A trip to the White House showed a Mpls. employment expert that the president is counting on groups like hers.
Jane Samargia, executive director of Minneapolis-based HIRED, was one of 30 employment experts tapped to visit President Obama at the White House on Jan. 31 as he unveiled legislation and funding to get the long-term unemployed back to work. Each year HIRED retrains thousands of laid-off workers and places them in colleges, training programs and in manufacturing plants that need skilled talent.
Q: How did you come to be invited to the White House?
A: It all came together so quickly. Erick Ajax, the chair of our M-Powered [manufacturing training program] was invited to the president’s State of the Union address and the White House quickly arranged this follow meeting for that Friday. Erick had a [prior] business commitment and asked if I would go in his place to represent our M-Powered collaboration. Of course I said, “Yes, I will go.” I was so excited.
Q: So how does Obama plan to get the long-term unemployed back to work?
A: The thing that really struck me is that he kept referring to the fact that what has worked … to move the long-term unemployed into employment is partnerships between the business community and those nonprofits in community-based organizations. The organizations select and prepare and help the [unemployed] move into job training programs and then connect them with employers and support services. He made the point over and over that it takes those partnerships working together [to attack the problem].
Q: Isn’t that HIRED’s expertise?
A: Yes. HIRED, Hennepin Technical College, E.J. Ajax & Sons [in Fridley], the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association and other employers here have been working on this issue since 2005 [through a manufacturing-centered training program called M-Powered]. We have been building that pipeline to produce skilled manufacturing workers. … Creating the workers that employers need and finding employers who need these workers are the two sides of the equation [that we work on].
Q: So what was it like to have the president speak to your issue?
A: Very gratifying, believe me. It was said over and over and over again, that the nonprofit and community-based organizations like ours are the ones who are really crucial in making the connection between the workers and the employers.
Q: Did Obama take any action during this meeting?
A: He signed an executive order that the federal government should not discriminate against the long-term unemployed when it comes to hiring. We hear about that from our own clients. And it was clear that President Obama took that to heart. He said that has to stop. The other thing he brought up was that business leaders told him that the credit reports of the long-term unemployed were sometimes used to discourage hiring. He said that has got to stop, too. He also signed one executive order to make [about] $150 million available from the U.S. Department of Labor [DOL] sometime this month. It will be for organizations to apply for, to form partnerships [that] either continue or start up programs across the nation that get the long-term unemployed to work. These are organizations like our M-Powered program. M-Powered will certainly apply for these funds.