Cover of All I Want Is a Job! by Mary Gatta
All I Want Is a Job!
Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System
Mary Gatta

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2014
168 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804781336
Paper ISBN: 9780804790826
Digital ISBN: 9780804790857
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In All I Want Is a Job!, Mary Gatta puts a human face on workforce development policy. An ethnographic sociologist, Gatta went undercover, posing as a client in a New Jersey One-Stop Career Center. One-Stop Centers, developed as part of the federal Workforce Investment Act, are supposed to be an unemployed worker's go-to resource on the way to re-employment. But, how well do these centers function? With swarms of new clients coming through their doors, are they fit for the task of pairing America's workforce with new jobs?

Weaving together her own account with interviews of jobless women and caseworkers, Gatta offers a revealing glimpse of the toll that unemployment takes and the realities of social policy. Women—both educated and unskilled—are particularly vulnerable in the current economy. Since they are routinely paid less than their male counterparts, economic security is even harder for them to grasp. And, women are more easily tracked into available, low-wage work in sectors such as retail or food service.

Originally designed to pair job-ready workers with available openings, the current system is ill fitted for diverse clients who are seeking gainful employment. Even if One-Stops were better suited to the needs of these workers, good jobs are scarce in the wake of the Great Recession. In spite of these pitfalls, Gatta saw hope and a sense of empowerment in clients who got intensive career counseling, new jobs, and social support.

Drawing together tales from the frontlines, she highlights the promise and weaknesses of One-Stop Career Centers, recommending key shifts in workforce policy. America deserves a system that is less discriminatory, more human, and better able to assist women and their families in particular. The employed and unemployed alike would be better served by such a system—one that would meaningfully contribute to our economic recovery and future prosperity.

About the author

Mary Gatta is a Senior Scholar at Wider Opportunities for Women and an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University . She is the author of Not Just Getting By: The New Era of Flexible Workforce Development and Juggling Food and Feelings: Emotional Balance in the Workplace.

"By studying the work of helping others find work, Mary Gatta shifts our attention to the link between government policy and the experiences of unemployed workers seeking work . . . Gatta has pointed to one approach by studying work beyond the employment relation. We would do well to follow her example with other approaches."

—Mark Zbaracki, IRL Review

"Gatta's research makes a significant contribution to the literature on the workforce development system as little is known about the One-Stop Career Centers and even less is known about women's experiences at the One-Stop Career Centers. In addition, Gatta's work is unique in its methodology. Whereas many existing studies are quantitative and outcomes-focused, Gatta uses participant observation and focus groups. In doing so, she is able to explore how women are experiencing the workforce development system rather than just how many women were served or obtained employment."

—Skye Allmang, Social Service Review

"Mary Gatta adds to the literature by focusing on the felt experiences of women at One Stop Career Centers. With qualitative data, Gatta explores the experiences of customers and front line workers at a New Jersey Center . . . With its lens on gender, this book is an important addition to workforce development literature."

—Joyce Bialik, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"All I Want Is a Job! offers a valuable look inside our nation's main workforce development program. It should be required reading for anyone interested in low-wage work, labor markets, social welfare policy, and economic development."–Stephanie Luce, Gender & Society

"In this short and very readable narrative, Gatta takes a different and unique approach. Posing as a client at a One-Stop Career Center, she experiences firsthand the trials and tribulations of job seekers. The author interviews the workers in these centers, discovering the difficulties of trying to implement policies set by others and the anxiety and stress in meeting the needs of the unemployed . . . The author concludes that there are no quick fixes, but at the margin there are key shifts to improve the system, which would serve the employed and unemployed alike and contribute to economic recovery and future prosperity . . . Recommended."

—J. F. O'Connell, CHOICE

"All I Want is a Job! is an engaging and timely book. It addresses the very pressing issue of the services provided to jobless workers, while also doing an excellent job of placing its findings in historical context."

—Ofer Sharone, MIT Sloan School of Management

"This is a special book that gives the reader a real sense of the world of One-Stop Career Centers. Delivering an insider's glimpse into their operation, Gatta's research will spark a serious discussion about the need to change our current system so that it actually meets the needs of those seeking employment."

—Henry Plotkin, Former Executive Director of the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission

"Mary manages to discuss the problems that unemployed women face in finding work, not only from a practical point of view, but also from a personal standpoint. This book illustrates her rare talent for looking at individual concerns alongside bureaucracy with an eye toward reform. While giving us an intimate look inside the public work force system, she constructively suggests ways to improve government initiatives. All I Want Is a Job! is at once an eye opener and a beacon."

—Frank Pallone, Jr., New Jersey Congressman

"Mary Gatta has written a forceful, lucid, and critical guide for women to secure a living wage. Understanding the bewildering hell that is the public workforce system, Mary knowingly helps us to navigate it in order to produce the practical result we all seek: employment. This book is a 'must read' for those who care about lifting women out of poverty!"

—Jim McGreevey, former Governor of New Jersey