Job Clubs Under the Microscope

I was excited to travel down to Atlanta, Ga., a few weeks ago to formally release a new report on job clubs from the Labor Department’s Chief Evaluation Office. The report found that despite their shoestring budgets and reliance on volunteers, job clubs offer a sophisticated suite of job search services, from networking to coaching to online tools for many long-term unemployed workers. The report’s evaluation team presented the key findings and promising practices during a conference hosted by Crossroads Career Network and Roswell United Methodist Church Job Networking ministry.

RUMC’s Job Networking ministry was one of the 16 job clubs that participated in the evaluation. The ministry has pioneered a number of promising practices such as offering specialized workshops on topics ranging from franchise businesses to strategies for older job seekers. These small group workshops are led by expert volunteers who are typically human resources professionals and recruiters. They’ve also focused on increasing employer engagement, including developing partnerships with local business groups, such as the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and the Roswell Rotary Club. These groups bring businesses looking to hire to RUMC’s job club meetings and match them up with qualified job seekers.

An increasing collaboration between job clubs and local American Job Centers are also resulting in positive outcomes. Strong linkages between job clubs and AJCs in California, Maryland, and Minnesota appear to benefit job seekers in finding employment. Focusing in on these types of collaborations, ETA’s Regional Administrator Les Range, facilitated a panel discussion with state and local workforce officials. Elizabeth Warner, Director of Workforce Solutions at the Georgia Department of Labor discussed the state’s commitment to working with job clubs.  Mary Margaret Garrett, Director of the Atlanta regional Workforce Investment Board discussed the value her agency places in the role of job clubs to connect with and serve long-term unemployed workers.

The report also identifies the role technology plays in today’s job clubs compared to job clubs of the past. For example, facilitators from many of the studied job clubs use social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to share job leads and contacts with members, while also maintaining communication with the job club in between in-person meetings. Other job clubs are building their own online networking tools to link together members of the job club with employees, employers and others from the broader community or congregation. This technique appears to help connect job seekers with “hidden” jobs.

In addition to activities and practices, the report explores possibilities for future evaluations of job clubs. One of the challenges of measuring the impact of job clubs is the lack of data collected by the groups. In most cases, job clubs do not collect personal data or outcomes of their members, either because they lack the necessary resources to perform such data collection and tracking or because such tracking goes against the groups’ spirit or mission. The report offers some suggestions for a future, more intensive job clubs evaluation, including sample survey forms to make it easy for job clubs to collect data from members.

The Job Clubs Evaluation is an important milestone for the Department’s Job Clubs Initiative, which was launched three years ago this month. The new report serves as a useful resource for the initiative and will help validate the important work performed by job clubs all across the country.

Ben Seigel is the Deputy Director for Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and a Sr. Policy Advisor in the Employment and Training Administration.

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