By Beth Volpert Johansen
The SE Gwinnett CoOp is known for providing the basic needs for families in crisis. Food and emergency bill assistance have long been the staples of the CoOp. In order to qualify, recipients first needed to fulfill an interview session to assess the needs of each family. For one interviewer, one commonality began to surface repeatedly. “I began to notice that many of the people I interviewed were either unemployed or underemployed,” says Linda Bryant. “Many of them had been mid-level management, laborers, and business owners with a variety of skill levels.”
For the former Georgia State University Human Resources trainer and developer, the instinct to assist further than groceries for the short-term became a mission. Linda, along with another CoOp volunteer, William Miller, a retired businessman with a knack for resumes, put the wheels in motion for what is now called the PUSH Program.
The PUSH Program is open to the general public in order to serve a greater need in the community. CoOp Director, Laura Drake says, “We want to reach people before things get to a crisis level.” She explains that most of the community served by the CoOp didn’t get to a crisis mode overnight. They may have lost a job completely, had hours cut, taken a pay cut, or are underemployed in comparison with their previous work. Many factors contribute to the need for CoOp services, but job loss and illness are high on the list.
Once the CoOp relocated to the current building in Grayson, space for PUSH was no longer an issue. Linda and William began to redesign the program to include both resume building and behavioral interview skills. “Behavioral interviewing is an approach that helps people to convey and articulate their particular skill-set,” says Linda. “We go through many steps and do a mock interview to help them practice.”
William’s workshop covers resume topics that lead to building an effective and concise resume. “We have limited class sizes so that we can be most effective,” says Linda. “Each participant must write their own resume, but we are here to guide them through the job search process.”
As a volunteer at the CoOp, Linda was able to apply her many years of Human Resources skills to a very real issue for those people she interviewed each week. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime became a sort-of mantra for Linda as she formulated a plan, pitched it to the CoOp, and recruited William to fill a major role in the PUSH program. “We feed people in many ways here at the CoOp,” says Linda. “The Word ‘feed’ can be wide open; we feed the soul, spirit, and the physical body.”
Feeding people, in the broadest context, means sharing your skills with others for the best outcome possible. Where there is a need among the people who come to the CoOp for food, there is a further reaching problem of those who are on the brink of crisis who need a hand in finding the work they are skilled to do. The Behavioral Interviewing and Resume Workshops are an invaluable tool offered by professionals to the general public for the purpose of helping the unemployed and underemployed realize their work potential. Both of these workshops are free, but require pre-registration.
For more information call the Co-op at 770 985-5229 and press option 7 or go to the CoOp website http://www.segwinnettcoop.org and click on the Horizons’ or Job Seekers button to register for these workshops.