President Barack Obama introduced a jobs bill, for which he can’t get support from the Democratic-controlled Senate because his last “shovel-ready” jobs bill was a failure. To combat the high unemployment rate in Georgia, the Department of Labor instituted the Georgia Work$ program in conjunction with various companies. This is a volunteer program where people who are unemployed can work as interns during an eight-week term and learn a new trade. They would collect unemployment benefits during this period and, hopefully, land a job.
Out of a half million unemployed workers, only 92 people applied for the program this year. Since Georgia Work$ began in 2003, only 18 percent of those who completed the training have been hired by the employer that trained them, according to data released by the GDOL. Obviously, the Work$ program is a failure as unemployment in Georgia is higher than 10 percent.
Originally, unemployment compensation was designed to run 16 weeks. Today, however, it is at 99 weeks and the Democrats want to extend it even longer.
“Giving people money for doing nothing is bad,” Newt Gringrich said. “It destroys their independence.” His proposal is that any extension of unemployment compensation should entail attendance in a training program to learn a new skill.
What none of these programs do is match the unemployed with actual job openings throughout the state. Most people are uncomfortable doing work in a field where they have no experience, yet Georgia does nothing to get an unemployed person connected to an employer who is searching for that individual.
The GDOL should become more like an employment agency. The GDOL needs to establish a statewide database of employers looking to fill job vacancies using a set of characteristics that are common to each industry segment. Then, when a person applies for an unemployment compensation extension, that person would be required to fill out the same form using keywords that can be matched to the needs of an employer. If a certain percentage of answers match an employer’s needs, GDOL would connect the employer to the potential employee.
If the company hires this individual, the person comes off of the unemployment rolls and becomes a taxpayer, rather than a tax-taker. The hiring company would be given a tax break for hiring this individual if the new employee is kept on the payroll for at least a year.
The downside to such a program would be an employee in Hinesville matching a job in Columbus. Many of us have had to move many miles to stay employed rather than lose everything. If a move is required, Georgia could guarantee a loan, which would cover the cost of the move so that the worker can accept the new position. Obviously, the ideal situation would be local jobs for local residents, but in the real world this does not always happen. If a person truly wants a job, that individual must make the sacrifice while the state gives support — not handouts.
If there are no jobs in a market segment, then Georgia could guarantee an educational loan and continue unemployment during retraining as suggested by Mr. Gringrich. It’s time that Georgia thinks outside of the box.
Calderone is a conservative who lives in Midway. He is a professional salesperson and for 30 years has written articles for trade publications in various fields.