Work and Opportunity in the Human Service Society

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Sandor Weisz
Youth working for the Transportation Escort Service will assist parents, the elderly, and physically disabled riders in using public transportation.

After her commencement remarks at the University for International Leadership and Conflict Resolution (UILCR) in Spring 2043, several of the graduates wrote Ms. Rodrigues to ask her to elaborate on how work and employment had changed from the early decades of the 21st century to the present. We remind readers that Ms. Rosa Rodrigues served as Chief of Staff during the first term (2033–2037) of President Delores Hernandez. Below are her remarks.

In my remarks at graduation, I described in broad strokes the contrast between the world of work between the period from 2001 to 2017 and the present period. In these brief remarks, I want to give you a sense of some of the jobs and opportunities that are now widely available that were not so back then.

Let me remind you that in the first two decades of this century, people got around in and between cities primarily by private automobiles, whereas today over 90 percent of such travel is on integrated public transit systems consisting of standard and light rail (trams), fuel-cell and electric-battery minibuses, electric jitneys, along with some private taxi companies. When debating the design of the system, one of the key questions that came up was if it would work for persons with physical disabilities, including the elderly with mobility problems. One proposal was to have a supplemental system for this segment of the population as an alternative to accommodating them on the system by creating a Transportation Escort Service (TES). After much experimentation and evaluation, the latter was adopted because it did not socially isolate and segregate elderly and disabled riders, and for financial reasons. The TES employs thousands of young people (high schools students aged 14 to 19) nationwide who have two to three shifts of four hours each week with a minimum starting wage of $10 USD per hour. Each escort is given a mini-tablet and assigned a region. Then using technology originally developed by Uber, they receive requests from persons needing or wanting assistance, usually elderly riders, the physically disabled, and parents traveling with two or more young children. The request also indicates whether it is for one way (and to or from home) or roundtrip, whether carrying (packages or luggage) is involved, and the mobility of the requester. The riders pays a flat moderate fee for a basic escort (immediately charged against their e-money account) with additional fees if: carrying is needed, if there are more than two children, or if any child is less than two years old. The modest fees are made possible by subsidies, paid by the city and state governments from a general fund allocation.

Another job available in large numbers to high school students (aged 16 to 19) is as an Elder Support Assistant (ESA). An ESA works from eight to ten hours a week with a minimum starting hourly wage of $12 USD/hour. An ESA works under the supervision of a social worker/professional elder caregiver and is assigned one client whom they visit four to five times each week. The goal of the overall Elder Support Program is to make it possible for aging individuals and couples to remain in their own homes and communities as an alternative to nursing home care. Some light cleaning, shopping, and meal preparation is required. The major responsibilities are to 1) use state-of-the-art streaming video technology to insure that the home environment remains safe and convenient; 2) use and evaluate monitoring technology to assess the client’s physical and emotional well-being; 3) provide companionship through such activities as conversation, game-playing, and reading; and 4) alert the supervisor to any potential physical, emotional, or psychological problems.

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Summer in the City
College students working as Urban Agricultural Assistant Analysts will use technical skills to assist urban gardeners.

For college-level students, there are many technical positions available. An especially popular opportunity for those studying chemistry or life sciences is that of an Urban Agricultural Assistant Analyst (UAAA). The UAAA’s responsibility is to assist urban gardeners and farmers with achieving the best yields at minimum financial and environmental cost through the production of locally appropriate food crops. Among the things they do is come out to a requesting gardener’s plot and take photos and videos as well as soil samples. The photos and videos are analyzed by the assistant (supervised by a trained scientist) to determine the amount and intensity of sunlight, rainfall patterns, and whether the topography has features that might affect the choice of what to grow. The UAAA does a full chemical analysis of the soil samples to determine acidity, its capacity to hold moisture, and what amendments it will need to increase fertility. The UAAA makes a full report with recommendations of what to grow, what to add to the soil, what measures to take to deal with weeds and insect pests, and how often to water (consistent with normal weather patterns). Then throughout the growing season, the UAAA returns to record progress and to troubleshoot if any problems arise.

For students ultimately interested in working with kids, they can get a start as a Recreation Assistant (RA). The RAs work in the universal after-school program open to all kids attending public elementary and junior high schools, which operate from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Parents pay a modest fee, the amount of which is determined by the number of hours per day and days that their child participates. An RA is supervised by a Recreation Specialist. Among their responsibilities are to supervise a sports activity, such as a volleyball or basketball game, teach and coach students in chess, organize tournaments in board games, supervise arts and crafts, and numerous other activities. Each year, millions of kids participate, requiring the employment of thousands of Recreational Specialists and as many as 100,000 RAs, who work from one to three afternoons for a total of three to nine hours. The minimum starting pay is $10 USD/ hour.

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San Mateo County Library
Resident assistants will work at universal after school programs for all students attending public elementary and junior high schools.

For those people with some special artistic talent such as drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video, dance, song, music, composition, choreography, acting, directing, poetry and/or other forms of creative writing, a very special opportunity is provided by the Artists and Writers in Residence Program (AWRP). Supported financially by a partnership of foundations and the US Federal Government, funds are distributed to schools, neighborhood centers, community and senior high schools, hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, and housing projects in all types of communities—urban, surburban, and rural. In turn, selection committees in these organizations give stipends to artists and writers of every stripe and color in order for them develop and pursue their talent. The stipends range from part-time to full-time and are set at the national median wage of $45,000 USD for a full stipend. The grants are for three years, with one-third of the recipients chosen in each year. Currently, a quarter of a million artists and writers are supported. In addition to pursuing their own craft and periodically giving demonstrations and shows, the artists are also community resources: they act as instructors, coaches, facilitators, directors, and in many other ways to promote more active participation in arts and culture. There is also a foreign exchange component to the AWRP organized for the purpose of fostering better understanding between other countries and the United States, in particular, the values, system of democracy, commitment to peace and ecological balance of the US, and, reciprocally our appreciation of the traditions, problems, and aspirations of other countries. Thus, about two percent of our participants, or five thousand of the artists and writers, take up their residences in foreign countries and approximately the same number come to reside here from other countries.

Rosa Rodrigues