08/13/2012 06:23 pm ET Updated Oct 13, 2012

Millions Of Americans Still Need Pathways To Employment

Lately, news reports have indicated slight improvements and declines in the U.S. economy, but the circumstances facing millions of Americans have remained the same for too long. U.S. unemployment has remained stagnant, and job opportunities either don't match the skills of job seekers, or people simply don't live where opportunities exist. The barriers between people who are unemployed and job placement seem insurmountable.

We see this every day at Goodwill®. More than 4 million people came to us last year for face-to-face and virtual services that helped them gain skills and supports so they could get back in the workforce and support their families. Goodwill has extensive experience helping people navigate our current economic reality. In fact, every 38 seconds of every business day, someone earns a job with the help of Goodwill.

Our success is grounded in our "people first" philosophy, and achieved through our "employment first" approach. At Goodwill, we believe in the dignity of work and its power to change lives and communities. We believe that work -- a person's ability to contribute, to make something, to build something -- is a fundamental aspect of life.

Over the years, we've developed quite a toolbox of strategies to assist people in gaining the skills that qualify them for the positions that businesses in their communities need. Some of those tools are:

• Assessments that help individuals discover their own interests, skills and aptitudes, and find employers in the community that are a good match.

Job readiness classes that include instruction in networking to identify career opportunities, writing strong résumés and effective interviewing skills.

• Skills training classes that provide the right credentials for the right jobs, including foundational credentials such as the National Career Readiness Certificate.

Goodwill has many more tools and resources to connect people with a paycheck, including earn-and-learn jobs that come with training, job coaching to help people navigate workplace challenges, job placement assistance to connect qualified applicants with businesses that are hiring, and professionals who connect job seekers and their families with skills and resources to help improve their lives. Not every individual needs to take advantage of every tool or resource. Some people only need a few; others might need more.

Each of these individuals can bring unique assets and talents to a potential employer. We are committed to discovering what each person can bring to the table, then we build a plan the gets that person earn a job.

Here's why this work is critical for our country:

More than 6.7 million youth are disconnected from school and employment.

• Only 20 percent of working-aged adults with disabilities participate in the labor force.

• Nearly one in three Americans who have fought to defend our freedoms cannot find a job after service is complete.

• The number of long-term unemployed workers aged 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007, with 1.1 million seniors unemployed for six months or longer.

Goodwill isn't alone in its efforts to help put these people to work. Thousands of organizations are involved each day, working with millions of Americans to help them build new skills, discover their talents and earn jobs.

Given the state of our economy, we need more pathways for employment, not fewer.