Centers help unemployed find support, help, jobs

Saturday , August 09, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

CENTERVILLE – Danny Brock could not hold back the tears, after someone at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint employment center he manages rang the hand-held bell twice, signifying two different people had gotten new jobs.

It wasn’t the music was stirring; it was what is behind the symbolic gesture. 

“That double bell got me this morning. I looked around the room and know each of those men from the AJS (advanced job search) room and have shared their real feelings about being unemployed. That bell means that you can buy prom dresses now, go to the movies, go to Disneyland and go on vacation. It means you can look forward to Christmas. It means parents of whoever got that job can now give thanks, as well as the siblings of that person and ward members of the family whose family needed the job,” Brock said.

In a state where the employment numbers are among the best in the nation, Brock sees the other side of the coin. The church-run center has become a haven for those who wrestle with the struggles of unemployment ---a number of them men in their 50s, who have been forced to find new career options.

With facilities in Ogden, Layton and Centerville, the centers offer a mix of professional and emotional support to job seekers --- members or non-members. That can range from help tweaking a resume, to access and to much more detailed help.

Art Kline, group manager for LDS Employment Resource Services in the Top of Utah said the three centers helped 3,650 people find employment in 2013 and approximately 1,740 people to date this year. He said unemployment in the state may be down but he hasn’t seen a decrease in the number of people coming into the employment centers. He said there have been more than 7,000 visits to the Top of Utah employment centers thus far this year.

Brock emphasizes the facilities are not placement centers, though they post job listings. They take a pro-active approach to helping people retool, refine and perfect their job search skills.

The centers offer a three-pronged approach to helping people find work. Service missionaries at the centers teach a two-day career workshop where participants are taught key principles and learn to condense their skills and career direction into a short elevator speech known as a “Me in 30 seconds.”

The centers also facilitate networking classes weekly where participants come and engage in a process of sharing, dialoguing and helping one another. The third approach is a daily AJS meeting where select participants are part of a return-and-report process, where they come prepared daily to access, refine and engage in the search process.

Brett Messer of Centerville took part in all three prongs of the center’s programs. He maintains the experience was a lifesaver emotionally, besides helping his job search.

“It’s a lot cheaper than therapy in terms of support. They are people whose purpose in being there is to serve others. It’s a level of support that we wouldn’t get from another resource. They’re concerned about you, pray for us and take an individual interest in our situation and our family,” Messer said.

He said he has learned the power of networking and echoed something Brock shared with him that it’s not who you know, but who knows you that helps the job seeker in the long run.

Rod Johnson of Brigham City started a new job Monday after six months of unemployment. He said a colleague at a former job told him to access the center and its programs, in his bid to secure new employment.

Johnson said the centers offer more than meets the eye. He utilized each of the church’s employment programs.

He said the center helped him sharpen skills he didn’t realize he would need to get a new job. One was the need to have a bevy of power statements --- quantifiable accomplishments --- to use in helping a prospective employer see how he could help them.

Johnson also stressed the emotional support helped him as he coped with his loss.

“You have your identity as someone who has a job and all of sudden you don’t have an identity. It does take your pride away,” Johnson said. He said as he participated in networking classes and interfaced with others. He also learned a lesson about looking beyond himself.

“Networking made you step out of yourself. One of the learning things is that my success depends on my ability to help others. The more I helped others, the more it came back to me," Johnson said.

Brock said a person’s job search has to involve as many people as possible to be successful. He stresses the need for the unemployed to engage as many people as they can in knowing what they are looking for, and facilitating that search.

Brock said learning to help the unemployed is something most church members don’t know how to do instinctively.

“If we have a funeral, meals are brought in, houses are cleaned, shoes are shined and kids are taken to school,” Brock said. “We do death, wind storms and trees that fall. We do cancer, but we don’t do unemployment very well. It’s because we don’t know how.”

He said the best way to help someone who is unemployed is to help engage them in dialogue with someone who might know of a job, or know someone that knows about potential employment possibilities. He said magic happens when people are reaching out and dialoging with others.

“Every day people come into my office who have been working for 20 years and now they don’t know what to do. They’ve always had something to come to and now companies take weeks to interview, don’t return phone calls. It’s a different world. Those folks who love us should be the ones helping us,” Brock said.

Besides the resource centers, the church also maintains to help people search for job postings and other opportunities, as well as make profiles of potential employees available for companies looking for workers. Kline said the bottom line of the church’s employment thrust is to help people help themselves.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.