“The feeling that I had initially is that I knew our country was about to endure true pain and trauma and hardship on a level that we hadn’t collectively experienced since 9/11…. The first order of business to us was to start reaching out to our participants, just calling everybody and really being conscious of the situation. We were following up not at all to talk about the job search but just to ask people the simple question, how are you? How do you plan to get through this? How can we support you?”
-Danny Castro, Employment Specialist, The HOPE Program
In the early months of the pandemic, the Economic Opportunities Program began speaking with workforce development organizations across the country as they strengthened existing strategies and tested new approaches to support workers. In New York City, the HOPE Program has adapted its services to continue connecting clients to jobs, including in food retail, warehousing and logistics, and teleservices. Leaders report that the organization, which provides lifelong career support, is serving an unprecedented number of clients as past and current program participants seek new opportunities to support themselves and their families.
Danny Castro, an Employment Specialist at The HOPE Program, spoke with Amanda Newman of the Economic Opportunities Program about his efforts to support clients to connect to work and make good employment decisions during the pandemic. The conversation has been edited for length to share some of Danny’s key insights:
Part I: Danny unpacks the day-to-day role of employment specialists and discusses his own journey from program participant to program staff.
Part II: Danny describes the rapid increase in unemployment that clients are confronting and the HOPE Program’s strategic response early in the pandemic. He also describes how the HOPE Program has responded to the murder of George Floyd and the national movement for racial justice.
Part III: Danny discusses how he supports clients to navigate heightened workplace health and safety concerns and to make good employment decisions during the crisis.
This conversation is part of our Job Quality in Practice series, in which we highlight innovative work by practitioners and businesses to advance job quality. We are grateful to Prudential Financial for their support of this work.
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The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.