A Deepening Partnership to Bolster the Workforce in a Battered New Jersey City

Nationally, unemployment may be way down, but official numbers only count those Americans actively seeking work, and the grim truth is that many millions of people are disconnected from labor markets. Nowhere is this more true than in battered former industrial cities, where real unemployment rates are often at Depression-era levels, especially among young people of colorsome of whom risk never getting hooked up with the mainstream work world at all. 

One piece of good news is that more big corporations are aiming to activate this underutilized human capital, and are gearing their philanthropy around this goala trend we report on regularly. That makes sense in terms of meeting their own labor needs, but another factor here is that many top business leaders seem to implicitly embrace the argument that high levels of inequality and poverty are an obstacle to long-term economic growth. It's not just that the marginalized Americans aren't working at their potential; they aren't spending much, either. 

Back in February of 2014, we wrote about JPMorgan Chase committing $250 million to the New Skills at Work Initiative. Now, in alignment with that initiative, JP Morgan is deepening its partnership with Newark-based CareerWorks, a training, placement and advancement project that gets unemployed and under-employed adults into jobs with family-sustaining wages and a potential career path.

Related: JP Morgan Chase’s $250 Million Jobs Program 

The bank recently announced a two-year, $400,000 New Skills at Work grant to CareerWorks to expand industry partnerships and develop the skills of entry-level adults and advance them in career tracks in healthcare and transportation, logistics and distribution.

CareerWorks is New Jersey’s only regional collaborative of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS), another initiative we've written about recently. NFWS is a super-sized national network of 36 workforce funders working in over 30 communities across the country. Back in April, Newark was one of three regional sites that the NFWS granted $100,000.

Related: What's this National Collaborative Doing to Enhance Workforce Development?

Now, with an additional $400,000, CareerWorks is poised to train hundreds of new workers for jobs that are key to New Jersey's economy. 

The way CareerWorks actually gets these new jobs to happen is by working with employers who agree to hire job seekers and advance current employees who gain skills through the CareerWorks partnership. The JPMorgan Chase grant will advance CareerWorks’ partnership with Jersey City Medical Center – Barnabas Health. This partnership trains job seekers and current employees who work in food services, patient transport and housekeeping to become patient care techs and medical billing and coding professionals, with an average $8,000 to $10,000 increase in annual wages once they are placed in the new jobs. The grant will also allow CareerWorks to set up similar skills training programs with other hospitals in the Barnabas Health network, such as Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Another Careerworks partnership supports Ford Motor Company Maintenance & Light Repair Certification through the New Community Corporation. This certification can lead to job placements with employer partners like Sansone Auto Mall, Ford, Toyota, Jiffy Lube, NJ Transit and Goodyear. This program has been placing automotive techs in jobs since 2013 with a 78 percent success rate for full-time employment.

As a result of the success of this initiative, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development decided to get involved and issued a grant that trained another 50 of these middle-skill workers. CareerWorks is now training 200 job seekers over two years in auto repair certification program, with the goal of placement in local dealerships or service centers. The JPMorgan Chase grant gives a big boost to this current partnership.

In addition, CareerWorks will use the grant to develop more industry partnerships with employers that are key to the New Jersey workforce, and will develop stronger alliances with key industry associations.