Friday, September 4, 2009

The Anguish of Unemployment

A Green Economy is beginning to emerge as growing numbers of companies embrace environmental policies and investors pump hundreds of billions of dollars into cleaner and renewable energies.
United Nations Environmental Programme Yearbook 2008.


A year ago our One Stop Career Center was flooded with people seeking unemployment insurance claims. In New Jersey after a decade of downsizing we had few unemployment insurance representatives available in the local One Stops and not enough in our regional call centers. On my best days I had only three people with full access to the UI system. Customers could only establish a claim using a computer or the telephone. Unfortunately the sheer number of claims was more than the system could handle and the situation got worse each time a new federal extension came into being. Mistakes on the computer cut off the process and the people were directed to the telephones. While we have direct lines to the regional processing center, people were often on hold for over 20 minutes. The system was dropping calls before thirty minutes. Not only were people having difficulty starting claims, mistakes on the telephones for those with claims, stopped the claims. We had long lines of people each morning extremely frustrated. During this transition, I had my most senior employment staff at our reception desk as we devised a local process to help our stressed out UI representatives and frustrated, angry customers.
Eventually the computer and telephone “glitches” were fixed through a painful trial and error process and stimulus money allowed the hiring of new unemployment insurance representatives.
The flow of worried unemployed people has not stopped. I think it is fortunate that a professional employment counselor manages our one stop. I profess customer service, listening with empathy and optimistic creative problem solving. My door is always open, especially for the most difficult customers. We have listened to a lot of stories and that in itself is therapeutic. We have done our best to make the system work as well as possible. We have offered encouragement and fostered a belief that this too will pass. This is a time of great transformation and we must believe that a new stronger and greener economy will emerge.

Available for a free download, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development has just published “The Anguish of Unemployment”

Green Job Today tells us how creating a strong green collar workforce will save America.