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New investment in training for well-paid jobs

City private, philanthropic partnership gives $1.2 M

Jule Pattison-Gordon
New investment in training for well-paid jobs
Paul Grogan, CEO and President of The Boston Foundation (left), Mayor Martin Walsh and Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility for JPMorgan Chase, were joined by grant-recipients as they announced an alliance to bring workforce development to neighborhoods in need.

More and better-paying employment is in store for residents of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan through a new partnership of public, private and philanthropic organizations. Last week at city hall, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Boston Foundation and the City of Boston announced an alliance — and a joint commitment of $1.2 million — to bring workforce development to the neighborhoods needing it most.

Unlike prior job training programs, this initiative will work with employers to tie training directly to placement in well-paying jobs.

Programs supported by this initiative will provide entry-level training and target those who are unemployed, underemployed or making up to about $10 an hour, said Marybeth Campbell, executive director of SkillWorks. Founded in 2003, SkillWorks is a nonprofit partnership among The Boston Foundation, private and public investors and city and state government. It provides workforce development for low- and moderate-income earners and improved connection between businesses and potential employees.

While the programs are open to individuals across the city, the focus is on underserved communities.

“[The goal is to] get opportunities into neighborhoods and areas that have not gotten the kind of growth they need. Places like Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan,” Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility for JPMorgan Chase, said.

Mayor Martin Walsh said workforce development is a critical tool in fighting inequality in Boston.

Pipeline to career

Although the city has a high demand for jobs, all too often there is a disconnect between training and results.

“Each year, thousands of jobs remain vacant due to a mismatch between the skills required by employers and those available in the labor force talent pool,” according to a statement appearing on The Boston Foundation’s website.

At times the difficulty comes from lack of networking between trainers and employers.

“We have to do a better job of connecting the programs that train people with the employers that are going to hire people. That’s where … all over the world, we’ve fallen down,” Chase’s Sher said.

The alliance seeks to avoid the pitfalls of failing to match skills to demand and failing to ensure organizations have a plan for connecting with employers. The majority of the $1.2 million is contributed to SkillWorks, which in turn provides grants to organizations with a strong record of training programs that lead to employment.

SkillWorks also supports programs to advance currently employed individuals into better positions. One example is Boston Children’s Hospital, where lower-level employees are trained for promotion while, simultaneously, jobseekers are trained to take over those vacancies, Campbell said

The city of Boston donated $350,000 to SkillWorks and JPMorgan Chase divided $500,000 among SkillWorks, Just-A-Start in Cambridge and YouthBuild Boston. SkillWorks, in turn, is investing $830,000 in grants in one year to elven Boston-area organizations, which it expects will serve 800 people.

Opportunity sectors

The grants will focus on strong and growing sectors and jobs that can support a middle-class lifestyle and while featuring opportunity for advancement.

“These are not dead-end, poverty jobs,” said Paul Grogan, president and CEO of The Boston Foundation.

Past programs have targeted positions in hospitality and healthcare, industries on which this initiative will continue to focus.

Brian Lang is president of Local 26, an affiliate of UNITE HERE that represents hospitality workers in more than 32 hotels across the state. He said thousands of jobs are expected to open within the next five years. More than 30 hotels are in the pipeline, he said, and a high percentage of current employees will retire.

“It presents a huge challenge to the industry, a huge challenge to the city and a huge opportunity to many in the workforce,” Lang said.

Previously, Local 26 recruited, trained and placed 24 black workers into hotel jobs after finding few blacks in the field. In another effort, they trained 42 workers with funding from the Neighborhood Jobs Trust, and last week, they had a career fair. With more funding, he said, such programs can be expanded.

The workforce development initiative now also will target information technology jobs. IT is expected to constitute 25-33 percent of the program, Grogan said.

Bridge the gap

Mayor Martin Walsh said preparing people to fill the careers being created in the city is a vital step in narrowing the equity gap.

“Inequity is one of our city’s greatest challenges,” he said. “Workforce development is essential.”