It’s fairly standard practice with city, state, or federal contracts to have participation goals for Minority Business Enterprises, Women’s Business Enterprises, and minority and women workers. However, the Baltimore Integration Partnership (BIP) is taking this approach to the next level with its laser-like focus on local hiring and ensuring that existing residents benefit from new economic development efforts occurring in their communities. I recently traveled to the city as part of an Integration Initiative site visit, and learned about the work they are doing to advance a range of economic inclusion strategies that tailor training, procurement, and employment opportunities to local residents – nearly all of whom are African-American.
With a goal of creating family-supporting employment for African-American residents of three targeted low-income neighborhoods, the BIP is advancing five key strategies:
1) Unlocking job potential in capital/physical development with anchor institutions and in growth sectors with major employers;
2) Building neighborhood pipelines that deliver job placement and support services that link job seekers with employers;
3) Investing in demand-driven occupational and bridge training that leads to career track employment;
4) Understanding the landscape and effectiveness of existing workforce programs; and
5) Sustaining and scaling efforts by embedding policy and practice changes; creating on-going sources of funding and support; aligning public and private efforts; and removing structural barriers to work.
What struck me most was Baltimore’s neighborhood-based workforce development pipelines. I’m not aware of any ongoing efforts similar to these in the Twin Cities where jobseekers in a specific neighborhood can go to a single organization where they can be assessed for work-readiness, be placed in training, and then become preferred candidates for jobs in the area.
In our own efforts in the Twin Cities, we are using funding from our HUD Sustainable Communities grant to fund Jobs Central!, a demonstration project along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit alignment that will work with unemployed and underemployed residents in four low-income neighborhoods along the Corridor to understand their employment needs, skills, and desires. While this work is in its nascent phase, we have much to learn from Baltimore, specifically how backbone organizations (like East Baltimore Development, Inc.) can serve as the connectors between local residents, the workforce system, and key employers.
With JobsCentral!, _our approach will be much more decentralized as we look to many service providers and community-based organizations to identify job-seekers in targeted neighborhoods. Without funding for new training programs, JobsCentral!_ will use existing organizations to provide supports, connections, training, and/or credentials that meet identified business and job seeker needs. Our goal is to use business and job seeker information to improve workforce and economic development systems and inform policy makers and others by creating meaningful feedback loops.
The workforce and economic inclusion efforts of the Corridors of Opportunity initiative in the Twin Cities are more diffuse and have less of a focus on local hiring, but seek to mirror many of the strategies deployed in Baltimore. As we advance a local and targeted hiring strategy with some of the 17 healthcare and educational anchors located along the Central Corridor and as we establish a workforce funders group – we will be pulling from the playbook that our colleagues in Baltimore have so graciously shared.
Mary Kay Bailey is the Project Director for the Corridors of Opportunity/Living Cities Integration Initiative Minnesota Philanthropy Partners