#LaborOfLove

I remember the spring of my senior year at Purdue University vividly. It was a time of great fear and desperation. I interviewed with 50 companies and received 50 rejection letters while my engineering classmates fielded multiple job opportunities. I feel that my blindness hurt my ability to get a job offer. I didn't give up, though, and eventually received offers from AT&T and IBM. It took large companies with some open-minded managers to take a shot on the engineer who was blind. That overall experience was one of the first major hurdles I had to leap. It taught me a lasting lesson about the value of work in my life.

Work is part of every person's identity. It's how we gain economic and personal independence. But getting the job isn't always simple. Many complex barriers can stand in the way of that important first job and ongoing employment.

On Labor Day, we pay tribute to American workers who can be successful and celebrate their many civic and economic accomplishments. Yet, every day, many of our fellow Americans are striving to overcome challenges to obtaining and sustaining fulfilling work.

There are too many people who work part time but need full-time work, and many others who are underemployed. According to PayScale's report, The War on the American Worker: The Underemployed, 46 percent of nearly 100,000 workers surveyed from 2014 to 2016 felt they were underemployed, defined as "working part time when you'd rather be working full time, or not using your education and training in your current role."

When we are underemployed and looking for work, we rely on our support systems. We rely on our family, friends and other community members. Job-training programs, like those available at Goodwill® organizations across the country, are part of the solution and integrate with that support system. Goodwill is far more than a thrift store improving our environment; last year, one in every 200 people hired in America secured his or her job with the help of Goodwill's job training and placement services.

If you love your job or believe that work has given you dignity and independence, we invite you to pledge support for those in need of a hand up through the power of work. In observance of Labor Day, between August 30 and September 6, we invite you to sign our #LaborOfLove pledge to spread awareness about Goodwill and the importance of job placement and training programs for people looking for employment.

How can we connect more of our neighbors with opportunities to work and advance their careers?

Goodwill understands that preparing for a career often means going back to school. We provide education opportunities for people to earn high school diplomas, post-secondary education, and technical certificates. Several Goodwill organizations now operate adult charter schools called Excel Centers to support people earning high school diplomas and post-secondary credentials. This concept has been proven in Indianapolis, Austin and recently expanded to Washington, D.C., and other locations across the country.

According to an analysis by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Our workforce needs to upskill and earn the credentials that mid-market jobs demand. Goodwill Industries International's Community College/Career Collaboration (C4) Initiative is a national program addressing the education gap. Together, 77 Goodwill organizations, 144 community colleges and a number of business partners collaborate to expand skill-training and educational opportunities in local communities.

It's difficult balancing our demanding lives while earning credentials that matter so employers will hire us. Local Goodwill organizations customize services to help each individual and household along the road to personal and family sustainability by addressing career pathing, job searching, child care, transportation and financial wellness needs.

Considering the effects of the economy on an individual's social and economic realities gives us a sense of the whole person looking for employment and a career. Every day, Goodwill helps people earn jobs. Last year, Goodwill organizations collectively provided in-person services to nearly 2 million individuals. In 2016, we hope that number will continue to grow, and, with your help and advocacy, it can. Sign the #LaborOfLove pledge today.