Favorable Conditions for People to Advance

by Jodi Stacey, Community Activist and organizer of the Low Income Families in Transition (L.I.F.T) workshop at First Baptist Church Waco.

In last week’s blog we introduced three big goals for Waco (1) Make Waco a city of opportunity. (2) Make sure pathways to opportunity are clear and well marked. (3) Provide effective support to help more of us keep our footing on the path. In this blog Ms. Stacey explores some ideas regarding goal #2.

Many of the people we serve are uneducated, undereducated, and/or lacking in technical skills. This has led to a shortage of career opportunities for them. They are most often unemployed or underemployed. The issue of a lack of education is often omitted during client consultations; yet, our clients’ problems for which they are seeking help are inextricably tied to their income and income earning potential. A simple example in the poverty law setting is a client who is a single mom facing an eviction from her apartment for failure to pay rent. Her hours were reduced to less than 30 hours per week at her $7.25/hour job, leaving her unable to pay her rent this month or in the future. We discuss her eviction rights and housing options, but do not discuss why her hours were reduced; whether she would like a referral to a nonprofit for job search, resume, and interviewing assistance; and whether she has thought about a certification or two-year degree at a local community college to start a career and how that goal might be accomplished.

We often provide services and guidance without a full picture of the human potential sitting in front of us and without an assessment of options available to them to improve their economic outcome in the future. The same clients return time and time again, and we wonder why. Why aren’t they doing anything differently to change their future? My question is whether we, as a community of people striving to help others, are doing anything differently to create the conditions that are favorable for people to advance themselves? Are we in agreement that a high school diploma or GED is insufficient to obtain employment with a sustainable wage and that higher education (at any level) provides the best chance to open the doors to careers with sustainable wages? If so, are we open and honest with our clients about this issue?

We, as social service providers, churches, school districts, community colleges, universities, and the business community, must be closely networked to develop clear paths to prosperity – “Career Pathways.” These paths must be so well developed and articulated in the community that people want to come back to education because they are convinced that careers and better jobs are within their reach. We can work together to align social services and funding to remove the most difficult barriers to education for working poor, first generation, and at-risk students so that they can enter college and graduate with a certificate, 2-year degree, or 4-year degree.

ACPfinalcover2I encourage you to read The Career Pathways Effect: Linking Education and Economic Prosperity, a joint publication of CORD and NASDCTEc, as well as Adult Career Pathways: Providing a Second Chance in Public Education (second edition 2011), by Richard Hinckley, Debra Mills, and Hope Cotner. These books provide a great place to begin a community conversation. CORD stands for the Center for Occupational Research and Development and is located at 4901 Bosque Blvd. in Waco. The President and CEO of CORD is Richard Hinckley. I read these books after moving to Colorado, and they have greatly influenced how I view community strategic planning and the importance of creating clear “Career Pathways” for high school students preparing for their future and for adults coming back to education so that they can achieve their goal of greater economic stability.

This week’s blog post was by Jodi Stacey.  If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected].

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