The Equity Factor

Cities Are Building Job Training Programs of the Future

A look at workforce development initiatives in New York, Denver and San Francisco.

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

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America’s jobless rate continues to decline at a steady pace, but not all cities have the employees that tomorrow’s industries need.

With summer job season entering full swing, cities should think about how training opportunities for younger residents can help strengthen an urban core’s shot at having a more prepared workforce in the future. Here, how a few cities are tackling this issue.

Improving New York’s Statewide Strategy
A new study from the Center for an Urban Future finds that funding for workforce development programs in New York State has gone down 5 percent since 2009-2010. Critical programs like Summer Youth Employment (SYE) have seen decreases since then (totaling $7.5 million for SYE, which provides early work experience for low-income teens). According to the Center’s “Seeking a State Workforce Strategy”:

Deep cuts to federal programs are the cause of the overall decline. … Nevertheless, state leaders do bear responsibility for the decisions to cut investments to a number of key initiatives that help New Yorkers build skills, gain work experience and connect to career pathways to employment.

It applauds the federal passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last July and recommends that the state create a strategic Statewide Workforce Development Plan, as called for in WIOA. To do so, the state should inventory the skills of its residents and outline the work needed to meet the new opportunities of the knowledge economy.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made progress in New York City through the creation of the Office of Workforce Development and the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force. The latter has called for the creation of six “industry partnerships” to connect workers to sectors such as technology, healthcare and construction.

EPA Job Training Money Goes to Cleaning Up Brownfields
On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected 19 communities for $3.6 million in environmental workforce development and job training grants. Each will receive up to $192,300 to operate job-training programs that have the goal of cleaning up brownfield sites in economically distressed areas.

The Fresno Area Workforce Investment Corporation received a grant for the full amount and will train 70 students and place 60 graduates of its program in jobs related to recycling, solid waste management, hazardous waste cleanup, wastewater treatment and environmentally safe pest control. The training focuses on at-risk youth, veterans and disadvantaged job seekers.

The Denver Indian Center was another recipient. It will provide courses and certifications to American Indians in a seven-county area. In seven years, the Denver Indian Center has provided services to more than 20,000 workers and has an impressive job placement rate of 87 percent. The Denver-based woman-owned environmental remediation firm Bear Woman Enterprises will be conducting the training.

Young Adults in San Francisco Aspire to Afford the City
This week, Mission Local profiled the San Francisco-based Mission Techies Academy, which aims to train and empower Latino youth ages 17 to 24 for tech jobs. The rigorous 12-week program teaches software, coding and hardware, and students are connected to mentors from companies like LinkedIn and Google.

Only four trainees of the original 17 who had enrolled in the program graduated the most recent course. (Reasons given for why some of the others dropped out included work pressure, lack of interest and a family emergency.) Graduates receive $500, continued support and internship placement opportunities. One of the recent cohort of graduates commented on the affordability pressures in the city and its relationship to the tech sector by saying, “Before you know it, we’ll all be able to afford our own apartments in San Francisco.”

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Alexis Stephens was Next City’s 2014-2015 equitable cities fellow. She’s written about housing, pop culture, global music subcultures, and more for publications like Shelterforce, Rolling Stone, SPIN, and MTV Iggy. She has a B.A. in urban studies from Barnard College and an M.S. in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.

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