An important part of the Center’s mission is to help low-income individuals and families achieve financial independence. In recent years, we’ve worked toward that mission through several programs:
- TRADE community reentry program, which serves people coming out of incarceration with employment-related training;
- POP scholarship program, which provides tuition and wrap-around services to low-income students at Southeast Community College; and
- English Language Learning classes, which provide lessons on language and culture, with an emphasis on obtaining employment, to refugees and immigrants with limited or no English language skills.
For some time, we’ve held the belief that there is a greater need to help people in our community obtain healthy living wages. The pandemic made that even more clear, bringing much-needed attention to the importance of improving the job skills of Lincoln’s residents and elevating their employment from low-wage, part-time jobs to well-paid, full-time positions with benefits.
In a 2020 report, the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Taskforce cited a recent analysis by the Brookings Workforce of the Future Initiative, which states that 16.2% of jobs in Lincoln pay low wages and do not offer benefits. This represents an estimated 30,000 people, who tend to be the most vulnerable to lay-off, as we saw during the pandemic, and are disproportionately Black and Hispanic.
The Mayor’s report also noted that prior to the pandemic: a gap was growing between the skills employers need and those held by residents; a majority of Lincoln’s households have stagnant incomes; and there is an unusually high percentage of people in Lincoln working multiple part-time jobs. This indicates there is a population of Lincoln residents ready to benefit from new and improved job-skills.
The report goes on to make solid recommendations on how to accomplish this. It calls for job-skill training to be directly connected to ongoing employment opportunities and for job descriptions to be written in a way more easily understood by people trying to enter a new industry. Additionally, it calls for training to reach often-overlooked populations and communities, such as low-income residents, communities of color, and residents with limited English language proficiency. These are exactly the communities we serve! We know how vitally important it is that they are included in Lincoln’s economic recovery, and we have a strong commitment to seeing it happen. Our large facility and location put us in a great position to help. Through greater collaboration with community partners, we hope to strengthen and expand our education and training efforts.
If all of the components needed for workforce development come together, we can help more families achieve financial independence, giving them a better chance at a good, healthy and dignified life.