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NLC Project Supports Local Poverty Reduction Efforts.

Cities are finding success in linking poverty reduction with workforce development efforts through a variety of strategies, reports the Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cities.

The organization has been providing technical assistance to local collaborative efforts in Dayton, Ohio, Modesto and Pasadena, Calif., Oklahoma City, Okla., and Flint, Mich., since the fall of 1998. Linking up low-income city residents with training services, promoting city and county collaboration and providing technical assistance to community-based organizations are some of the successful strategies that NLC and the cities have used to bring together workforce development and poverty reduction efforts.

NLC found that in some cities existing municipal programs already provide opportunities to reduce poverty through workforce and economic development.

In Pasadena City, the Maintenance Assistance and Services to Homeowners (MASH) program had been in existence for about 10 years. The program has been using Community Development Block Grant funds to provide free maintenance and housing rehabilitation services to low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. However, there was no job-training element for the low-income residents and welfare recipients who were participants in essentially a public service employment program.

"The participants were not connected to training or any sort of skills development," said Phyllis Furdell, NLC project manager "NLC helped the MASH project work with the local community college to provide basic skills training to participants after their term of public service employment ends, thereby placing them in career ladders," she added.

Officials looking to reduce poverty can look for opportunities in sectors that offer opportunities for low-income, low-skilled workers and develop training for the individuals to enter career pathways, added Furdell. It requires research to identify employers, to meet employers' needs and then to devise a training program.

"The whole point is to get people in poverty, and low-wage workers into employment where they make enough money to support a family," said Furdell.

In Dayton, for instance, one goal was to increase low-income residents' interest in career pathways, but officials found that residents in some poorer neighborhoods didn't know what employment and training opportunities were available in their area.

City officials stepped in to promote a bridge between CBOs and a "state-of-the-art" one-stop center created by the local county government, Dean Lovelace, one of Dayton's five city commissioners, explained to MII. There wasn't a lot of outreach by the particular one-stop to a lot of different groups. City officials explained to the CBOs that the one-stop has a great history and an abundance of employment and training programs, and they should use its services, Levelace related.

City officials linked CBOs to surplus welfare funds, which were used to recruit and train local residents as job coaches who go door to door to inform residents about training opportunities available through the county job center. The coaches function as case managers to help increase residents' job retention.

City, County Collaboration

Officials from Dayton and surrounding Montgomery County came to realize that more than two-thirds of the people considered poor live within the city limits and could be better served by the workforce development system. A goal of the NLC project is to increase city and county collaboration on workforce development issues because there has not been a lot of collaboration between the two entities, said the NLC report.

"We made the point that even though the county was administering workforce development funds, Dayton was in fact really housing the people classified as poor; said Lovelace. "We've had to be assertive at times to make the point and not take for granted that they were going to go along with some of our ideas."

"Our interest is to show that through municipal leadership something can be done to improve local workforce development systems. Local municipal leaders can take the initiative to bring together these parties under a larger community goal," said Furdell.

NLC also discovered that cities and their partners need to think "more broadly" about workforce and economic development and view these issues as labor market issues that affect the economy of the entire region.

In Modesto, the newly formed Workforce Development Neighborhood Construction Project, for instance, is targeting the construction industry as employment potential for the largely poor Hispanic population.

The local economy is mostly agricultural with high unemployment that peaks during the off season. Some of the jobs related to the industry, such as field workers, do not provide workers with wages sufficient to sustain a family. While there are job opportunities for local workers in a construction industry that is growing, workers are unskilled for employment, said the report.

The project was essentially a grass-roots effort that came from the leaders of the Hispanic community. They approached city officials and noted that it wasn't benefiting from the economic boom, said Phil Testa, community development director for the city of Modesto.

A four-point development program emerged that consisted of a construction training program, an effort to license and bond contractors, promoting city contracting of disadvantaged businesses by local government and working with nonprofit groups to build affordable housing, explained Testa. "We developed a leadership team that included the city of Modesto, surrounding Stanislaus County, local banking institutions, labor unions, private contractors, the local community college and of course the Hispanic leadership. This is a whole different approach for a city to take in economic development," he said.

Local unions were quick to jump aboard, Testa added. Union leaders, having seen apprentices move to the San Francisco Bay area to earn more money, view the project as way to build membership and political clout, he noted.

Assistance to CBOs

The NLC project will also strive to enhance the capacity of local CBOs to be more active participants in workforce development activities, said Furdell. Frequently, CBOs in low-income neighborhoods provide social services such as day care and shelter. They don't always understand how to operate within the employment and training system or guide people through skills training. CBOs also don't know how to write grant proposals for funding, which they are learning to do with NLC's help, she said.

Details: For a copy of Connecting Poverty Reduction, Workforce Development and Economic Development: A Mid-Term Report on the Workforce Development for Poverty Reduction, contact Phyllis Furdell at (202) 626-3024.

Reproduced with permission from the Employment & Training Reporter, Vol. 32, No. 20, January 22, 2001, p. 298. Copyright 2001 by MII Publications, Inc.; telephone: 800-524-8960.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Maloney, Christopher
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 12, 2001
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