A press release on the official Union County web site admittedly made me snicker just a bit today because it brought back to mind something my late father said to me on several occasions when we spoke about employment, careers and the future.
My dad was a very ordinary type of a guy, a factory worker actually, who didn't understand that his daughter was interested in enjoying a job and not just marking time till Mr. Right came along. He was the first generation born here in the US to Polish/German immigrants and even though he was a Republican he was a union man, which was unusual back in the day. He possessed a phenomenal work ethic that appears to have been the calling card of his generation. I remember back in the early 60’s a series of snow storms that kept us kids home from school had paralyzed even the snow plows according to my uncle who worked for the DPW. My dad donned boots and walked from Clark Township to the Lower Road in Linden to his job at GAF, I don't ever remember his “calling out” as the young ones do these days at the first signs of a flurry. His sister was the recognized artist in the family, she had done an occasional oil portrait or landscape in her time, we believe for money however no one is quite sure, so when it was discovered I might have some ability in the arts I was pushed in her direction. Dad threw up his hands in utter disgust and ranted, “you will be like your Aunt Nellie, you cannot make any money as an artist until you are dead.” He was correct to a point, I did earn a living in the arts but not as an artist. I ended up doing department store windows for a time, employed by Teppers in Plainfield, and later by recruiting for about 25 years to include a stint placing graphic artists and writers within the printing and publishing industries and packaging designers and engineers for the beauty industry.
On the evening of November 12, according to the press release, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is sponsoring a program called “Make Art Your Day Job” featuring a panel that according to Freeholder Chairman Angel Estrada will be sharing first-hand information on how to support ones self by turning creativity into “day jobs.” Panel participants include a musician and arts educator, a former Stone Pony house band member who says he has found his true calling by making music for kids, a professional photographer and lastly a woman who owns a dance center and is a choreographer, instructor and belly dancer from Bordentown. Pre-registration with a $10 fee was required for the workshop which was funded in part by the board with help from the NJ State Council on the Arts. The program has been offered in the past with the same panel and one has to wonder how helpful it has been to participants seeking careers in the creative arts fields, however, there is one key component to be successful that this panel of artists cannot pass along, and that is talent.
The county offers some other programs geared toward careers and employment such as the aforementioned but it would appear with unemployment over 6% that it is time to add some guns that are a bit more heavy duty. True, they do have cashier training and some facilities where job hunters can have access to telephones, fax machines and to utilize the Internet in job searches and they brag about these One-Stop Career Centers in Elizabeth and Plainfield which may actually be funded by the State of NJ Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development.
What Union County could really use is a PSG, or Professional Services Group of its own. The closest to our geographic area meets in New Brunswick and Morristown. PSG's are networking and support groups for unemployed professionals such as those who are at the manager or director level in their particular field. It seems that resources for this level of unemployed worker who populates central Union County is sorely lacking, why not a PSG at Union College, Cranford or the Tech Campus in Scotch Plains. It would appear to be in the county’s best interest to get these residents employed as they provide the bulk of the taxes levied to keep the county chugging along. Perhaps the freeholders should be advocating to the state to establish some new programs geared toward these residents in their own backyards rather than depend on resources in other counties.
Isn't it about time that the freeholders stepped up to the plate and actually did something more than use central Union County’s residents as a funding source that enables a back up singer and a belly dancer to give a workshop on making art one’s day job.