Unemployment Carnage: Help Needed

"Carnage" was the term Joe Carbone used in a recent 60 Minutes interview to describe the current state of the unemployed in the state of Connecticut where he heads the unemployment division. He expressed shock that our country as a whole has not banded together to put maximum efforts into solving the problem.

Why? Is it battle fatigue? Have we all heard so much about unemployment over the past four years we have been in this great recession that we have grown weary? If so, then by extension it's easy to understand how the unemployed situation can be viewed as carnage.

In Connecticut, a special program places unemployed folks through a boot camp-like retraining to prepare them for the workforce. They typically have a variety of issues to face, ranging from psychological problems to a potential needed update of their skill sets. There is hope, however, as Carbone reports that 53 percent of them are able to find jobs and go back to work.

I wondered what was happening in my hometown of St. Louis. Consequently, I met with Roni Chambers, the head of the GO! Network. Chambers herself was released from Anheuser-Busch after 23 years. She decided to dedicate her efforts into the network to assist others in the same plight.

"It breaks my heart to see middle-aged men embarrassed to tell their neighbors they've lost their jobs," Chambers said. "They live in good-sized houses in West County and show up at St. Patrick's Center downtown totally out of their element." She went on to explain the shame and angst they feel. Most are able to hide their job loss since they have home offices. "They really don't know how to ask for help or even connect with the other folks who are attending the weekly training sessions," said Chambers.

If the unemployed continue to hide their job losses, they only compound the difficult process of finding their next job. As Chambers and Carbone also pointed out, we live in a connected, social media-based society. Consequently, "they really need to tell people if they want to have a good shot at finding another job," said Chambers.

Suddenly the term "carnage" from 60 Minutes came to mind. I asked Chambers why she's been unable to secure additional funding. The results of the program should speak for themselves. Is it because society has moved on to other issues and problems?

The issue of chronic unemployment continues to strike a chord with me, however, because I've come into direct contact with hundreds of these folks over the past year in one-on-one, small group and large workshop sessions that I've offered at both the GO! Network and a similar network, BBJ, Business People Between Jobs, run by Mike McCarty. In offering a workshop that helps the participants apply the right-brain writing methodology I learned 12 years ago, I endeavor to stimulate them to think differently about future employment, their current situation and the job search ahead.

I've seen the haunting looks of desperation, dejection and even depression. I'm amazed that participants are able to overcome their fears and feelings to move forward and do what's needed. Sometimes they lose their houses, belongings and even families along the way.

The public sector provides unemployment compensation, but that is limited and barely qualifies as a lifeline. An answer to this pressing problem of unemployment resides in both the public and private sectors as Carbone's program and the GO! Network have demonstrated. But these programs desperately need additional funding if they are to continue and succeed.

Americans have always loved the old-fashioned come-from-behind story. My hometown St. Louis Cardinals pulled off the nearly impossible World Series Championship last year despite the fact that they were 10 and one-half games out of contention late in the season.

My question: Who is willing to help the team of unemployed come from behind?