Mr. Jones and I spent 20 minutes painstakingly filling out an job application online. He listed every past employer in his life (which totaled only two, because he’d worked for his family business for forty years until the store was forced to close).
There was just one last question that stood between him and stocking pet food in the middle of the night: “Can we check your credit history?” The question made him hesitate, because past medical expenses had ruined Mr. Jones’s credit and he was afraid this would make him a weak candidate.
He clicked “No” and was immediately kicked out of the application process.
To say that applying for a minimum wage job is tedious and personally invasive is an understatement. I have been shocked at how much sensitive information is being asked of Thrive DC’s clients. They frequently have to give their social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, reference phone numbers and more, just to add their resume to the countless other resumes these chain companies receive for each opening.
But the most frustrating part of volunteering with the employment program is knowing that nearly all of these men have a strong work ethic and employment history; their greatest obstacle is simply their lack of computer skills.
There are virtually no jobs today that one can apply for without a computer. The absence of computer skills means it generally takes a client almost twice as long as someone else to apply online. Not owning a computer also means that clients have to use public computer labs: which is helpful and frustrating at the same time since they’re often limited to just an hour each session.
In addition to struggling with technology and invasive questions, there are simple logistics Thrive DC’s clients have to overcome that make it really hard to work, such as: a lack of transportation, a lack of a professional wardrobe, lack of child care, and especially lack of a college degree.
Nearly every employer wants their employees to have a college degree regardless of the skill level needed to perform the job.
Despite the long odds, I’m happy to have been a part of many success stories with the employment program. At least half of the clients ultimately find employment thanks to the support of their case manager and the other volunteers in the computer lab.
Besides – it’s all worth it when a client tells you with a BIG smile that he’s finally got a new job!