In February of this year, Governor Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address. In that speech, she praised Oklahoma for its job growth. The state currently boasts a 5.1 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the nation. While Oklahoma residents have a better chance of finding a job, there are still many who need help.
Linda Wilson, Senior Employment Consultant at Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma, works at the Job Connection Center in downtown Oklahoma City. She spends her days helping an average of 40 adults who are searching for jobs. Wilson says the center provides resume training and interview skills, but there’s another, more important aspect of her job.
“Hope. We instill hope,” said Wilson. “That’s the most important thing we do on a regular basis because it can be very discouraging when you’re looking for a job and then you have barriers to finding employment on top of that.”
These barriers can be anything from a lack of education, to legal concerns, to aging. While age and experience go hand in hand, many companies prefer hiring younger employees because it costs less. The more experienced the worker, the more it costs the company to keep him or her. While the Job Connection Center may not be able to reverse age, it strives to help clients reach their full potential through GED courses, reading programs and typing skills classes.
Beyond the individualized attention though, Wilson says part of the service is the fellowship between clients.
“We are definitely a family,” said Wilson. “I have individuals that have moved on, have found employment, you know, two years ago, but they still stop by and say, ‘Hey, Linda, how are you doing? I just wanted to let you know I’m still ok.’”
It’s not uncommon for Job Connection Center clients to look for jobs for 8-12 months, which can be discouraging to clients. So, when Wilson sees a job opening, she makes sure that someone fits the profile. She refuses to set someone up for failure, but if failure does come, she has a solution for that, too.
“I embrace them. I remember being unemployed so I remember what that’s like.” Wilson said. “I let them know you can’t give up hope. If you are rock bottom, there is no place else to go but up. I have two strong shoulders. So whenever they need to scream of cry, I let them lean on me.”
In the past year alone, the five Goodwill Job Connection Centers across Oklahoma have found employment for nearly 500 people. Here are some of the resources the organization offers:
- Connections for clients to get the job training necessary.
- Bus passes to get to interviews.
- General training sessions on the third Friday of each month that cover everything from handshake protocol to professional dress code.
“Life is full of obstacles,” said Wilson, “but you’re either going to get up over them, go around them, sometimes blow them up out of your way but you can’t let them stop you because you can’t be afraid of failure. You can’t be successful unless you fail at something. So you have to try."
The Goodwill Job Connection centers has five different locations in Oklahoma City, Ada, Shawnee, Enid and Midwest City. Their hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and no appointment is necessary. Linda Wilson says that anyone who needs hope is welcome.