Federal jump start to a lifelong career

Back in the 1970s, Maureen Carson was a young woman in her 30s, living in Northeast Philadelphia and working as a customer service representative for a dental company. The company went out of business and Carson lost her job. Luckily, she said, she was single and frugal, so she was able to make it on unemployment -- and in fact, it wasn't that bad, since she lost her job in time to enjoy a nice summer at the shore.

But summer and unemployment checks don't go on forever, which is why she was thrilled to get an interview with the Philadelphia Police Department which had been given a federal grant through the Comprehensive Education and Training Act to hire unemployed people. Carson got work as a clerk and later became one of several executive secretaries serving two police commissioners. 

Flash forward to 2010 and a 9.7 percent unemployment rate. Like the mid-1970s, there is federal money available for a subsidized job program. Some states have them already. Pennsylvania and New Jersey could also get the money, if government officials can get programs organized and the money spent before it runs out in September. You can read more about it my stories in Saturday's and Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Maureen Carson's job was supposed to be temporary, but by the time the money ran out, she had taken Civil Service exams and was firmly ensconced in the department. Later on, she became a police officer. She retired in December 2005 with a nice pension.

She remembers going on the CETA interview. "Two days later, they said I had the job. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t care. I was just glad to be back in the workforce," she said. "When I went into it, I didn’t know anything about the program, I was just glad to have a job. To me, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It became my whole life and my whole career."