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Help and Hope for Chicago's Long Term Unemployed

Media IndustryUnemployment and LayoffsRichard M. Daley

Thousands of people in Illinois are considered long term unemployed, meaning out of work for six months or longer. Lourdes Duarte looks at a Chicago jobs program that offers new hope.

34 year old Del Phillips of Chicago has a masters degree, a decade of experience, and a positive attitude. Yet, he's been out of work for the better part of three years. "We're not stupid people, but sometimes we're made to feel that way." Four days after President Obama was sworn in in 2009, Phillips was laid off. "Intitially I thought well I may 2-3 months I might be unemployed if things are tough right now. And then two months turned to six months, six months turned to 12 months, and it went on for 22 months."

It was long enough to lose his Lakeview condo - but not his will to work. He landed another good job, but lost it in a large layoff six months later when his new company faced a budget crisis. That left him with not one, but two gaping holes in his resume. Enter Chicago Career Tech. It's a public - private partnership started by Mayor Daley to provide job re-training for top talent among the unemployed, people like Del Phillips. "There is a skills gap. There's you know approximately 140,000 unemployed in Chicago and there's 120,000 job postings, so we know there's a gap," says Chicago Career Tech President Marie Trzupek Lynch. "And so our goal is to really be that intermediary... to really get in there and understand what the businesses need so we can align the retraining to get people into those jobs."

Many unemployed have gone back to school, not always an affordable option with little or no money coming in. That's why Chicago Career tech has partnered with schools like Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy - picking up the re-training tab for qualified applicants. Howard Tullman is the President and CEO. "When they're done, they'll have the ability to answer the question that we think 100% of every business in the world is now asking which is how do I get my business on the web? How do I take all my analog materials and turn it into digital? How do I get my story out there? What's a blog? What's Twitter? What's a social media program?" Phillips had a social media headstart with his blog" "Reframe Shame." It keeps his writing skills sharp and provides a forum to openly discuss the challenges and frustrations of long term unemployment.

"The first thing that comes to mind is rejection. That has been probably the most difficult part of unemployment. Everybody says stay positive and if you just do this this will happen and if you just do this this will happen. And I hate to say it, a lot of those are cliches especially in this economy." At Tribeca, Phillips has earned two important certifications in social media marketing. Another partner, Chicago Public Media, offered him an internship. There are no job guarantees, but it's his shot at proving he's hireable.

"Maybe there was a time in the 90's when the economy was booming that people who were not employed were maybe lazy. But now you're dealing with a lot of people, millions of people who have degrees, they've worked a long time, and they have valuable experience."

Our experts advise; put yourself out there in person as much as you can, it's easy to get lost in an electronic inbox. Open your mind to careers that may not be your first choice. And here's something new, look for companies offering paid apprenticeships. Like internships, they offer valuable real job experience, but you don't have to be a student to qualify. As of February 2, Del is still waiting for a job offer. But he's hopeful since more than 150 companies, including non-profits, have hired Chicago Career Tech graduates full time. C-C-T is accepting applications now for their next classes of unemployed top talent. You can find the application by clicking here.

Here's yet another hopeful statistic. Three-and-a-half to four million jobs change hands every month in this country. So, there is definitely hiring going on.

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