Workforce development programs created by two N.C. Community Development Initiative-funded nonprofits offer models for how to prepare low-income people for jobs and connect them with stable employment opportunities.
In Mt. Olive and Goldsboro, ADLA Inc. provides skills training for the most economically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk youth in Wayne County and surrounding communities.
In Raleigh, StepUp Ministry helps low-income, homeless and jobless people achieve stability through job training and placement, teaching life skills and providing educational opportunities.
The two organizations are among eight N.C. nonprofits who have received Innovation Fund grants from the Initiative to test and implement effective, sustainable and replicable approaches for creating wealth and economic prosperity in persistently poor communities in the state.
“ADLA and StepUp Ministry have strong track records of preparing underserved populations for the workforce and connecting them with employers,” said Millie Brobston, the Initiative’s program officer for grant investments, who directs the Innovation Fund. “One of our priorities for the Innovation Fund is job creation in low-wealth communities, and these two are helping us pave the way.”
Youth career training meets industry workforce needs
ADLA is using its $50,000 Initiative grant to develop and implement a culinary arts training and leadership development program focused on job creation and arming youth with the skills necessary to find gainful employment, prepare for post-secondary education or create their own business opportunities in the food service industry.
The program provides job training and leadership development for youth ages 16-24, while strategically addressing the employment needs of Wayne County’s growing food service industry and creating jobs through partnerships with local restaurants and businesses. It launches with three 12-week sessions serving 15 students per class and includes GED testing to prepare participants academically for success.
“The culinary arts program is not only creating jobs, it’s getting children off the street and preventing them from committing crimes,” said ADLA Executive Director Danny King. “We’ve seen, in a lot of instances, when you have children engaged with positive influences, it makes a big difference in their outcome.”
ADLA plans to establish contracts with Wayne County Public Schools to provide meals for staff development training programs. It has commitments from area restaurants, food service companies and grocery stores to create at least 30 jobs per year for program graduates. ADLA also plans to create food vending trucks that will deliver food to manufacturing worksites, giving youth participants opportunities to manage the trucks and generate revenue for the program.
The first group of trainees conducted a summer child nutrition feeding program to combat hunger by preparing breakfast and lunch for children in need during the summer months when they did not have access to meals at school. The group prepared up to 1,400 meals per day and 7,000 meals a week.
“They’re in this environment doing catering working with businesses and organizations and that’s a self-esteem boost. It gives them empowerment,” said King. “Part of what we do is we provide meals to seniors, so they get that volunteerism and giving back to their community. They identify with being a solution in the community rather than a problem.”
ADLA plans to sustain the program and the nonprofit’s community economic development work through revenues generated from the program’s catering contracts, food vending to industrial worksites, job development and job placement.
Participants will receive human resource development classes that cover resume preparation, job market information, job search assistance, and career guidance and assessments. Entrepreneurship training will cover business plan development and contract preparation, managing finances and establishing a food service business.
Ex-offenders prepare for life success
StepUp Ministry’s Steps to Stability program is using its $40,000 Initiative grant to fund a 32-week job readiness and training workshop. It aims to equip low-wage ex-offenders with the skills and assets they need to become financially, professionally and personally stable, and create jobs for individuals with criminal backgrounds in underserved communities.
The program is part of StepUp’s work to help participants achieve stability in their housing, employment and relationships in one year.
The Steps to Stability program promotes long-term economic development in low-wealth communities by improving the career pathways and earning potential of program participants. It provides thorough work-readiness training, covering such topics as time management, resume writing, networking and interviewing, and it matches participants with StepUp’s employer-partners.
“We help provide necessary tools for participants to achieve success,” said StepUp Associate Director Linda Nunnallee. “We’re always teaching and training so that when StepUp is no longer a part of their life, they can replicate these activities alone.”
Participants who complete the job readiness workshop enter Job Friends, a program that offers employment counselors and recruiters that identify and match them with job opportunities in local businesses.
“It can be hard to place someone with a criminal record in a job,” said Nunnallee. “That’s why we have the employment recruiters. Through our programs, we can take away the barriers.”
The program’s tracking of participants shows that 82 percent are still working in their placements six month later, she said.
“Many of these positions are entry-level jobs that may normally turn over every two weeks,” said Nunnallee. “So, the employers know that they can depend on the people who come through our program.”
StepUp creates job opportunities through community-wide partnerships with workforce development agencies and collaborations with local employers. Local companies currently employ more than 230 ex-offenders from the program each year.
“In 2011, of those who maintained their relationship with StepUp over that year, no one went back to jail,” said Nunnallee. “It’s that piece that’s so important and that tells us this is a population motivated to change their lives and create a stable environment, not only for themselves but to put their families back together. This is a group that needs and wants to do that, and that group can find success here at StepUp.”
StepUp is also implementing a new entrepreneurship course for participants interested in starting their own business. The goal is to create economic development in low-wealth communities by enabling participants to start businesses that employ their neighbors.
For information on the Innovation Fund, contact Brobston at (919) 835-6000 or visit www.ncinitiative.org/financial-investments/grants/innovation-fund.
The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.