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Employment

Funding Opportunity: Employment Training for Ex-Offenders

The US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has two grant opportunities for non-profits that serve ex-offenders re-entering the community.

The Strategies Targeting Characteristics Common to Female Ex-Offenders grant expects to award about 8 grants totaling $12 million to non-profits that help adult or youth ex-offenders either pre- or post-release with job skills training. Programs must target one or more characteristics common to female ex-offenders, including “sexual or physical abuse, family turmoil, early puberty, learning disabilities and school failure, and mental health and substance abuse issues.” The grant announcement states, “Services to be funded will be targeted to female ex-offenders, but must also be open to eligible male ex-offenders.” The application deadline is April 17, 2013.

The Training to Work - Adult Reentry grant program will award approximately 15 grants totaling $20 million to non-profits that serve participants in high-crime, high-poverty areas that experience high rates of criminal recidivism. Grant-funded projects must help ex-offenders enrolled in state or local work-release programs acquire credentials to increase employability. The purpose of the grant is to, “help participants attain industry-recognized credentials for jobs in demand industries in their area prior to release or within 90 days after release from a state or local work release program.” The application deadline is May 2, 2013.

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AP Questions the College End of the 'Cradle to College Pipeline'

The Associated Press ran a provocative story on May 13 questioning the universal value of a college education.  This is relevant to Promise Neighborhoods, which is based on building a continuous pipeline from "cradle to college to career."

Supporters of a focus on college as a desired educational outcome often cite the higher employment rates and incomes of college graduates compared to non-college graduates as justification. But according to the AP article, some are beginning to question the causal link. Just because college graduates are more likely to be employed and paid higher salaries does not necessarily mean that the college education is what caused those outcomes. Family supports, connections, and job experience play a major role, as do many other factors.

Our concern is for those who might get left behind. The focus on college as the preferred outcome only becomes worrisome if it causes us to undervalue or ignore our youth who choose a different path.

According to the Associated Press:

The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

As evidence, experts cite rising student debt, stagnant graduation rates and a struggling job market flooded with overqualified degree-holders. They pose a fundamental question: Do too many students go to college?

And this:

Federal statistics show that just 36 percent of full-time students starting college in 2001 earned a four-year degree within that allotted time. Even with an extra two years to finish, that group's graduation rate increased only to 57 percent.

Spending more time in school also means greater overall student debt. The average student debt load in 2008 was $23,200 — a nearly $5,000 increase over five years. Two-thirds of students graduating from four-year schools owe money on student loans.

And while the unemployment rate for college graduates still trails the rate for high school graduates (4.9 percent versus 10.8 percent), the figure has more than doubled in less than two years.

Regardless of the strength of the causal relationship between college, jobs and pay,  job experience is still important, which is why so many college students spend time in internships, for example. It is also one of the many reasons that we at UNCA have joined the Congressional Black Caucus in supporting summer jobs. Getting to a career is important, but there are several ways to get there.

This is important in the context of Promise Neighborhoods because the rhetoric of "cradle to college to career" seemingly undervalues the alternative of "cradle through high school to career." Fortunately, the actual indicators for Promise Neighborhoods do value alternative paths by recognizing vocational certificates or other industry-recognized certificates. This is a step in the right direction, though seemingly different from some of the rhetoric we have heard. It is important because performance measures, when they are meaningful, drive programmatic focus.

Let's not undervalue other children in an effort to send every child to college. We are happy that Promise Neighborhoods hasn't done that.

Summer Jobs, the CBC, and Promise Neighborhoods

Followers of this blog will note that we occasionally write about the economy and the importance of jobs, particularly the summer jobs program. We can tell that those are some of the least well-read items we write about, and we don't want to go completely off-topic. But this is a vitally important issue, and here's why.

Promise Neighborhoods is about connecting these youth not just to college, but careers. The summer jobs program is a critically important pathway to job experience and should be part of local Promise Neighborhoods efforts, if not immediately, then eventually.

Unfortunately, according to a Washington Post article yesterday, time is running out for more money for this program. The Congressional Black Caucus is pushing hard and we strongly support their efforts in this regard.

United Neighborhood Centers of America is an association not just of community-based nonprofits. We are also the voice of those organizations in Washington, not just on Promise Neighborhoods but the rest of the administration's urban agenda and related, vitally important programs like this one.  The Alliance for Children and Families represents similar organizations working with these communities, and similarly supports this program.

We hope we will be able to pull some of the non-members among you along with us on this. We are stronger when we work together.

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Congressional Black Caucus Addresses Youth Unemployment

Title:  Congressional Black Caucus Addresses Youth Unemployment
The Congressional Black Caucus hosted a hearing entitled "Out of Work But Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed."
The panel brought together local and national leaders along with policy experts and practitioners to address the widespread unemployment that has been brought on by the recession. Participants included National Urban League CEO Marc H Morial, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
The third of the event's four panels addressed "Strengthening the Next Generation of Workers - Summer Youth Jobs, Training and Long Term Employment." Mala Thakur of the National Youth Employment Coalition discussed the importance of summer employment in addition to year-round opportunities for youth. She emphasized the need for a focus on investments in both short-term and sustainable long-term employment prospects. Thakur also expressed support for the reauthorization and strengthening of the Workforce Investment Act in addition to more funding for a House Education & Labor Committee jobs bill. Proposed expansions in these bills would change eligibility requirements and extend support to more youth, including those out of school.
Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten Coalition added that these initiatives are critical for increasing the long-term employment prospects of youth, as early job opportunities can foster the development of critical "soft skills." Gaining a sense of work responsibility, punctuality, and professionalism are some of the intangible, yet invaluable experiences that these programs can provide for youth.
Largely targeting communities living in urban poverty, youth employment policy is an important component of the wraparound services that Promise Neighborhoods should provide. Integrated with other social services and
educational opportunities, this piece should play an important role throughout the "cradle-to-career" pipeline in place-based efforts across the country. As Promise Neighborhoods moves forward, UNCA will work with the administration and CBC to help make sure this important piece is included.
Today the Congressional Black Caucus hosted a hearing entitled "Out of Work But Not Out of Hope: Addressing the Crisis of the Chronically Unemployed."

The panel brought together local and national leaders along with policy experts and practitioners to address the widespread unemployment that has been brought on by the recession. Participants included National Urban League CEO Marc H Morial, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The third of the event's four panels addressed "Strengthening the Next Generation of Workers - Summer Youth Jobs, Training and Long Term Employment." Mala Thakur of the National Youth Employment Coalition discussed the importance of summer employment in addition to year-round opportunities for youth. She emphasized the need for a focus on investments in both short-term and sustainable long-term employment prospects. Thakur also expressed support for the reauthorization and strengthening of the Workforce Investment Act in addition to more funding for a House Education & Labor Committee jobs bill. Proposed expansions in these bills would change eligibility requirements and extend support to more youth, including those out of school.

Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten Coalition added that these initiatives are critical for increasing the long-term employment prospects of youth, as early job opportunities can foster the development of critical "soft skills." Gaining a sense of work responsibility, punctuality, and professionalism are some of the intangible, yet invaluable experiences that these programs can provide for youth.

Largely targeting communities living in urban poverty, youth employment policy is an important component of the wraparound services that Promise Neighborhoods should provide. Integrated with other social services and educational opportunities, this piece should play an important role throughout the "cradle-to-career" pipeline in place-based efforts across the country. As Promise Neighborhoods moves forward, UNCA will work with the administration and CBC to help make sure this important piece is included.

Congressional Black Caucus Meets with Obama, Calls for Help on Jobs

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) met with President Obama on March 11 and urged him to do something about high levels of unemployment in the African American community. According to a story in The Politico:

CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said the group discussed direct job creation and work force training as well as areas where government can help “create jobs immediately.”

People close to the caucus said members pointed to the high unemployment rate in their largely majority African-American congressional districts. They encouraged Obama to push legislation in the Senate that would lead to direct jobs creation, particularly a summer youth jobs program — a proposal that failed in the Senate this week.

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by Dr. Radut