One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Sunna Kalis is executive director of the Jewish Vocational Service. Q. Can you tell me how old the agency is and why it was created?
A.The agency was established 51 years ago, primarily in response to the needs of people coming over from Europe who were having difficulty getting employment.
Q. What type of services did you initially provide?
A. Well, in 1939 the needs were really not that different than today. We think that the world is changing all the time, but in some ways it stays the same. There were new immigrants who needed a first job. There were people who had barriers to employment who needed a job. They were people who lacked skills and needed skill training. There were older people who needed to supplement retirement incomes . . .
Q. What type of services do you provide now?
A. Well, in today's economy, it's extremely important that people who are looking for a job have the skills necessary to market themselves effectively. It's important to understand that it isn't necessarily the best-qualified person who gets the job. Instead, it's the person who interviews the best, who sells themselves the best, who has the best package to present themselves, that meshes with the employer's needs. And many times you have people who are very skilled and talented at what they do, but if they can't articulate it, and if they can't sell themselves in the interview, then the employer is not going to give them the job. It has also become a very competitive kind of thing where what your resume looks like and how you dress and how you conduct yourself in the interview are very important.
Q. Could you enumerate some of the specific services that you provide?
A. Specifically, number one, we help our people clarify a job goal that is doable. This may mean that they need to clarify a short-term goal and a long-term goal, where the long-term goal might require additional education, work experience, or training. The second thing is once the job goal is clarified, we assist them in developing the necessary job-search strategy, skills and techniques. These include appropriate cover letters, resume, interview techniques, networking skills to access jobs in the hidden job market. And the third service that we provide is long-term follow-up to ensure that the job is a successful job.
Q. You mentioned, that when the agency first started, the idea was to serve immigrants. Are you seeing a different type of immigrant now and are there any special needs that they come to you with?
A. Well, we live in a global economy and the world has gotten smaller and what is absolutely astonishing is how quickly information gets communicated around the world. This agency has resettled immigrants from all over the world. We have done all of the southeast Asians, the Indochinese, Kurds, we've done people from South America, and Chile. The Cubans. We did the boat people from Cuba. It's always a fascinating and a very American experience because all of us in this country came originally as emigrees, and what we see today is that the people are much more knowledgeable and sophisticated about the American work world. They're starting to study English before they come here because they know that they must speak English in order to get a job in America.
Q. Do they come with any special skills?
A. Of course, sure. I mean most of the Southeast Asians and
Indochinese were fishermen and farmers, so that was a very different kind of client population. The Soviets are for the most part, very, very bright and very well educated and they will be a remarkable addition to this community. We're placing 20 percent of them in professional positions where they are working as chemists, medical professionals, researchers, and that sort of thing. Then we're placing 40 percent of them in skilled-trade positions, where they are doing things such as being a baker or a carpenter or a manicurist. And the remaining 40 percent are going to work in unskilled positions. They understand that according to the American way, they must go to work very quickly, and so we have people who may start out mowing lawns or delivering pizza and then as their English improves and they are here longer, they'll move into professional positions.
Q. What have employers been telling you about the type of people who are out there looking for a job?