Another thing that caught my eye in that NY Times story was this tidbit:
Alexandria Wallace grew up in a middle-class home topped by Spanish tile, with a swimming pool out back and a view of jagged reddish mountains. Her decline from work to welfare began in the spring of 2009.
She was working three days a week at a call center for Verizon Wireless, earning about $9.50 an hour while attending beauty school at night to earn a license as a cosmetologist. She aimed to use earnings from that profession as a springboard to nursing school.
It’s great that Alexandria has a plan in mind for how to climb up the economic ladder, but it seems to me that she (and others like her that I’ve met) could use some pretty basic career guidance. You see, there’s no reason to start with Cosmetology and then use that to pay her way through nursing school. Instead, Alexandria could be training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, where she could be getting some health care experience and quite possibly have an employer that will sponsor her as she later attends nursing school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse. In Tulsa, training to become a CNA takes far less time than cosmetology school and results in roughly the same pay (roughly $10/hour). In fact, in the same amount of hours is takes to complete Tulsa Technology Center’s cosmetology program, Alexandria could have completed their Licensed Practical Nursing program and be earning almost $16/hour.
Even when someone has a vision for where they want to go in their career, they often don’t know how to get there. And not only do they not know how, they end up taking steps that are unnecessary and in fact make it more difficult to get there – by attending high-cost proprietary schools, enrolling in the wrong classes, or taking on student loans before using federal financial aid such as Pell. Those missteps ultimately frustrate students – particularly adult learners and first generation college students – with the whole educational process. Good, clear career guidance – illustrating career ladders, comparative length of training, and wages – can go such a long way.
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You can’t afford child care without work, and you can’t work without child care. Child care subsidy programs are supposed to address this problem, but…
Parents across the nation are finding it even more difficult to go back to work, since many states are cutting critical child care subsidies, reports the New York Times. These programs were a part of the 1996 welfare reforms intended to move mothers off cash assistance and into jobs, but now due to cuts many mothers are having to seek cash assistance just to access the child care subsidy:
The cuts to subsidized child care challenge the central tenet of the welfare overhaul adopted in 1996, which imposed a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. Under the change, low-income parents were forced to give up welfare checks and instead seek paychecks, while being promised support — not least, subsidized child care — that would enable them to work.
Now, in this moment of painful budget cuts, with Arizona and more than a dozen other states placing children eligible for subsidized child care on waiting lists, only two kinds of families are reliably securing aid: those under the supervision of child protective services — which looks after abuse and neglect cases — and those receiving cash assistance.
Ms. Wallace abhors the thought of going on cash assistance, a station she associates with lazy people who con the system. Yet this has become the only practical route toward child care.
In our experience implementing the CareerAdvance program, we’ve found our parents’ ability to access the state DHS subsidy has been extremely time-consuming and difficult, and that many times the parents ultimately don’t qualify anyway. (CAP’s benefits screening program can help with this.) Furthermore, in the Oklahoma program parents are responsible for a flat monthly copay, which is based on income and number of children. That means that it doesn’t matter whether the parent needs care 2 hours per week or every day of the month – it will cost the same. That may work (to some extent) for working parents, but parents in education and training will often find that the copay is not only unaffordable but exceeds the cost of their child care needs in the first place. In other words, it is no subsidy at all.
Hat tip to our CAP colleague Amy Fain for sending me the NYT link.
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The Tulsa World ran a feature last Saturday on the CareerAdvance program being piloted by the Tulsa Initiative (slash Innovation Lab) here at CAP. A little taste:
CareerAdvance is offered to parents who have children enrolled in early child-care programs for lower-income families at the Skelly and Disney Early Childhood Education Centers.
The program is to help parents be successful in a career path leading them to economic self-sufficiency and allowing them to better provide for their children, said Monica Barczak, director of the department running the program.
The agency selected a focus on jobs in the health-care field because it offers good-paying jobs in relatively high-demand.
The thing I’ve been happiest with in implementing this program with our Career Coach, Tanya, has been the support participants offer to each other. Or in Misty’s words:
“The girls in the class are a good group because we’re like family, a lot of sisters,” White said. “We all support each other and don’t want anyone to fail. If anyone is having a problem we all pitch in to get them through it.”
I had the privilege of sitting in on Misty’s interview, and it was truly heartwarming to hear what the program means to our participants – “an answered prayer.” But I should say that it’s them – the 15 mothers that work so hard – and our partner providers (TCC, Union Public Schools, and Workforce Oklahoma) that truly make CareerAdvance a success. Thanks to them, and thanks always to the George Kaiser Family Foundation for supporting our vision of bringing a cutting-edge workforce development program to our Early Childhood Program families.
Go read the whole thing at the Tulsa World website.
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Washington, D.C. – This week I’m at the national conference of the National Network of Sector Partners. The conference will cover a wide range of topics related to industry driven workforce development initiatives, including sector case studies, policy and systems change, green jobs and other emerging industries, and program sustainability. Dinner Thursday night is being keynoted by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. If you want to help me choose some sessions, take a look at the list of workshops and tell me what you’d find most interesting. (Obviously I have ideas of my own so no promises to take your advice!)
I’m hoping to do some “tape-delayed” blogging (as opposed to live blogging – don’t think I have the attention span to listen and blog at the same time) throughout the conference so be looking forward to that.
To help you get excited, here’s an article on successes among the ultimate low-skilled population – house pets – in attaining college degrees. Online learning is really breaking new ground! Like in the human world, I think the main problem here is insufficient focus on emerging job sectors and attainable career pathways. On the other hand, George the Cat successfully joined the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Wages for that profession sound promising!
Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user inmasera.
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The Tulsa Initiative is getting set to launch a new pilot program to help our Head Start and Early Head Start parents advance their careers and secure a better economic future for their families.
The project, called CareerAdvance, is a multi-faceted approach to job training and supportive services. It includes:
- Sector-Driven – Our initiative will be sector-driven, which means training opportunities will be limited to employment sectors that we know are “demand occupations” and where jobs are available that are steady, secure, well-paying, and offer benefits and opportunities for advancement. In the pilot phase, we have chosen to focus exclusively on healthcare careers.
- Occupational Training – Customized occupational training classes that lead to an in-demand credential. This pilot year, we will initially offer training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), leading then to Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and finally Registered Nurse (RN). Students moving up this career ladder can expect to achieve true economic security for their families and work in a stable, “recession-proof” industry.
- Peer Support - Participants will meet weekly to talk about how things are going, offer support and advice to one another, establish and strengthen social networks, and listen to guest speakers on topics related to their training experiences.
- Case Management – A full-time Career Coach will facilitate peer support meetings as well as provide case management support on an individual basis when necessary. The Coach will help participants define their goals, identify potential barriers to success and establish contingency plans, and work with participants to make sure they are progressing steadily in the program.
- School and Work Readiness Skills – Many of the program’s participants may have spent a significant out of school or out of the workforce. We want to equip them with skills they’ll need to succeed in both – study skills, time management, workplace communication, and more.
- Contextual ESL and GED - Students who need help developing their English skills or who lack a high school diploma or GED will be able to participate in customized English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and GED classes. The classes will cover topics related to their occupational field of study so that the material feels relevant and manageable. ESL and GED instructors will work with the occupational instructor to make sure the curricula are well-integrated.
- Employer Relationships – The project will employ an industry intermediary, who will help build relationships with employers to place participants into work experiences, identify the workforce challenges they face, and find ways to ensure that our program and other training opportunities are truly addressing the workforce shortages in the industry.
The CareerAdvance project is based on an emerging model of successful workforce programs that equip students to prepare for and advance in careers for a lifetime. Participants in similar programs have achieved average earnings gains of $3,300 and were significantly more likely to work all 12 months in the year.
CareerAdvance is generously supported by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Community Service Block Grants program, and the Inasmuch Foundation. Our partners include Workforce Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Technology Center, Union Public Schools Department of Adult and Community Education, the Tulsa Metro Chamber, and the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas.
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For some reason every time I hear the term “apprenticeship” I think of feudal workshops of blacksmiths and shoe cobblers. In my role as coordinator of a sector-based career advancement project, I’ve been hearing the term quite a bit more lately but I still haven’t known a lot about them. So here are some things about apprenticeships that I didn’t know, should have, and think you ought to know too:
Largely unnoticed, the U.S. apprenticeship system currently trains over 500,000 workers. Apprentices learn while they earn, working as a regular employee, contributing to companies’ output and mastering skills under the wing of trainers, who themselves learned mainly by doing. Apprentices take formal courses too, sometimes at community colleges or their work site with community college instructors. After two to four years of work, job-based training and classes, apprentices get a well-recognized occupational credential that documents their new expertise.
Research suggests that apprenticing raises a worker’s earnings far more than just taking community college courses does. In Washington State, apprentices’ annual earnings rose by nearly $12,000, more than double the gains for former community college students.
Given their benefits, apprenticeships seem a promising way to give workers access to marketable skills, especially for economically disadvantaged populations. Because apprenticeships are all learning by working, employers bear most of the cost of educating workers while benefiting from their apprentices even while they learn. Training programs are usually far more effective when students participate in them full-time, since it’s easy to get frustrated and distracted by only attending school part-time in order to hold a job. Apprenticeships give students something no other educational experience really can: full-time work and full-time school at the same time.
By the way, apprenticeship programs need not be about high-skilled crafts and trades jobs such as plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry. The U.S. Labor Department has sponsored a nursing apprenticeship program since 2003 with levels at CNA, LPN, and RN.
Image used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user drakegoodman.
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According to the National Council of La Raza, “Latinos have the highest labor force participation rate in the United States (68.7%), yet they earn the lowest median weekly wages at only $545 per week.”
I also didn’t know that NCLR has a workforce division with a Health Care Career Pathways Initiative:
The NCLR Health Care Career Pathways Initiative integrates English-language acquisition and occupation-specific learning to improve language skills, soft skills, and job-specific skills. It also supports retraining and skills upgrades for incumbent workers who are earning low wages and have been unable to access education and training that will enable them to earn higher wages.
The initiative bridges entry-level training with more advanced coursework, using industry-specific contextualized curriculum. Higher level math, science, and writing often prove difficult for Latinos with low-academic achievement. Designing and teaching the subject matter in the context of their future work environment increases students’ interest and ability to learn and understand concepts. This further prepares them for the specific demands of the occupation for which they are being trained.
Integrating English-language, reading, and math skills with occupational training and an industry-specific context is a model being widely replicated around the country. Washington state’s I-BEST is the best known of these models and was mentioned in the Council of Economic Advisors report discussed below on this blog. (See a report about it here.) Nearly 50 percent of our Head Start families are of Hispanic origin, so we hope to incorporate this model into our upcoming career advancement pilot, which will provide a full range of integrated workforce services to parents of our Head Start children.
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Matt Yglesias, of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, took in stride my comment that policy writers missed the point of that CEA report – it was about reforming workforce programs, not about the growth of healthcare and education jobs (which we already knew all about).
But Micah Kordsmeier explains that the important part is the ideas for “unlocking the limited success of job training and re-training programs.”
That makes sense! America does a hodgepodge of training and retraining initiatives under the Workforce Investment Act and “[r]esearch suggests that WIA participants benefit from the program, on average, although quality is uneven.” In essence, if we can build on the things that work and cut out the underperforming programs, we’d be in much better shape. They also make the key point that the best way to make sure that “post-high school” people have the skills they need is to make sure that they actually graduate high school with a solid basis of knowledge.
Image used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user (and aforementioned writer) myglesias.
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Washington Post writer Ezra Klein must be reading too, because he clicked over to that Council of Economic Advisors report on the jobs of tomorrow and had a thing or two to say:
The first is that the private sector is not projected to do a lot of job creation on its lonesome over the next couple of years. The second is that the public sector has a lot of influence over the shape of the industries with heavy growth over the next decade or so. And the third is that a lot of the job creation we are going to get is coming in sectors — health care and education — that everyone agrees aren’t working too well, and so it’s not clear that this will be a terrifically productive bunch of new jobs.
He also says that this CEA report is “a bit of a slog.” I guess healthcare wonks can’t also be workforce wonks. Too bad. I think Klein paid too much attention to the job growth projections (which aren’t really news at all) and not enough attention to the very important solutions being proposed in the report. And that misdirected attention is a consequence, I think, of too little familiarity with the relevant issues in workforce policy on the part of mainstream policy wonks, writers, and bloggers.
These solutions are a key to unlocking the limited success of job training and re-training programs, which many across the blogosphere noted a couple weeks ago (see here and here for good examples), and which I’d been meaning to write about. As summarized by the report, these innovations are:
institutions and programs that have goals that are aligned and curricula that are cumulative; close collaboration between training providers and employers to ensure that curricula are aligned with workforce needs; flexible scheduling, appropriate curricula, and financial aid designed to meet the needs of students; incentives for institutions and programs to continually improve and innovate; and accountability for results.
All of these components are important aspects of the career advancement project that the Tulsa Initiative has been developing over the past year with the Ray Marshall Center. In particular, our project seeks to be driven by employers, flexible and supportive to participants, and provide basic education and ESL training that is integrated with occupational skills training (often called I-BEST and is well-explained in the report).
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“The most important ‘post-high school’ education and training reform is a strong early childhood and elementary and secondary education system.”
- From the Council of Economic Advisors report “Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow“
By the way, you are owed a substantive post from me and you shall get it. Get excited!
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