There is great urgency to improve the financial stability of families and individuals in our region right now.
The recent statistics are daunting. Poverty has increased in our region in recent years, both in the urban core and in our suburban communities. Most of the changes we have seen in income levels are driven by joblessness. New data released document a -12.5% net job loss in New Haven over the last 20 years. For populations with limited literacy, spotty work history, and personal challenges, finding and maintaining a job that can provide financial stability is particularly difficult. However, we know that the only real path to financial stability is to have stable employment that leads to long-term attachment to the workforce.
To that end, United Way issued a new funding opportunity earlier this year, Jobs at the Center: Integrated Services to Get and Keep Employment, to support results-based programs that reflect state of the art practice around workforce development. We benefitted from the input of local and national leaders in the field throughout the design process. Out of this volunteer-driven effort, in October we awarded two substantial investments that will help prepare and place low-income individuals into jobs.
The first project is an expansion of our investment in All Our Kin’s work to create microenterprises for low-income women in New Haven and surrounding communities; women will be trained to provide licensed family child care in their homes. The second project is a partnership between Empower Enterprises and the One Stop Career Center for recently released offenders that provides education advancement, soft skills training, hard skills training through transitional employment, and connection to long-term employment. In addition, our review team identified four promising programs that will receive technical assistance to meet their goals of moving people with multiple barriers into jobs that meet the needs of the local labor market. More information is available at uwgnh.org/income/grants.
Our dual strategy – focusing on the achievement gap and workforce development strategies – is confirmed by research by the Brooking Institution, which helps connect the dots between employment and a prepared workforce: "Metro areas with larger 'education gaps' -- shortages of educated workers relative to employer demand -- had consistently higher unemployment rates than other metro areas from 2005 to 2011." There is clear evidence that our community needs to put our resources toward these challenges. Through strong partnerships, data-driven decision-making, and an unwavering focus on achieving better results for individuals and families, United Way is working hard to improve people’s lives.