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The NYT On LISC’s Bridges to Career Opportunities Program: A Fix That Works

An in-depth article in the New York Times reports on LISC’s Bridges to Career Opportunities program and how it helps low-wage earners make the jump to satisfying, living-wage jobs in careers with room for growth. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tina Rosenberg visited a flourishing program in Newark and lauds our innovative, multi-service approach in her “Fixes” column. Read on!

The excerpt below is from:
To Get a Better Job, First Train for the Job Training
By Tina Rosenberg, New York Times

The unemployment rate is 3.9 percent. Businesses are desperate for workers. Yet at the same time, a large group of people can’t find a job.

The skills people have often don’t match the skills employers need. One solution is training them for a specific field: a short, intensive course that prepares students for skilled work in construction, auto mechanics or hospital patient care. In New Jersey at the moment, these jobs can pay $19 or $20 an hour to start.

These programs can be very successful at getting students into high-paying jobs — especially when they work directly with employers to design the training, and employers agree to hire graduates. They aren’t always helpful, though, to those who need them most: people who are chronically unemployed or underemployed, working in low-wage, dead-end jobs — sometimes two or three at the same time — like cleaning offices, cooking hamburgers or selling clothes.

“The value of coaching does not stop when someone gets a job.”
— LISC CEO, Maurice A. Jones

Jesibel Done is 20. She’s a high-school graduate supporting others members of her family. She’d love to buy a house. But the most she’s ever made is $10.25 an hour. (Do that for a year, and you make $21,320.) She’s worked at Walmart, Family Dollar, Hollister and 7-Eleven. She’s often left a job because family problems needed attention or because of conflicts with co-workers. But she finds another one quickly. “If I keep looking and calling, I usually get a job in a week or two,” she said.

At 7-Eleven, she worked the night shift, sometimes running a store alone overnight in Elizabeth, N.J. — not a great place for doing that. Still, she considers that the best job she has ever had — because 7-Eleven pays workers even during their lunch breaks. “You get your whole paycheck,” she said.

There are millions of people like Ms. Done. They’d love to have a real career and be able to support a family. But life gets in the way: Training can cost tens of thousands of dollars. They can’t take time off from work to study. They have no one to take care of the children. The car has broken down. They’ve lost their driver's license. Bus fare costs too much.

There are other issues: Lots of people need training before they can take advantage of job training. “They don’t necessarily have the soft skills,” said Jerrah Crowder, a program officer in Newark for the Local Initiative Support Corporation, a nationwide organization that provides financing and technical support to community organizations. “As a human being, how do you function in an organization?” he asked. “Some might not know what to expect in terms of showing up on time, presenting themselves: attire, appropriate communication, customer-service skills.”

The best job-training programs understand that students lead complicated lives.

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