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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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.
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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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