“There’s only so much I can do if they don’t even know how to click the mouse.”
On a busy weekday afternoon at the Ramonita G. deRogriguez Branch of the Free Library located at 600 W. Girard Ave., Erik Eskin expresses his concerns with the overwhelming lack of self-sufficiency in Ludlow. As the library’s director, Eskin is familiar with the challenges faced by many out-of-work residents in the community. He says that in an already tight employment market, it’s even tougher to find a job when your skills are limited.
“Starting from scratch, some of these people don’t even have an e-mail address,” he says.
Eskin spends most of his days teaching these individuals how to set up e-mail addresses so that future employers can contact them. Unless they have a specific question about the computer or a particular website, individuals are left to fend for themselves. Eskin acknowledges that the library lacks the funds and personnel necessary to carry out career development services. Sitting at his desk, he is only one man in a room full of Ludlow residents in search of upward mobility.
In a city that has an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, job placement is only one of many work-related issues. Residents need job training, sometimes at the most basic level. Some individuals require assistance writing a resume, conducting internet job searches and preparing for interviews. Others need basic computer and technology-related skills that many employers require.
Lisa Wood is one of many Ludlow residents who go to the library on a daily basis to search for jobs. She regularly flips through the Classifieds section of the paper looking for positions that could help improve her situation. Though Wood finds peace and quiet in the library, she does not find its services very helpful.
“People are rude and there is no manpower to help us get jobs,” she says.
That, Eskin explains, could be why many people come to the library to fill out unemployment applications instead of looking for a job. The problem isn’t unique to the library. A lack of career counseling and workforce development services is evident throughout the entire neighborhood. Ludlow lacks a major institution that could provide job training classes, resume building workshops and computer literacy programs to teach adults marketable job skills.
The Salvation Army Family and Service Center located on Oxford Street is only operating as a Head Start daycare for children. The Bernard J. Drueding Jr. Community Center located between Lawrence and W. Master streets only administers family services in the form of childcare. The Lutheran Settlement House (LSH) was once one of the only spots in the community that supported career services. Its Community Education and Employment Department offered free classes aimed at developing the skills and techniques necessary to get a job. But the site on Lawrence Street closed last year and its services are no longer available.
E3 Power Center, located at 1215 Germantown Ave., is the only active community organization helping Ludlow residents become self-sufficient by offering career-related services. The center’s mission to educate, employ and empower young adults is put to action through many different programs geared toward long-term goals and successes.
For adult job seekers, help may soon be on the way. In his recent budget proposal, Mayor Nutter announced progressive plans for the technology sector as part of his agenda to “move the city forward.” In what he called an “unprecedented” investment, Nutter said the budget, if approved, will allocate $120 million to improve the technology in the city over the next five years, including $25 million in fiscal year 2011 alone. A portion of that money would be used to develop education and training programs intended to teach Philadelphians how to meet the needs of an evolving technology-driven economy.
“If there were funds available, we have room downstairs that could be used to set up a computer lab,” says Eskin. He said that about six years ago the space was once used for that purpose but the lab was closed when the library ran out of money.
For now, residents remain largely unsatisfied with their lack of options.
“You don’t have a whole lot of choices. I wish, but I don’t know of any places around here that offer help finding jobs,” says Veronica Gonzalez.
Manny Citron, policy analyst to State Rep. Curtis Thomas, has a more positive outlook on the situation. “It’s always easier to get people to work when the economy’s better,” he says. “Overall economically, we’re just in some pretty rough times right now, but it’s nothing this community can’t work through.”
Since taking office 20 years ago, Thomas has addressed the unemployment issue by holding two job fairs a year.
“Any additional local services would be beneficial to this community and I definitely think that people would make use of them,” Eskin says.
[soundslide url=”https://smcsites.com/soundslides/uploads/sp1040ludlowgovt/” height=550 width=600]