lucien-michel_web.jpgMIAMI — Miami resident Lucien Michel can testify about how difficult it is to get a job these days. Michel, 26, has been looking for work for more than one year, despite having an MBA. Arlene Mitchell, 43, of Miami Gardens, has been out of work more than five years and each time she applies, the pay offered is less and employers want only those who are bilingual.

Like Michel, she too is finding that strong qualifications in today’s tight employment market can be a major hurdle and she has prepared several versions of her resume.

“The experience you gain over the years will bite you these days,” Mitchell said. “I have worked hard in administration, moved up to management, and now I have to hand some employers a dumb-down resume that says [something] different just to get a call-back.”

Miami resident Lakeisha Wallace is also finding out how scarce jobs are; she has been looking for more than one year. “It’s hard to get a job here, so whatever I find, no matter the pay, I will hold on to it,” she said.

Michel, Mitchell and Wallace were among an estimated 7,000 residents who turned out on Tuesday for the Congressional Black Caucus’ “For the People Jobs Initiative,” a series of five town halls and job fairs that has also taken CBC members to Cleveland, Detroit and Atlanta. The series will wrap up in Los Angeles on Aug. 30.

The local town hall session took place Monday at Mt. Hermon AME Church in Miami Gardens, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson among the dignitaries in attendance.

The all-day fair, which featured job seekers and 200 employers, was held at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami.

Wednesday, Trennae Floyd, an aide to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said Duty Free Americas hired 50 people at the fair. Wells Fargo identified 30 people for follow-up interviews.

Interviewed at the fair, Wilson described the event as “beyond my expectations.”

“When you look at the amount of employers and the amount of employees — put them together and eventually you solve the problem.”

“We want people to take advantage of what’s offered here today,” said Wilson who represents the 17th district, covering much of North Miami-Dade County. “This is a one-stop shop for many jobs, so everyone should be able to find something that matches their individual needs.”

The CBC has complained loudly about a lack of jobs for African Americans, for whom the unemployment rate is almost double that for whites.

In the last two years, the caucus has introduced more than 40 job-creation bills in the House of Representatives, according to Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., who chairs the CBC.

“We are sponsoring this job fair to give people an opportunity to present themselves to employers,” Cleaver said. “This is not a promotional opportunity. Employers were invited because they have jobs available. Investing in our community goes hand-in-hand with full economic recovery.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said the CBC planned to push the bills “so people can get back to work.”

But Ernest Coleman of Miami Springs, who complained about an absence of employers offering jobs for professionals, said, “I am saddened by the lack of diverse offerings. I mean, it’s a great idea but many professionals are out of work, as well, and we have no place to go,” he said. “We are always left out of job fairs; our needs are not being addressed.”

Coleman, 46, whose background is in finance, said his home is in foreclosure and he also has to pay for graduate student loans.

Baptist Health South Florida is an employer that offers such jobs, said Ricardo Forbes, corporate vice president and chief diversity officer.

“We hire people from all fields and I feel strongly that there is no need for us to go outside of Miami-Dade or Broward counties,” he said.

Wallace said she left the fair hopeful.  She filled out four application forms and scheduled one interview. “I have never had an opportunity to apply for multiple positions and interview in one place,” she said. “This has been a great fair, a great experience.”

Cynthia Roby may be reached at

Photo: Lucien Michel