Ascendium believes that earning a certificate, credential, or degree has the ability to transform a person’s life. A college education can help make this a reality, but it’s not the only route to career success. Equally vital is effective and quality workforce training that can help learners from low-income backgrounds achieve upward mobility.
Good workforce training programs can create highly skilled workers capable of meeting industry needs while also providing individuals with a lifetime skill, credentials, and knowledge of a trade. However, the same inequities that plague postsecondary education also apply to workforce training. In the world of apprenticeships, for example, there is an overwhelming bias toward male applicants. The trend is even more dispiriting along racial lines. In 2021, Black Americans comprised just 7.6% of apprentices — despite making up 13% of the labor force.
As a national philanthropy, it’s important that we fund work that exposes learners from low-income backgrounds to workforce training programs. Furthermore, we have an obligation, through our partners, to help them understand which options lead to good jobs in fields where employers are most in need of help.
Here are three resources highlighting promising approaches to workforce training that are already working to improve the lives of learners from low-income backgrounds.
- In an episode of the Future U. podcast, Merit America and Marcy Lab School founders talk about how their organizations train learners facing financial and other barriers to postsecondary education and connect them with careers in the technology sector. For working adults who either never enrolled or dropped out of college, these organizations provide an invaluable on-ramp to a fruitful career.
- CivicLab shares what the FutureMakers Coalition has done to get learners from low-income backgrounds in rural Hendry County, Florida, the education and training they need to meet the demands of skilled jobs in their communities. The area has seen a development boom in recent years, yet few of its residents have the training and skills to qualify for newly available jobs. By bringing together educators, employers, community organizations, and others to build better systems for boosting educational attainment and improving job training, the coalition is keeping those jobs within Hendry County while boosting the local economy.
- The Future Opportunities for Rural Workforce and Rural Development (FORWARD) Curriculum helps Cooperative Extension Professionals (CEPs) work with community stakeholders to design and implement career pathways that lead learners and workers from low-income backgrounds to in-demand jobs in rural places. CEPs can use this curriculum when they:
- Have been asked by community leaders to assist in identifying the community’s needs for workforce development.
- See an underdeveloped workforce development ecosystem in the community and limited effort to strengthen ties across entities.
- See the need to generate new opportunities for low-income workers and connect them with available jobs.
- Agree with community leaders that Cooperative Extension can fill a gap by facilitating a community conversation about workforce development and job and training opportunities for low-income workers.