CANADA

Self-help for the jobless

SUZANNE ZWARUN July 4 1983
CANADA

Self-help for the jobless

SUZANNE ZWARUN July 4 1983

Self-help for the jobless

CANADA

By carpenter Bob Kelly’s count, he has applied for 500 jobs this year and been rejected each time. But if the 36-year-old Calgarian failed until recently to find work since his layoff 14 months ago, he at least found satisfaction helping people in equally dire straits find jobs. As cofounder of the South Calgary Employment Group, Kelly has helped put 190 unemployed Calgarians to work at everything from cooking to construction.

The Prince Edward Island native had worked steadily since he moved to Calgary in 1964. But last February, after being out of work for almost a year, Kelly’s confidence began to waver. After

attending mass at St. Gerard’s Roman Catholic Church in south Calgary with another parishioner, Ron Martin, Kelly says that they “started talking about how bad things were for so many people.” Kelly and Martin, who had been laid off after 25 years in the oil industry, drew up a proposal for a weekly group meeting on ways to find jobs for unemployed workers.

St. Gerard’s donated the church hall, the Knights of Columbus contributed a telephone and the church bulletin announced the formation of the new group. Twenty people turned up for the first meeting in mid-March; 260 are currently registered, running the gamut of

occupations from engineers and laborers to nurses and domestic helpers. Of the 190 jobs found so far, 84 have provided permanent, full-time work.

Members help each other with the preparation of resumés and trade hints on how to apply for jobs. “Everyone can use a little instruction,” says Kelly, who has taken on a major portion of the canvassing of potential employers. In the first 70 inquiries he found 30 jobs, 20 of them full-time. Some employers who were unable to provide jobs offered a discount to group members on construction materials for jobs elsewhere. Members also share jobs. Kelly and a lawyer recently teamed up on a $12-an-hour job laying cement blocks, each making $6 an hour. Since neither employers nor employees are charged job-finding fees, the group lacks money to advertise. But there has been enough free publicity to spread word of the hotline telephone number (255-6598), which is manned daily by group volunteers.

Among the group’s successes has been a man who landed a $40,000-a-year sales job and a woman who got work cooking for a farm family at $500 a month plus board. Because of the group’s success, word has percolated beyond the parish, and now three other churches have affiliated themselves with the group. According to Kelly, the secret of success is persistence, combined with careful screening of candidates sent out to jobs. “We refer only three people at a time to an employer,” he said. “People are getting sick of going to Canada Manpower and finding 100 other competitors for every job they’re sent out on.”

One potential employer, Jim Galpin, assistant branch manager of Prudential Assurance, is still screening group members for a sales position. “My experience with Canada Manpower hasn’t been that good,” he says. “I was very impressed with Bob’s initiative. That type of self-motivation was what I was interested in.”

For many who have joined, the Calgary group is a last resort. “We have 65 highly qualified professionals on the list right now,” says Kelly. “We have people who were making $100,000 a year, and they can’t find a job anywhere. They’re willing to do anything.” The Kellys have just found temporary work. In mid-June, he and his wife, Audrey, 25, started as cook and camp attendant, respectively, at a drilling camp 32 km from Hanna, Alta. Although Kelly’s work problems are temporarily over, he is still concerned about the people who are languishing on unemployment. For them, the wait goes on.

SUZANNE ZWARUN