Describes the implementation of an initiative designed to improve how public and private workforce systems address racial inequities in the labor market and serve job seekers living in low-income neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; and Seattle, Washington, from 1995 to 2005.

“[D]riven by the fact that children whose parents are trapped in jobs that do not pay family-supporting wages or are unemployed are less likely to succeed in school and life,” (p.5) the “Jobs Initiative set out to increase job opportunities, particularly for young men of color, by improving connections between low-income neighborhoods and regional economies” (p.4). “From 1995 to 2005.…[t]he Jobs Initiative invested $30 million…in six cities—Denver, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Seattle” (p.5) — to “address racial inequities and cultural competence in their respective labor markets” (p.4). “The initiative particularly focused on female-headed and two-parent households and…young fathers of color.…

The focus on people of color was an intentional part of the Jobs Initiative’s design. It evolved from detailed analyses demonstrating that complex historical, social and economic factors led to disproportionately poor employment rates for certain racial and ethnic groups, particularly African-American men” (p.5). These factors include structural economic changes, wage disparity, the decline in U.S. manufacturing, the decline of unions, lack of access to job centers, and concentrated poverty (p.42-43).

“The [Jobs I]nitiative employed…strategies that factored in the realities of regional labor markets; the barriers that low-skilled, low-wage job seekers face; the hurdles that growth-oriented employers encounter; and the changes needed within public and private workforce systems…[including:]

· Job brokering” (p.10).

· “Human services job creation” (p.10).

· “Sectoral interventions” (p.10).

· “Spatial mobility strategies” (p.11).

· “Capitalization and enterprise development strategies” (p.11).

· “Jobs policy networks” (p.11).

This report examines “how the Foundation and sites handled race and cultural competence throughout the initiative….This report also dives deeper into the strategies, tactics and projects developed by the Jobs Initiative sites to improve outcomes for job seekers of color and employers. Finally, it explores how race and cultural competence informed policy and system reform efforts under the initiative, as well as challenges the sites and the Foundation faced in undertaking [their] work” (p.6).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“As the Jobs Initiative progressed, the sites developed training sessions specifically for soft skills, with the benefits reflected in their participants’ success in securing jobs.…However, new workers continued to report instances of workplace bias, difficulties with supervisors and coworkers and other experiences that appeared to be associated with race, ethnicity or culture. The workgroup recognized the need for a different framework. The notion of cultural competence provided a broader framework for understanding how race and ethnicity affect employment and retention, placing them alongside a range of characteristics such as cultural diversity, socioeconomic background, language, religion, ability, gender and sexual orientation” (p.15). “All sites developed new ways to reach communities of color, assess needs, provide training and deliver support services that took race, ethnicity and culture into consideration” (p.40). • “The Seattle Jobs Initiative showed that an effective intermediary must demonstrate its own cultural competence before asking partners to do so…. • The Denver Workforce Initiative demonstrated a demand-driven approach that concentrated on developing training products and measurement tools to build the cultural competence of workers and employers…. • The New Orleans Jobs Initiative showed the power of starting with a racial equity framework and including authentic community voices in the initiative’s design and among its leadership…. • The St. Louis Regional Jobs Initiative showed that an intermediary could successfully engage in policy advocacy and use hiring agreements for the explicit purpose of desegregating targeted industries and trade unions…. • The Milwaukee Jobs Initiative demonstrated the tactical advantage of partnering with institutions and union members who have experience advocating for racial justice and equity in the workplace…. • The Philadelphia Jobs Initiative demonstrated how to use capital investments to generate job opportunities for people of color by connecting high-growth, minority-owned businesses and other firms with neighborhood job pipelines; offering business services…provided by community and economic development organizations; and building hiring requirements into investment and lending agreements” (p.41). Overall, the authors note several factors contributing to success, including a commitment to racial equity, processes and strategies to address inequalities, and a site-driven framework (p.40). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)