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About Us

Curious about what it takes to get low-wage workers access to high paying jobs? So are we.

See how we do it

JOTF works to eliminate educational and employment barriers for low-wage workers by transforming the systems and policies that create and perpetuate those barriers.

Policy & Advocacy

JOTF is a leading voice on workforce issues in Maryland, supporting a wide range of public policy initiatives and budget decisions, including increased investment in adult education and training, expanding the Earned Income Credit, reducing barriers to work for individuals with criminal justice involvement, and unemployment insurance reform.

Our Programs

JOTF designs programs that create career pathways for low-wage workers. Our programs help Marylanders reach higher-wage jobs in industries that need more skilled workers. We designed Project JumpStart, Baltimore's pre-apprenticeship program in the building trades, which helps participants become licensed electricians, plumbers, or carpenters. JumpStart trains 120 low-wage residents each year for careers that can pay more than $50,000 annually.

Research & Reports

JOTF conducts research to inform policymakers and the public, and to encourage the development of local programs based on best practices. Our research explores the impact of specific state and local policies on the workforce, and provides timely recommendations on how these policies can better serve Maryland's workers, families, employers, and the economy.

What's new at JOTF

5th Annual All Night Community Resource Clinic

October 23, 2021 at 6:00 PM

Check out JOTF CEO Caryn York talking about the 5th Annual All Night Community…

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2021 Legislative Wrap-Up

JOTF advocates for legislative and budget proposals that improve the economic opportunities of Maryland's…

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The Criminalization of Poverty: How to Break the Cycle Through Policy Reform in Maryland

In August 2016, the United States Department of Justice issued a report following its…

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The Color of Wealth: Race, Wealth, and the Criminal Justice System in Baltimore City

October 17, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Spurred by developing research from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, this convening…

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JOTF’s CEO Caryn York was named a “Game Changer,” by Baltimore Magazine!

JOTF’s CEO Caryn York was named a “Game Changer,” by Baltimore Magazine! Thank you…

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From Our Blog
More Articles
Oct 15, 2021

Join us October 23rd for Our 5th Annual All Night Community Resource Clinic

JOTF believes all communities deserve the right to thrive and prosper and access economic opportunity and mobility.  Regardless of race, place, and time. This is why we've partnered with our longtime friends at Out for Justice for the past five (5) years to… Read More

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JOTF Receives Grant from Weinberg Foundation to Reimagine a Modern Approach to Workforce Development

The pandemic laid bare shocking inequities relative to access to economic opportunities, mobility and security for millions of Americans. The worst public health disaster in a century has also created an economic crisis and a broad rethinking of the world of work. It has exposed and exacerbated the challenge of creating quality jobs and training a workforce ready to excel in a rapidly evolving labor market. 

As JOTF reflects on its milestone 25th anniversary and takes stock of the seismic shifts in the economy, we are committed to reimagining our programming to meet the unique challenges and opportunities of these times.  We are committed to being even bolder and more imaginative in our mission of ensuring that all, especially our Black and Brown communities, can economically thrive and prosper.  We are committed to creating credible and readily accessible pathways for low wage workers to transition into sustainable high-paying careers.

It is unconscionable that in 2021, less than half of Americans earn a living wage and that the unemployment rate for all Black workers is (still) significantly greater than that of White workers without a high school degree.  Inspired by the success of our unique holistic model of change and informed by the rich learnings we have amassed about the plethora of obstacles confronting low-wage workers, JOTF is in the initial stages of chartering a new, agile approach to workforce development.

We are pleased to announce that JOTF has been selected for a grant from the Weinberg Foundation to collaborate with CARA Chicago, a workforce development organization that has moved people experiencing poverty and homelessness into more than 10,000 jobs. With the CARA team, we are carefully evaluating new delivery models and partnerships to continue our mission to eliminate barriers and increase access to skills training, job opportunities, and higher wages for low-income workers in Maryland.  We are grateful to the Weinberg Foundation for funding this work through a grant made in March. 

This intentional and strategic evolution for JOTF comes as we mark the 15th anniversary of Project JumpStart, a workforce development program that has transformed the lives of more than 1,000 individuals.  With an 85% graduation rate, Project JumpStart has become a national paradigm for workforce development programs.  Serving a chronically neglected constituency of low-income individuals, many of whom have had interaction with the criminal legal system or experienced housing insecurity, Project JumpStart has been a source of hope and opportunity and a catalyst for economic development that has literally and figuratively transformed the face of Baltimore.  We are most proud that JumpStart has helped so many people turn their lives around and build the skills to land quality construction jobs. 

Project JumpStart was conceptualized and launched by JOTF and began to scale after the Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Baltimore (ABC Baltimore) responded to an RFP that JOTF issued for curriculum development and training.   We’ve learned much over the last 15 years that has contributed to the success of JumpStart and its participants:

  • Holistic, Intensive Case Management: Setting up our constituents for success means acting with empathy and possessing expertise around the many unique challenges they face and providing coaching, mentoring and support (ranging from childcare to housing services).  Simply providing classroom and vocational training wouldn’t cut it.
  • Formalized Job Placement with Case Management: We are grateful to have the support of dozens of leading construction and building trades employers.  But, we know for a workforce development program to excel it requires a systematized approach to placing graduates and delivering counsel and support for employers who are hiring from these communities.
  • An Integrated Approach to Barrier Removal & Systemic Change: JOTF has a distinct perspective informed by learnings from its cutting-edge research and policy advocacy.   Our effectiveness and reach in eradicating barriers is not limited to customized programmatic interventions.  Thanks to the trust and credibility JOTF has earned over nearly three decades of robust advocacy in Annapolis, we are uniquely positioned to champion sweeping policy changes that benefit not only direct program participants but also maximize our impact, at scale, by transforming the lives of others with similar circumstances.  Learnings from our research, policy advocacy and programming mutually inform and reinforce one another to create a powerful three-pronged approach to realizing meaningful systemic change that attacks workforce development opportunities from all angles.

We are proud that our integrated and agile model has allowed us to constantly respond to the evolving needs of our constituencies: Whether it is creating a special car grant program to provide safe, reliable transportation to jobs for our participants and simultaneously advocating in Annapolis for reform to traffic fines and fees and predatory auto insurance pricing or developing a highly effective approach to child support advocacy that powerfully sets our constituents up for durable success, JOTF has consistently had the foresight to evolve and solve for our community’s distinctive challenges.  Our latest pivot, catalyzed largely by the pandemic, is just a continuation of our commitment to adapting so we can best serve our constituents. 

As we phase out of the current iteration of Project JumpStart and our partnership with ABC Baltimore, we are laser focused on working with CARA Chicago to leverage the unique strengths and successes of our holistic approach to workforce development.  We will continue to stay ahead of the curve and deploy a potent blend of policy advocacy, research and programmatic interventions that replace obstacles with opportunities.  We are excited to create a contemporary model of service delivery that allows us to expand the number of individuals and geographies we serve, integrates with our policy advocacy agenda and expertise in decriminalizing poverty and race and doubles down on our investment in a human-centric approach to case management.  

We will provide updates as we go through this planning process to scale a holistic approach to workforce development in Baltimore and Maryland and to develop a 21st century job creation and training model that will continue to inform and influence the national dialogue.

Stay Up to Date

Stay up to date on policy issues and the latest research and reports.

Our Mission

About Job Opportunities Task Force

The road to meaningful employment is fraught with obstacles. When one seems to be conquered, another appears in its place. This is the incessant struggle for the low-wage workers in our communities.

Each day, JOTF works relentlessly to eliminate those obstacles to meaningful and stable employment through educational opportunities and effective policy reform and systems change. By doing so, we’re able to consistently help low-wage workers advance to high-paying jobs and create paths for workers from every possible background to thrive and prosper.

JOTF in the Media
Mar 19, 2021
JOTF’s CEO Caryn York sits down with WYPR’s Sheilah Kast.

WYPR, a Maryland affiliate of NPR.

Feb 23, 2021
JOTF’s CEO Caryn York was named a “Game Changer,” by Baltimore Magazine!

Baltimore Magazine

Feb 18, 2021
Check out CEO Caryn York’s recent Opinion Piece in the Daily Record

The Daily Record

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