President Barack Obama, concerned about the discrimination faced by the long-term unemployed, decided to call on the nation's corporate leaders to change the way they hire workers.
The press event, which had several corporate chief executives from different business sectors, such as eBay and Boeing, told reporters that 21 of the nation's 50 largest companies agreed to participate in the initiative, according to the New York Times. That includes Silicon Valley's Apple.
“Folks who’ve been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work,” Obama said at the event. “Just because you’ve been out of work for a while does not mean that you are not a hard worker. It just means you had bad luck or you were in the wrong industry or you lived in a region of the country that’s catching up a little slower than others in the recovery.”
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Instead, employers need to realize being out of work isn't about ability but circumstance. "They’ve been dealing with the aftermath of this really tough job market and all they need is a fair shot," he said.
Obama was introduced at the event by a formerly jobless and homeless veteran who took part in an apprenticeship program with PG&E. “The work PG&E provided to me restored purpose to my life and gave me a sense of direction once again,” Varela said. “And I am glad that PG&E is expanding the PowerPathway program to address long-term unemployed and for signing on the president’s initiative.”
The administration is giving a $150 million grant to businesses looking to create programs or partnerships to train or place the long-term unemployed workers.
Nearly four million Americans are considered long-term unemployed and studies show that companies tend to be more skeptical of applicants who have long-term unemployment gaps, according to the Times. A Northeastern University study showed that out few people out of work for six months or more received responses. In another study, only 4 percent of those unemployed for eight months were called for interviews.
“There is a negative cycle in long-term unemployment, and that negative cycle comes from the fact that people who stay unemployed for six months or longer face significant disadvantages in the labor market simply on the basis of their status of being long-term unemployed,” Gene B. Sperling, the president’s national economics adviser, said.
Sperling and the White House began figuring out Best Practices
to persuade employers to get out of the mindset and change how they screen applicants. Obama also directed the federal government to follow the same guidelines.
Appealing to employers directly helps publicize the plight of the long-term unemployed, and jobs at top companies -- including the tech giant Apple, shouldn't be out of reach for anyone.