Coming from a business background, I was getting frustrated about how inefficient we are at getting people who need jobs connected to good training and then to the jobs that companies are trying to fill. Ideally, it would work like a well-designed factory:
- Local companies would tell training/education groups what entry-level and mid-level jobs are going to be in demand .
- The trainers/educators would train to those needs.
- Social service groups would funnel people in need of work into those training programs and jobs.
Of course it will never be that tidy. But we can do a lot better than we are doing now. Everyone is trying their best while playing a guessing game; as a result, many people who have no time or money to waste end up in dead-end jobs, or in training programs that don’t lead to jobs. Meanwhile our communities miss out on the healthy economies that can only come from an efficient job market and strong middle-class.
So I started doing research on what data or initiatives exist in the San Francisco Bay Area to help align company needs, training/education efforts, and social service groups. For a while I found precious little. For example, there is a once-a-year survey of the state of employment but that isn’t specific enough to be useful in getting us closer to the ideal case above. I was getting ready to give up.
I came across a terrific resource that I think many of you can use. It is a comprehensive report called “Economic Prosperity Strategy: Improving economic opportunity for the Bay Area’s low- and moderate-wage workers”. Yes, it is about the Bay Area, but you’ll see that their approach to the issue, their analysis, and the strategies would apply to most geographies. If you are involved in workforce and community development matters or manage a company, do yourself a favor and read this report, leverage it and share it with others in your communities.
What it is
Here is a summary of the report:
“Lifting lower-wage workers into middle-wage jobs is a matter of regional importance and concern. As outlined in this report, workers earning lower wages live and work in every community throughout the entire region. And because they make up more than one-third of the
workforce, they are a critical linchpin to an economically prosperous region.
Many local and regional leaders are already working on strategies to connect lower-wage workers to better employment. The Economic Prosperity Strategy draws on these efforts and proposes additional strategies to offer a more comprehensive approach.
There is much to accomplish: Improved training is necessary but insufficient; bolstering experiential learning and improving social networks are important steps but inadequate on their own; the California economy overall may expand but without targeted policies to expand the region’s base of middle-wage jobs and raise the wage floor the expansion will not improve prosperity for all low-wage workers; effective programs and policies exist in some communities or within individual firms, but too often the lessons from these programs are not broadly shared or replicated. Addressing these challenges comprehensively requires greater regional collaboration across diverse sectors and organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. Issues involving the workforce, housing, transportation, economic development and labor standards need regional solutions. Implementing key strategies could help maintain the region’s economic competitiveness while also advancing the goal of upward mobility and opportunity for all workers.
The strategies outlined in this report are intended to encourage innovative ways to improve economic opportunity in the Bay Area. They also aim to inspire a broad range of private and public organizations to take collective action. A major goal of the Economic Prosperity Strategy effort is to encourage collaboration across diverse sectors and organizational and jurisdictional boundaries to share best practices, successful approaches and models.”
What it is not
- The report is not one think tank’s view of the world. The entities that collaborated on developing this were diverse and they interviewed and involved many other people and groups in the community, business and government.
- It is not a vague utopian vision. They really sorted through the symptoms and causes of the problems, using real data, and chose a reasonable set of strategies. Although the issue and area is too big to drive this all the way to the kind of action plan and job machine I envisioned above, they describe who should take up the banner in the case of each strategy.
Key Topics Covered
- 4 strategies for creating pathways to middle-wage jobs
- 4 strategies for growing the local economy in ways that will increase middle-wage jobs
- 3 strategies for upgrading the conditions in Lower-wage jobs
In a future article I will share more of what they have to say about preparing people for those middle wage jobs!