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.