Church Helps Provide Blessings of Employment
By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines
When Claudio Gonzalez of Chile first lost his job, he wasn't worried about finding another that would support his wife and children. But after three months of unsuccessful searching, he became concerned.
Claudio was aware of the Church's employment resource center in Vitacura, not far from his home. The manager, Valentín Nuñez, was an old friend. But Claudio didn't want to go.
“I thought I could find a job myself,” said Claudio, a member of the Ñuñoa Second Ward, Santiago Chile Ñuñoa Stake. “I was trying to find work through my own network of friends, but I soon realized I needed a bigger network.”
Unemployment in Chile at the time was around eight percent, and competition for jobs was stiff. After someone talked about the center during a Church meeting, Claudio decided to give it a chance.
“When I walked in I could tell right away it was very professional,” he said. “But I could also feel the warmth. It gave me confidence.”
If the day Claudio entered the LDS Employment Resource Center in Vitacura was an average day, he was one of about 25 people to visit the center looking for the free help provided there. Each month the center gets about 500 people looking for work.
Brother Nuñez says everyone who comes in is first evaluated in order for the workers at the center to understand his or her needs. The Church's employment resource centers aim to serve five primary audiences: the unemployed, the underemployed, the self-employed, the unskilled, and students involved with the Perpetual Education Fund, a resource which helps qualifying members pay for needed education. Based on the person's needs, center staff will try to help the person get a job, some education, or self-employment help.
“We encourage everyone who comes in to start with the Career Workshop,” said Brother Nuñez. The Career Workshop is a combination of self-exploration, goal setting, and practical training.
“We help people understand from their own experiences what their gifts and talents are and how to package that,” said Timothy Q. Sloan, director of LDS Employment Resource Services. “We help them set goals, discover local resources that could help them, and learn how to interact with those resources with confidence.”
Brother Nuñez says the Career Workshop helps participants understand the job search process and teaches them how to introduce themselves, how to “cold call” companies to find out if they have openings, how to prepare a résumé, and how to handle interviews.
“I thought I was ready for interviews and the whole job search process,” said Claudio. “I had no idea there were techniques involved. I took the course. It was nice. The whole place is nice.”
“We also teach them what we call 'continued success,' ” said Brother Sloan. “It's about taking ownership of their lives. What do you do after you've got your job? What do you owe your employer? How do you take the next step to even better employment?”
For those lacking the proper skills or education, the centers' staff members can help the applicant find information on what education is needed for certain work, where the education can be obtained, and how much it will cost. Sometimes the centers can even get students placed in courses or classes at discounted costs.
The centers also offer self-employment workshops that help people start small businesses or improve their existing small businesses. And many centers in urban areas are now offering the Professional Placement Program. “More and more, people are realizing our employment resource centers are not just for people looking for entry level positions,” said Brother Sloan.
Each center is equipped with computers and Internet connections, allowing job seekers to search for job leads or review job search information.
LDS Employment Resource Centers also work closely with the Perpetual Education Fund, explains Brother Sloan. “PEF student applicants are required to enroll in the Career Workshop, where they can explore career and school options. LDS Employment Resource Services helps PEF students find part-time jobs and identify supplemental funding such as grants, scholarships, or loans. After students graduate, LDS Employment Resource Services helps them find full-time work that will support them and their families.”
Worldwide, 286 centers currently operate in more than 50 countries. Of these centers, 71 are staffed with full-time employees; the other 215 are staffed with volunteers. Those full-time employees are expected not only to assist those who come looking for work or to start a business, but also to spend time building links with local business, education, and government leaders. Thousands of jobs, educational grants, and scholarships have been identified as a result of this networking.
In 2005 the centers helped more than 222,000 people discover new avenues of education, employment, and self-employment. Claudio Gonzalez was one of them. A position opened at a company housed in the same building as the employment resource center, and Claudio applied.
“I felt very comfortable and prepared,” he said. “The questions they asked were exactly what we had practiced. I felt like I was right at home.”
Thanks to the center and what he learned there, Claudio is already looking ahead to a little extra education with the money he's earning now so that he can get a better job in the future.
“Now I tell everyone to go to the center,” he says. “It's incredible.”
For information on LDS Employment Resource Services, contact an LDS Employment Resources Center or ward or branch leaders.