01/23/2013 09:24 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

National Problems Need Individualized Solutions

By Nory Angel, Executive Director and CEO, SER

As the economy garners constant media attention these days, a lot of numbers and buzzwords get thrown around: "jobless claims," "unemployment rates," "budget deficits," "national debt," "fiscal cliff," "new jobs created," "spending cuts," "tax rates," and more. We hear the words "million," "billion," "trillion," and "percent," accompanied by numbers the average American struggles to understand the implication of. To the average American job seeker, the only numbers that matter are the ones they desperately hope to see soon: the numbers on a paycheck.

At a time when the jobs "crisis" is so widespread and the only way to generalize is with the use of these buzzwords and numbers that seem insurmountable, we often forget that at the heart of each are individual people. Each person carries their own stories, struggles, triumphs, frustrations, and is working toward finding solutions. Each person takes the statistics we hear thrown around in stride, because at the end of the day, the numbers don't mean much -- what matters are the people, experiences, and individual factors effecting his or her daily life.

Luckily these individuals have allies in organizations like SER-Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast, Inc. (SER) that understand these factors and are daily working to "transform lives... one job at a time."

SER was founded in Houston, TX in 1965 through the combined efforts of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the American G.I. Forum, and U.S. Department of the Navy as a job bank serving the needs of Hispanic veterans seeking assistance in finding employment after leaving the service. Through grassroots, community efforts, the agency has since expanded its services to meet the growing needs of its clientele, including youth and young adults, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, "second chance" clients (individuals with criminal records), and more. Through its diverse client population SER was able to focus on the common thread that tied them all together -- the need for skills training in high-demand, high-growth occupations.

Over the past 48 years SER has delivered innovative, fast-track trainings aimed at equipping individuals with the skills needed to earn a living wage in careers with opportunities for growth. These include programs in Health Information Technology, "green" construction, welding, commercial truck driving, and many others. SER utilizes unique strategies to connect local employers with job seekers and in doing so, has consistently helped 80 percent of unemployed or underemployed clients obtain employment as a direct result of SER's services. The agency has accomplished this through various economic booms and busts, a recession, and now, at a time where the American people are increasingly turning to non-profit organizations for help.

I believe that the heart of SER's success has been its holistic, individualized service model and its ability to provide wrap-around services. SER's service model takes into consideration each client's entire spectrum of needs, strengths, challenges, and aspirations. Career coaches are then able to develop an individualized service plan and begin working with clients one-on-one to reach their mutually-agreed upon goals. Additionally, clients can take advantage of a number of important wrap-around services as needed, including job readiness training, educational opportunities (including on-site GED classes and on-line learning tools), public benefits access, direct referrals, financial education, small business development services, and asset-building programs... but we can go into those in detail later.

Like so many other nonprofit organizations, SER has learned to do a lot with a little. At a time where fundraising dollars are hard to come by and the national spotlight is often centered on only the dreary details of today's job market, SER is excited to participate in the Crowdrise Jobraising challenge. We will be doing our part to raise funds for our programs and services by being the voice of our clients and their stories -- stay tuned for the great things coming from SER!