The Pinkerton Papers: All Papers
Today, our workforce is engaged in a renewed examination of equity within our field. Philanthropy is hosting “equity in workforce” webinars, workforce organizations are arranging equity trainings for their staffs, and workforce conferences are mounting panels to reassess our field through an equity lens. Nearly without exception, this examination of equity is defined primarily in racial, and sometimes gender, terms. Which is, without argument, essential. But what is missing?
For 45 years I’ve worked to create better jobs for low-income workers. I have supported African-American enterprises in rural Virginia and North Carolina, worker buy-outs of threatened factories in New England, and large-scale service cooperatives in the inner cities of the South Bronx and Philadelphia.
How do you train hundreds of unemployed women of color and provide them stable jobs? You build a company that embeds training and employment within a single, seamless strategy. For over 30 years in the Bronx, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) has honed that strategy, producing off-the-charts results: Of 630 jobseekers enrolled annually, 94 percent graduate with a portable credential and 85 percent are employed as home health aides. Of those, 68 percent remain employed after one year.
To reach and engage young people has long been the quest of youth justice interventions. We write this paper as strong advocates for credible messenger mentoring— an approach with great promise not only to disrupt the tragic spiral of incarceration and recidivism that traps so many young people but also to strengthen communities disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.
In 2012, ExpandED Schools and the Kelley Collaborative approached The Pinkerton Foundation for funding to launch a NYC STEM Education Network. Building on the work of a Noyce Foundation-supported group in New York City called the Science Alliance, the newly-established Network brought together STEM educators and leaders from a range of professional development organizations for after-school and summer STEM providers.
In a burst of entrepreneurial spirit, the workforce development field is showing new enthusiasm for an old idea: creating “social enterprises” to employ low income jobseekers.
Workforce dollars are precious—particularly those targeting low-income jobseekers. The woman of color with a fifth-grade reading level; the returning veteran; the out-of-school youth with no employment experience; the immigrant laborer without papers; the court-involved; the individual recovering from addiction—their challenges differ, but each is seeking the stability and respect that steady employment can provide.
“Employer engagement” is the current battle cry of funders and policymakers as they urge workforce practitioners to become ever more “market driven”— meeting the needs of employers and, in the process, providing lasting benefits to low-income jobseekers.
A bad job is not simply the absence of a good job. A bad job destabilizes the individual, her family and the community. A bad job not only fails to pay enough for decent food and shelter for a worker’s family, it can risk her health, disrupt any chance for a predictable family life, undermine her dignity, and deny her voice within the workplace.