By Brad Whitehead, Fund for Our Economic Future, for Community Leader
Well, the divisive election of 2016 is thankfully behind us. However, the long-simmering issues that erupted so forcefully in November are now squarely on the plates of civic leaders. At the core was an angry electorate who communicated loudly and clearly that it was tired of being (or knowing someone) stuck in a dead-end job, or having no job opportunities at all. While plenty of finger-pointing and name-calling has persisted since the election, we can’t allow the conversation to break down further and end in a hateful place. Rather, we must find some common issues that transcend political polarization and allow us to mend some of the fragments of civic society.
If ever there was a place where we can talk with each other, a place where we can cross party lines to work together, it’s here in Northeast Ohio—and it can start with broader implementation of a successful recent effort called WorkAdvance.
WorkAdvance was a national workforce development pilot tested in Northeast Ohio, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and New York, that demonstrated impressive potential to contribute to long-term workforce solutions that give more individuals the opportunity to advance along a career pathway and into jobs that provide family-sustaining wages, and that connect employers to the talent they need for their businesses to prosper.
How much potential? In short, a lot. MDRC, a nationally recognized and independent evaluation firm, measured the results of participants who received WorkAdvance services versus candidates who got the normal mix of services in a rigorous, randomized trial. In Northeast Ohio, MDRC found that after two years participants were 49 percent more likely to work in a targeted sector and more likely to work in a job with regular hours and with career advancement potential—and, they averaged 14 percent more in earnings.
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