Recently, I was honored to join faith and community leaders in Brevard County, Florida for the launch of “Faith in the Future” – a new initiative to better serve job seekers. Due to the transitions in the NASA Space Shuttle program based in Brevard, thousands of aerospace engineers are unemployed and looking for new opportunities.
Brevard Workforce, the local administrator of government workforce development funds, is collaborating with congregations and community groups to support and expand “Job Clubs”. A job club is a support group of unemployed individuals who meet on a regular basis to learn job search skills and techniques such as LinkedIn, expand professional networks, and receive emotional support. The Department of Labor estimates that there are over 3,500 active Job Clubs hosted by congregations, public libraries, community colleges, nonprofit organizations and One Stop Career Centers.
The Administration awarded $15 million to Brevard Workforce to help re-employ aerospace workers dislocated as a result of the Space Shuttle retirement. A portion of these funds is helping to support the Job Clubs program that works in partnership with community and faith-based organizations. The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor has been instrumental in supporting the community leaders of Brevard County in planning the Job Clubs through their own Job Club Initiative
While in Brevard, I met with Ronald Caswell and William Bender, two distinguished aerospace engineers who are now partnering with Brevard Workforce. Both Mr. Caswell and Mr. Bender spoke eloquently about their own experience, and offered excellent guidance to the participants regarding the essential features of effective job support initiatives.
Men and women in Brevard County are just like those nationwide facing the challenges of a job search. Because these meetings take place in congregations and community-settings, people feel comfortable and at ease helping offset the oftentimes isolating nature of a job search.
I would like to thank Brevard Workforce for their gracious invitation, and all of the faith and community leaders—including many employers—in Brevard who are sharing their time and talent through Job Clubs, employment ministries and other programs for job seekers. Brevard County has been the technology center and launching pad for Space Shuttles that have expanded human knowledge for years. With their tenacity to expand employment opportunities, the citizens of Brevard County will continue to advance space exploration and reach new horizons for years to come.
Alexia Kelley is the Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.