dozen partnering banks and financial institutions as well as the state Employee Training Panel and a patron saint of financial training, Les Biller of the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation who hope to take this program across the country.


And now we have a new award for the trophy case.

JVS Joins the Rebellion for Documentary

July 5, 2013 - Richard Bever’s father-in-law, Peter Scoles, was not one to sit still. Despite the fact that he was 92, legally blind and newly ensconced in an assisted living facility in Philadelphia. “He gets bored quickly,” explains Bever, a documentary film maker and former client of JVS WHEST, located at the West Hollywood Library. “So within weeks of moving into this assisted living facility, he chose to organize the other clients of Devon Manor and make a film. This is despite the fact that none of them were filmmakers or had ever made a film before.”

They produced a 48-minute black-and-white World War II espionage thrilled titled “The Telephone” which had its premiere in the rec room of Devon Manor (grossing $72.)

Not content to hang up their cameras,  Macbooks and tripods, the Devon Manor filmmakers  - ages 65 to 92 - went back to work on their next feature – a vampire film titled “A Bloody Mess.” And it was at this point that Bever picked up his own camera and started working on his next project.

That would be the documentary “Rebels of the 3rd Age.”  Members of the 3rd Age – those 65 and older – numbered 39 million in 2009 and are among the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Bever estimates that by the year 2030, when all surviving Baby Boomers will be over 65, there will be 72 million seniors. By 2050, the number of seniors will jump to 90 million.

Reaching “a certain age” does not automatically translate to retirement.  In conducting his “Rebels” research, Bever went on the hunt for resources around Los Angeles and Northern California designed to keep seniors engaged in culture and the arts. He also started looking for opportunities available to 3rd  Age-ers who were unable or unwilling to retire. The research has taken him to New York and Philadelphia as well.

This employment business is by no means entirely a young person’s game.  Reviewing the May national employment data in his monthly Jobs Byte, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy research notes that  workers over the age of 55 are getting a “disproportionate share of the job gains:”

“Employment of workers of age 55 accounted for 203,000 of the 319,000 gain in employment reported for May,” Baker writes. “Over the last year they have accounted for 1,205,000 of the 1,596,000 reported rise in employment. Since employment bottomed out in December of 2009, older workers have gotten 4,205,000 of the 5,673,000 growth in employment or 74.1 percent.”

“I have two clients now in their 70s who are actively looking for work,” adds David Kruskall, JVS WHEST Program Manager.

Bever recently interviewed Kruskall and JVS Director of Workforce Development Marguerite Womack about the opportunities and challenges faced by mature workers. Portions of that interview will likely make it into “Rebels,” which Bever hopes to have completed by the fall. Through a Crowdfunding campaign, he hopes to raise $40,000 to finance the first 20 minutes. He estimates the entire project will carry a budget of around $300,000.

Jobs, Unemployment Both up in May

I know, I know...right about now, you're looking at the national unemployment numbers for May and asking, "How is it even possible that we can gain a whole bunch of jobs and still have unemployment tick upward?" In fact, it's not only possible, it's easily explained. Welcome to the never dull, rarely exciting, totally mercurial world of the "recovery." Or, if you prefer, the Chronicle of the Essentially Unchanged.

175,000 new jobs for the month of May - figures released by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics - would seem to indicate "a reassuring sign that the American economy is moving forward" according to the Los Angeles Times' Don Lee.

"Moderate" job growth is enough for people to get excited enough to come into a WorkSource Center (like JVS's), sent out a bunch of new resumes, and do whatever else it takes to try to reenter the work force.

It's those previously idle job hunters - no longer discouraged - whose re-entrance into the labor market has likely caused the unemployment rate to move from 7.5% in April to 7.6% in May. Granted, this is not a huge percentage point bump (the nation has been hovering around 8% since January).

We're still talking about way too many people out of work: 11.8 total, 4.4 million of whom have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer and therefore qualify as long-term unemployed.

As for those newly added jobs...the good news is there are a lot of them. The not-so-good news is that many of them aren't particularly high-paying. The restaurant and drinking industries are among the more steadily growing industries, adding 38,000 jobs in May and 337,000 over the past year. As Lee notes, that figure exceeds the total number of healthcare jobs added over the same period.

Add in retail jobs (27,700 new jobs) and temporary employment (25,600) and you've accounted for more than half of those 175,000 new jobs.

"It is worth noting that the job growth reported in these sectors is more an indication of the weakness of the labor market than the type of jobs being generated by the economy," writes Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. "The economy always creates bad jobs, but in a strong labor market workers don’t take them."

Federal employees are continuing to feel the effects of the national budget cutbacks with 14,000 jobs lost in May and 45,000 lost over the past few months.

Lee's article is worth perusing, as is the breakdown of the BLS' monthly employment situation summary.

Baker highlights an interesting facet of the people who are getting joining the labor force. We'll tell you more about that in an upcoming JVSWorks post.

Stay tuned!