When Amy Gilthorpe lost her job during the housing market crash several years ago, she knew where to turn to for help: her local American Job Center in Dover, N.J. The center helped sharpen her skills to find a new job. Gilthorpe took courses on interviewing skills, resume writing and how to network. Career counselors at the center helped her polish her “30-second elevator speech” and focus her search on jobs that most closely matched her skill set.
Those efforts landed Gilthorpe a job in two months. She now works for a large real estate company, helping people who are being relocated by their employers. Her story is one that millions of Americans can identify with, thanks to the Wagner-Peyser Act.
The Wagner-Peyser Act came out of another period of high unemployment – the Great Depression. In the early 1930s, the need to develop a system in which unemployed workers could find and connect with employers looking to hire became increasingly important. With the support of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act into law on June 6, 1933, establishing a nationwide system of public employment offices known as the Employment Service.
For the past years 80 years, the act has funded employment services that have helped millions of job seekers, Unemployment Insurance recipients, veterans, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and people with disabilities find work – and businesses find a qualified workforce – throughout the country.
Today, as the nation recovers from the Great Recession, the act continues to serves a vital tool to help the unemployed get back into the workforce. Nearly 20 million Americans every year are provided with universal access to jobs through the resources of the American Job Center network, including state and national job banks, job search assistance, staff-assisted career services, labor market information, and referrals to employment and training.
While we still have much work to do on the road to recovery, that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Gerri Fiala is the acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.