Partnership Provides Jobs for Jobless

Monday, April 11, 2016

Collaboration recruits workers from high-unemployment areas

By Deb Song and Kathleen Ziemer

When Juwana Dorsey returned home to Chicago from Minnesota with her toddler daughter, she jumped into a job search but couldn’t find work.

“It didn’t matter how many applications I sent out or how well the job lined up with my experience,” she said. “I would never get any response.”

Eventually, her unemployment insurance ran out, and she was behind on her bills. Then Dorsey saw an opening for a job listed on Rush University Medical Center’s employment website.

Her application process took her to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which partners with Rush in placing people in jobs at the Medical Center. Skills arranged an interview with Rush and helped Dorsey prepare for it, then kept in touch with her throughout the hiring process.

“I can’t believe how fast Rush offered me the job,” said Dorsey, an environmental services technician. “It was two days after my interview. I hope others can have the same positive experience as me.”

Rush and Skills have worked together during the past four years to identify qualified candidates who live in neighborhoods with unemployment rates of more than 15 percent to fill appropriate positions at the Medical Center. In 2015, Rush hired 38 employees through Skills, and Rush is committed to filling 50 positions with Skills’ candidates this years.

Dorsey told her story at an April 6 press conference at Rush attended by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, during which Skills unveiled its 2015 annual report. Emanuel announced the economic and social impact of Skills’ work, which focuses on helping unemployed and underemployed Chicago-area residents find jobs.

“The impact of each of these placements extends well beyond the job seeker to their family and into their community,” Emanuel said.  “I commend each of the businesses that have made the commitment to work with Skills, hire the unemployed, and make an impact in our neighborhoods that need it most.”

‘A shared commitment to make a difference in people’s lives’

Skills helps Rush and other employers find overlooked gems such as Dorsey.

“Many of the highly motivated, diverse and dedicated individuals we’ve hired through Skills came to us with a history of long-term unemployment and might not have been identified through traditional hiring practices,” Larry Goodman, MD, CEO of Rush and president of Rush University, said during the press conference.

“The relationship between Rush and Skills is more than just a partnership,” Goodman said. “It is a shared commitment to make a difference in people’s lives by connecting members of our community with meaningful opportunities to build a rewarding career.”

In 2015, Skills placed a total of more than 1,000 unemployed and underemployed job seekers into positions with more than 40 employers, generating an additional $11.4 million in wages. Significantly, 43 percent of job seekers placed by Skills came from communities with unemployment rates averaging above 20 percent.

“By connecting qualified, motivated job seekers from these communities to corporations with current hiring needs, Skills acts as a ‘ZIP code equalizer’ for job seekers who may not be identified through traditional hiring practices,” said Marie Trzupek Lynch, Skills president and CEO. “Skills is connecting our employer partners, such as Rush University Medical Center, Yelp, Freedman Seating Corporation and more than 40 other Chicago-area businesses to the neighborhoods and populations most affected by unemployment.”

‘I always wanted to work here’

Raul Camarena is another employee who found work through Rush’s partnership with Skills. Due to family circumstances, Camarea had to drop out of high school. He eventually earned his GED and became a , a patient care technician, or PCT.

Camarena gave Emanuel and others a tour of the inpatient floor where he was scheduled to work later in the day. “Skills got my feet in the door here,” he told the mayor.

Camarena, who is currently pursuing a nursing degree, provides assistance to nursing teams as they care for patients. He received a call for a Rush interview within two days of filling out the online application with Skills. Having worked for three years as a part-time PCT in other hospitals, he knew he wanted to be at Rush.

“I always wanted to work here,” he said.