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Posts Tagged ‘jobs’


Photo: Rupa Shenoy
Mayor Betty Roppe oversaw Prineville’s transformation after data centers injected new life. “We can keep the small-town feel. I’m sure of it,” Roppe says. “We don’t want to be a big city.”

I’m not always a fan of today’s tech giants, but I have to admit that when they provide jobs where there were no jobs, they are saviors.

This story tells how a dying town proved it was worthy of a tech company’s investment. Rupa Shenoy at Public Radio International reports this episode of PRI’s “50 States: America’s place in a shrinking world.”

“Everything people post on Facebook actually lives somewhere in real life — like a small town in central Oregon that was once decimated by the loss of manufacturing industries. …

“Steve Forrester’s grandparents got here in 1902. When he was growing up in the 1970s, Prineville was idyllic.

“ ‘It was a magical, magical place to grow up,’ he remembers. … ‘And everybody had a job, and everyone did well.’ …

“But when the federal government restricted logging and increased protections for animals … the city’s milling industry was decimated … Forrester took a job with one of the few remaining mills, because he wanted to live in Prineville.

“Eric Klann was driven by the same devotion. He’s the seventh generation of his family to live here. Out of college, he also took a job in Prineville that he knew wouldn’t last. …

“A few years later, the nationwide housing bubble burst and demand declined for housing parts made by the last mills. Lots of people lost jobs and left. It felt like Prineville couldn’t catch a break.

“Both Forrester and Klann felt lucky to land jobs at the city — Forrester as city manager, Klann as city engineer. Their chance to save Prineville came in 2009, arriving in the form of a mysterious email from a company called Vitesse.

“ ‘For the longest time, we had no idea what Vitesse meant,’ he says. …

“Vitesse wanted to build a big warehouse and fill it with rows and rows of servers — servers that tend to get hot. Central Oregon’s cold nights could cool them naturally. Klann remembers the first in-person meeting with Vitesse, and how it felt like Prineville’s last chance. …

“Klann and Forrester decided to outperform the other cities Vitesse was considering. They showed the company their small town could move at big-city speed, by responding to Vitesse’s questions day and night. …

“Their strategy worked, and in 2010, Prineville finally learned who Vitesse actually is. Mayor Betty Roppe was at the new data center’s groundbreaking.

“ ‘They had the big finger with a thumb-up Facebook sign, and we all pressed the button and it lit up, et cetera,’ she recounts. ‘That was the big announcement — it was Facebook.’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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Pretty much every job I’ve had since the early 1990s came with a free mug. One day I decided to line up my job mugs and take a picture.

The one on the far left is from a Yankee Swap at either Harte-Hanks or Charlesbridge. I can’t remember which. The second is a stand-in for Harvard Business Review. I broke my HBR mug and didn’t love the job enough to replace the free one with a paid one.

The next two are from jobs I had in Minnesota. My husband was running a company in Maple Grove, so I moved to Minneapolis for a few years.

The two mugs after Minnesota represent 15 years of my life and two small pensions. My final paid job (the cute mug with attached spoon) lasted eight months before I decided all I wanted to do now was volunteer in ESL classes for immigrants.

If you have photos of your own job mugs, I’d love to share them.

I’m laughing at myself here.

101117-my-life-in-mugs

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Photo: DW/Bern Jutrczenka
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, has welcomed people fleeing war.

Here’s another approach to finding jobs for migrants. This one involves a website started in Germany, where the nationwide employment rate is high.

Jona Kallgren writes at the Boston Globe, “A startup company in Berlin is trying to help integrate last year’s flood of migrants into the German workforce with a tailor-made online job market for new arrivals.

“The website Migrant Hire, was founded earlier this year by a mix of Germans and migrants, and operates with a staff of five volunteers out of a shared working space in a former industrial building in Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district.

“More than 8,000 migrants have registered on the website — a fraction of the 890,000 asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany last year but a good sign that some are serious about finding employment.

“The website helps migrants create resumes that match German standards, then connects the applicants to companies. It’s free for the migrants and relies on donors and volunteers.

“MigrantHire cofounder Hussein Shaker has channeled his own experience trying to find work as a migrant into helping others. Back in the Syrian city of Aleppo, he studied information technology, but when he came to Germany he couldn’t find any work in the IT sector. Instead he ended up working in a call center while learning German.

“When he was approached with the idea of MigrantHire by Remi Mekki, a Norwegian entrepreneur living in Berlin, he immediately quit his job and threw himself into the project.

“On a normal workday he and others help migrants write resumes, answer questions about German employment law and help migrants apply for jobs that companies have posted on the website.” More here.

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Photo: STR/Reuters /Landov
Prisoners at Halden in Norway have private rooms, which all have a fridge, desk and flat-screen TV. Inmates who don’t follow the rules and attend classes and counseling are sent to conventional prisons. NPR story here.

A perhaps surprising finding: In Norway, spending time in prison, where there are intensive job-training opportunities, results in 27 percent less recidivism than being sentenced to something lighter, like community service or probation.

As reported last summer in Science Newsline, “The research project ‘The Social Costs of Incarceration’ is the largest study of imprisonment and return to a normal life that has ever been conducted in Europe.

“In the study, researchers looked at prison sentences linked to recidivism. In addition, the researchers looked at the extent to which former inmates have returned to work. What makes the project unique is linking large administrative data sets to data sets from the courts.

“They have done this to measure the effect of what happens when the criminals have received different penalties for the same offense because they randomly met different judges in court with different leniency towards incarcerating. In other words: if a judge incarcerates differently for the same offense, what will be the consequences for the offender in the long term?

” ‘The results show that the Norwegian prison model with extensive use of labour training while serving time, gives surprisingly good results,’ says Professor Katrine Løken at the Department of Economics, University of Bergen (UiB), who led the research project.

“The study shows: Five years after conviction, there is a 27 per cent lower risk that convicts who have been in prison have committed new crimes, compared to those who were given more lenient penalties, like probation and community service. For the 60 per cent of inmates who had not been employed for the last five years preceding the conviction, the decline in criminal activity is even bigger. … The study is published as a Working Paper in Economics at the University of Bergen.”

Løken doesn’t necessarily think the answer is sending more people to prison; providing more job training outside of prison might be.

” ‘A relevant question is whether we should aim for full package of job-training outside prison. But research shows that work training outside of prison is more difficult to enforce. It appears that a certain element of coercion is needed to get offenders on a new track.’

“Katrine Løken stresses that the research does not take a stand on the principle of imprisonment, but simply says something about how prison is perceived for the individual, and shows the effects of different sentencing.”

Many studies show that incarceration in the United States leads to more crime, not less. Different kinds of prisons, for sure.

More here.

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Photo: David Wells

A wonderful organization, the Providence Granola Project, has just received some well-deserved attention in the food magazine Edible Rhody. In fact the magazine has prepared a short video that says it all, here.

Nancy Kirsch writes, “Established in 2008, Providence Granola, now part of Beautiful Day (a nonprofit organization founded in 2012), has a three-fold mission, says Providence Granola co-founder Keith Cooper: Provide job training for immigrants in Rhode Island who are unlikely to otherwise find gainful employment, and educate community members about refugees and refugee resettlement, all by making and selling delicious artisanal granola.

“Cooper and his lean professional staff, including Anne Dombrofski, director of strategic partnerships, work out of the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, a co-working space in Davol Square in Providence. …

“Hand labor is done by a small team at Amos House, a soup kitchen and comprehensive social service agency in Providence. …

“The trainees are immigrants—often, but not always, refugees—who have come recently to the United States. They attend classes at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island (Dorcas) and, through its assessment process, have been identified as less likely to find employment within the next year, given their lack of first-language literacy and absence of English skills.

“ ‘If we can speed up someone’s entry into the job market from a year or more to between three and six months … there’s a huge benefit,’ says Cooper.”

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I like this story about a couple of idealistic young men who have created fair-wage, environmentally sustainable textile jobs in the United States with the help of customers’ T-shirt collections. Their company, Project Repat, is “repatriating” some textile jobs lost overseas years ago.

From the website: “Project Repat story starts in Nairobi, Kenya, where Project Repat co-founder Ross Lohr was doing non-profit education work. After sitting in traffic for 2 hours, he discovered the cause of the jam: an overturned fruit and vegetable rickshaw pushed by a Kenyan man wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I Danced My Ass Off at Josh’s Bar Mitzvah.’

“Amazed by all the incredible t-shirts that get sold off and sent overseas by non-profit and for-profit companies in America, [Nathan Rothstein and I] began working with Kenyan artisans to design new products out of castaway t-shirts, including bags, scarves, and re-fabricated t-shirts. Those products were ‘repatriated’ (or returned to the country of origin) back to the United States and sold to raise money for non-profits working in East Africa.

“When trying to sell our upcycled products at markets in Boston, we quickly discovered the difference between a ‘good idea’ and a real business: while potential customers liked the idea of a repatriated upcycled t-shirt bag, they didn’t like it enough to actually buy it. What customers did ask for, time and time again, was an affordable t-shirt quilt.

“We had heard enough: instead of shipping goods all around the country, why not create fair wage jobs in the United States and create a product that has a lot of meaning for customers? As they say, the rest is history. Rather than ‘repatriating’ t-shirts back to the United States, Project Repat creates a high quality, affordable t-shirt quilt with minimal carbon impact.”

The factories are located in cities once-renowned for textiles: Fall River, Massachusetts (where “Precision Sportswear has been able to succeed by specializing in custom work and smaller production runs for made-in-USA. companies”), and Morgantown, North Carolina (where “each worker at Opportunity Threads is part of a collaborative working model, [and] each employee adds input to the production process and has the opportunity to earn an ownership stake in the company”).

I was not able to find on the website what happened to the artisans in Africa when the company’s focus changed. Ping @lunastellablog1 if you know.

On this Repat page, you tell the company what size quilt to make with your T-shirts, what size panels, and what color PolarTec backing you want.

Photo: Project Repat

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After work yesterday, I went with a colleague to observe a parent-engagement program organized by Lawrence Community Works (LCW) at the Oliver Partnership School, in Lawrence, Mass. I had long been interested in LCW’s use of circles to build a sense of community among strangers of very different backgrounds.

Lawrence is what is sometimes called a Gateway City, meaning it’s always been a gateway to the U.S. culture and experience for new waves of immigrants. It currently has a large Spanish-speaking Dominican population and foreign-born and native-born residents from all over.

The parent night was the third in a series. In the first two, facilitators had helped the participants to come up with agreed-upon ground rules (come on time, no cellphones, respectful attention to one another) and to choose an “obstacle” that they would like to address related to their children’s life at the school. They had selected recess, which is only 10 minutes. (Lunch is 15 minutes.)

Everything was conducted in both Spanish and English.

As the evening was getting going, Tony told me his children love school. He believes a good education is vital. He wishes he had more. He did learn Spanish and English in addition to his native Portuguese. The languages help him in his job working with troubled youth, a job he loves to go to every day.

In a warm-up exercise, we stood in a circle and stated our name, followed by our favorite fruit and the name and favorite fruit of everyone who spoke previously. It was fun and a great equalizing experience as anyone can be good at that and anyone can struggle with it. The people who went last had about 20 names and fruits to report and did really well despite language differences.

To discuss the recess issue, we separated into two groups — those who felt comfortable speaking English (which included the two teachers in attendance) and those who felt comfortable speaking Spanish. At the end we came together with the results of our investigation of three questions: why having a longer recess is important, why it might have been set up that way, and what parents themselves could do about it. (Asking the administration’s help was to wait for a joint meeting in June.)

I won’t make this post much longer, but I do want to say that I thought the way this was handled was very good. Parents appeared to feel that their opinions were welcome and that they could accomplish something. Continued engagement with them will be important as the work is a piece of a much bigger project by LCW that aims to help parents get skills for jobs. Unemployment is a serious issue in a city where many of the people are poor, have not had good educational opportunities, and are still learning English.

Photo: Family literacy night at the Oliver Partnership School in Lawrence, Mass.

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