“Finding Jobs, Lifting Lives,” Liahona, Sept. 2005, 42
Yanira Torres of El Salvador had seen better days. Her husband had left her, she was living with her parents, and she was unemployed and without income. To make matters worse, her young daughter was sick and required constant care.
As a member of the Church, she had heard about LDS Employment Resource Services—there was an office in San Salvador—but until her daughter’s health improved, she couldn’t look for a job, let alone accept a full-time position.
Although Yanira’s father, José, was unemployed himself and not a member of the Church, he offered to visit the LDS employment office and see what he could learn to help his daughter. “Maybe I can bring you something from the center that might be useful to you,” he said.
That decision would change his life.
José enrolled in the Career Workshop and began applying the principles he learned there. Within six months, he had not only found a great job in accounting, but he and his wife had been baptized members of the Church.
For her part, Yanira—after her daughter’s health improved—also applied what she learned at the center and found a job as a receptionist.
Rudy Rodríguez, LDS employment center manager in San Salvador, El Salvador, says that “when a family is out of work, mothers and fathers can look at each other and wonder, ‘What do we feed our family today?’ Worry consumes their days and haunts their nights, leaving little time for other pursuits. And when they finally get that job—that opportunity to care for themselves and their children—it revolutionizes their lives.”
As revolutions go, this has been a quiet one.
Opening employment centers in various locations is not an activity that attracts the attention of many Church members, says Harold C. Brown, managing director of Church Welfare Services. “But it is making a significant difference in the lives of people.”
In 1999 the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approved a significant increase in the number of employment centers in international areas of the Church in order to assist people in acquiring marketable skills to get a good job, start a small business, or improve a small business. Six years later, Church employment offices operate in 43 countries throughout the world. In 2004 they helped more than 200,000 people discover new avenues of education, employment, and self-employment.
The international employment efforts are a welcome help to members of the Church who live in countries where unemployment and underemployment rates are at extreme levels. In many countries, there are no comparable services to help members improve their economic condition. As a result, the Church’s efforts have blessed the lives of thousands of families, returned missionaries, and local Church leaders.
Timothy Q. Sloan, director of LDS Employment Resource Services, is clear about what employment resource centers should look like anywhere in the world. “Our offices are professionally furnished and centrally located,” he says. “They are equipped with computers and Internet connections so that job seekers can search for job leads and review job search information. Also available are information on local schools and resources for the self-employed. More important, the office and volunteer staffs create an atmosphere where unemployed members who feel discouraged or hopeless can come and feel welcome and get help.”
Church volunteers and missionaries staff most of the offices, but some offices have full-time, paid employees. These employees are expected not only to assist those who come looking for work or to start a business, but also to spend time building links with local business, education, and government leaders. Thousands of jobs, educational grants, and scholarships have been identified as a result of this networking.
Marco Flores, LDS Employment Resource Services manager in Mexico City, talks of one company that finally agreed to interview applicants from LDS employment: “Soon after, they called me back and said, ‘The people you sent don’t smoke or drink. They are honest. They dress like professionals. And what’s more, you don’t charge us for this service! How do you do it?’”
They could scarcely believe this was a service the Church provided at no cost to their company. After hiring several members of the Church, the company now calls LDS employment services more regularly. “We have a job opening,” they say. “We want a Latter-day Saint to fill it.”
Paulo Araujo, an employment manager in Brazil, explains that one of the issues of importance in his country is the number of returned missionaries unable to find work. “Far too many don’t have a high school diploma,” he says.
Brother Sloan remembers traveling to Brazil and visiting several schools that provide training to help adults obtain a high school diploma. “One of them was particularly impressive. Ninety percent of students who attended this six-month course successfully graduated.”
Although the school was doing well financially, it still had many empty desks. “If we could only fill them,” the school’s director said. Brother Sloan told the director about returned missionaries who might be interested in attending the school. “What if we were to suggest to these young men and women that they consider your school so they could get their high school diploma?” he asked.
“Oh, we would be delighted to have students such as this!” the director replied.
“If we were to send you groups of students, would it be possible to receive a discount of 10, 20, or even 50 percent on their tuition?”
Yes, the director said, such a thing was indeed possible. At the end of the discussion they agreed on a 45 percent grant that would be applied toward tuition. With that discount in hand, more than half of the returned missionaries who enrolled in the school also applied for help from the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund, which provides loans to members in developing areas. This arrangement made their education possible.
LDS employment centers work hand-in-glove with the Perpetual Education Fund, explains Brother Sloan. “PEF student applicants are required to enroll in the Career Workshop, where they can explore career and school options. LDS Employment Resource Services helps PEF students find part-time jobs and identify supplemental funding such as grants, scholarships, or loans. After students graduate, LDS Employment Resource Services helps them find full-time work that will support them and their families.”
As employment center managers look for opportunities in the community, remarkable things happen. In Peru, job placements have nearly doubled over the past three years. Benedicto Pacheco, LDS Employment Resource Services manager, says the secret is developing long-term relationships with companies and with government agencies. In Lima, Peru, for example, the Church employment office has established a strategic alliance with the government. The LDS employment office has access to the government’s job database, which lists more than 250 new job openings every day; the employment office is considered a key player in finding people to fill those positions. And it’s not merely the lower-paying jobs that are filled. Recently the LDS employment center in Lima placed 40 people in executive positions. These people will not only be better able to support their families, they can also serve as tremendous ambassadors for the Church.
Employment resource centers also conduct classes in developing a small business. “The problem many people in my country have,” Brother Pacheco says, “is that the only job they can find is one they create themselves. So we offer the Self-Employment Workshop that helps them start their own businesses. This year, more than 150 people in Peru have started their own microenterprise businesses using knowledge and resources provided by LDS employment resources.”
The Career Workshop is another vital tool that helps people articulate their goals and identify talents and skills. For most, this is an exciting discovery process that creates hope and motivation. The workshop develops specific, usable skills that provide a tremendous advantage when looking for employment or a school to attend—an edge that can often mean the difference between a rewarding career or frustration and discouragement.
One South American stake president, for example, had spent a painful year looking for a job before finally enrolling in the Career Workshop. As a result of what he learned, he made some changes in the way he dressed, rewrote his résumé, prepared a 30-second introduction, and practiced interviewing. Armed with the skills he learned, he found a position as chief financial officer in a large business.
The Self-Employment Workshop is a new program that is having a positive impact on families in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who want to start or improve small businesses. The workshop teaches basic principles and strategies that help businesses grow. It also introduces members to local resources such as microcredit organizations that help small businesses get started or training institutions that can enhance the chance for success.
The Career Workshop and the Self-Employment Workshop are held regularly at most LDS employment centers throughout the world and are available to members and their friends. Additionally, ward and stake (or branch and district) employment specialists may offer the workshops for members in their areas. All it takes to enroll is to call the employment specialist or the nearest LDS Employment Resource Services Center. The course runs 2 to 3 days and lasts 10 to 12 hours.
Although LDS Employment Resource Services focuses primarily on members of the Church, people of other faiths may come to the centers also. “As people come in and see how we love each person and how we reach out to help people of all faiths, often their hearts are touched,” says Paulo Araujo. “In the past few years, I would say 200 people in Santiago, Chile, alone have been baptized after becoming aware of the Church through LDS employment.”
The work of LDS Employment Resource Services depends to a large extent on the help of volunteers.
The day after the employment resource center opened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 15 volunteers (10 of them full-time homemakers) arrived unannounced. “We just want to help,” they said. They knew how the office could bless the lives of their brothers and sisters, their children, their neighbors, and they wanted to be part of it.
In employment resource centers throughout the world, volunteers give more than a million hours per year helping those who are at a critical crossroad in their lives. Some volunteers give a few hours a week to teach a workshop or coach a job seeker. Others serve as Church-service or full-time missionaries.
“Every day, mothers, fathers, and children fall to their knees and plead with the Lord for help in finding employment,” says Brother Brown. “When that job finally comes, when the mother and father can at last feed their children and provide a place to call home—when that happens, nearly everything in their lives changes for the better.”
As families become stabilized and self-reliant, they are in a stronger position to serve and build the kingdom of God. By reaching out to the unemployed and unskilled, says Brother Sloan, “we can help anchor the Church in the first and second generations, and the spirit of self-reliance can take root in the homes of the members of the Church.”
Countries outside of the United States and Canada with employment operations
Employment centers in international areas (paid and volunteer staffs)
Employment centers in the United States and Canada (paid and volunteer staffs)
Employment Center Service Hours in 2004
U.S. and Canada
Employment and Education Enrollments in 2004
U.S. and Canada
For information on LDS Employment Resource Services available in your area, contact your employment specialist or your ward or branch leaders.