A Conversation about the Church Employment System
January 1988

“A Conversation about the Church Employment System,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 77–78

A Conversation about the Church Employment System

Being out of work can cause serious problems that affect every member of your family. Church members who face this problem can find help through the Church’s employment system. To learn how people can use this service, the Ensign spoke with Clarence Bishop, manager of the employment division of the Welfare Services Department.

Q: Exactly what is the employment system of the Church?

A: The Church’s employment system combines the efforts of individual members, local priesthood leaders, ward and stake employment specialists, and Church employment centers to help people who are out of work find jobs. It also encourages people in low-paying jobs to upgrade their employment.

Q: How does this work?

A: The primary responsibility for securing adequate employment rests with the individual. People can receive help in finding a job from priesthood and Relief Society leaders, who coordinate their efforts through a ward welfare services committee. A ward employment specialist may be called to assist the priesthood and Relief Society leaders.

Job openings and other employment information are obtained from sign-up sheets passed around during quorum and Relief Society meetings on Sunday. After the meetings, a counselor in the bishopric calls committee members together for five or ten minutes to discuss the information they have gathered. Specific assignments regarding members’ needs can then be made.

Q: Do ward leaders have resources other than the information from the sign-up sheets that are passed around?

A: Yes, the ward employment specialist keeps a list of all employed members of the ward showing where they work and what kind of work they do. When members ask employment specialists for job leads, the specialists can refer to the list to see which companies are represented. They can call ward members to see if their companies have job openings, or if the members know of other openings.

When suitable employment leads are not available within the ward, the need is forwarded to the stake employment specialist, who can draw upon resources in other wards of the stake. If a search at this level proves unsuccessful, the person can be referred to a Church employment center.

Q: Do all stake employment specialists have access to employment centers?

A: Most do, and the number of centers is continually expanding. The Church now has eighty-six employment centers located throughout the United States and Canada, and a few in South America and England.

Q: What is the function of Church employment centers?

A: The primary purpose of these centers is to help local priesthood leaders and employment specialists meet the employment needs of their people. The centers extend the reach of employment assistance beyond ward and stake boundaries.

Q: How does a person take advantage of these services?

A: When members have done all they can on their own and still need help finding employment, they should visit with quorum or Relief Society leaders. Leaders may call upon the ward employment specialist for help. Depending on their circumstances, members may be referred to the stake employment specialist and, if necessary, to an employment center. Whenever possible, employment problems should be solved locally, within the ward or stake.

Q: Do you help people find employment at all levels?

A: Yes—although most candidates with above-average qualifications are successful in finding their own employment. As part of the welfare program of the Church, our primary responsibility is to the poor and the needy—those who have real difficulty in finding a job. We also help people who are not able to hold a job become job-ready, and we provide them with the support they need to enter the competitive job market.

Q: How does this program help the underemployed?

A: There are many people in the Church who are underemployed and want to upgrade their employment. Members in this situation also have access to the jobs that are available through the system.

The Church employment program offers no formal career-training programs, but we work hand in hand with Deseret Industries and other community resources to provide job training to people who need it. This temporary on-the-job training can provide people with the experience they need to land and keep a job.

The ward employment specialist can also identify resources in the community that will help people gain better skills for improved employment. These resources include community colleges and training programs that will evaluate skills and abilities and offer career guidance.

Q: How successful is the system?

A: In 1986, 41,851 people in the U.S. and Canada found employment through the system. Of these, nearly 10 percent were not members of the Church. Nonmembers hear of the service through neighbors and friends. Such Christian service helps both our neighbors and the Church.

Q: Do Church employment centers compete with other agencies, specifically private employment agencies?

A: They don’t really duplicate community efforts. The majority of our candidates lack the training or experience that would make them easy to place. Private agencies usually don’t consider taking on such candidates, and state employment agencies have a lot to do. We don’t compete with other agencies; we work with them very closely.

Q: What does the future hold for the Church employment system?

A: We hope to focus more on prevention of unemployment or underemployment than on current job needs. We also anticipate doing more with rehabilitating disabled and hard-to-place individuals.

The Church will soon distribute a set of specialized self-help materials that people can use to learn skills that will help them find a job more effectively.

It is amazing how the stress that comes from unemployment can damage one’s self-esteem. A large percentage of the problems that require a bishop’s counseling stem from financial problems resulting from unemployment or underemployment. A real burden is lifted from bishops as members are helped to be fully and adequately employed.

Clarence Bishop, manager of the Employment Division of the Welfare Services Department. (Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff.)