West and Southwest IAF organizations are pioneering workforce initiatives that bring working people out of poverty level jobs and into living wage careers. By building the political will for investment of public monies in long-term training, local organizations have successfully brought together employers, community college officials and community leaders to create long-term workforce development and education programs for actual jobs in high demand occupations.
Inspired by the success of the oldest of these labor market intermediaries, Project Quest in San Antonio, leaders established an additional nine projects in the West and Southwest US: Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas; Project ARRIBA in El Paso, Texas; VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; JobPath in Tucson, Arizona; NOVA in Monroe, Louisiana, Skills-Quest in Dallas, Texas; Capital IDEA-Houston in Houston, Texas; Project IOWA; and Arizona Career Pathways in Phoenix. In 2014, DuPage County United launched its own labor market intermediary, Career Connect Metro West, just outside Chicago.
Collectively, these institutions have trained and placed over 16,000 adults in living wage jobs which pay, on average, $40,000 annually plus benefits and a career path. This number is expected to grow as the West / Southwest IAF expands into Phoenix, Des Moines, Albuquerque and DuPage.
Arizona Career Pathways
Career Connect Metro West
Job Training Can Change Lives. See How San Antonio Does It, New York Times (2019) [pdf]
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled Workers Into Middle-Class, Houston Chronicle (2019)
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf] (2017)
A Capital Idea: We Can’t Think of a More Valuable Initiative, Houston Chronicle (2014)
A Look at How Project ARRIBA Helps Individuals and the Community, KVIA (2014)
Job Training Program Adjusts Amid Funding Cuts, Texas Tribune (2013)
Who Can Fix the “Middle-Skills” Gap?, Harvard Business Review (2012) [pdf]
School for Success, The American Prospect (2012)
Project Quest a Worthwhile Investment for City, San Antonio Express News (2012)
Workforce Training of Parents Boost Children’s Aspirations
Austin American Statesman (2011)
Tucson Tech: $200,000 Grant to Help Train 50 Adults
Arizona Daily Star (2011)
VIDA Success Stories Multiply; Job-Training Organization Moves Forward
Brownsville Herald (2009)
Building a Career Where There Was Just a Dead End
Washington Post (2007)
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation (2019)
VIDA: Implementation and Early Impact Report, Pathways for Advancing Careers in Education (2018)
Escalating Gains: The Elements of Project QUEST's Success, Economic Mobility Corporation (2018)
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation (2017)
Economic Impact of Project ARRIBA on El Paso, Texas
UT El Paso, Institute for Policy and Economic Development (2015)
Economic Impacts of the JobPath Program on Pima County
Applied Economics (2014)
Return on Investment from Capital IDEA: Research Brief, Full Report, 2014 Update
UT Austin, Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources (2011)
VIDA: Economic Impact Study
UT Pan American, Data & Information Systems Center (2010)
Project Quest: A Case Study of a Sectoral Employment Development Approach, Aspen Institute (2001) [pdf]
Capital IDEA: Generational Impact Study (2011)
Beyond Graduation: Promoting Post-Program Engagement & Advancement
Aspen Institute (2009); On the Road to Success video (2010)
Further reading on workforce development strategies
IEF Labor Market Programs, a memo by MIT economist Paul Osterman (2002)
Video about the establishment of Project Quest in San Antonio (1994)
Story about the establishment of Project Quest in San Antonio by COPS/Metro
Back in 1992, she was an organizer for COPS/Metro Alliance when the powerful community organization designed and persuaded the City to financially back Project Quest, which early on and to this day has been recognized as one of the most successful job training programs in the country. In 2011, when Project Quest was plagued with controversy from failings due not to corruption but to incompetence, Sister Pearl was brought in to turn it around. She did and ran the organization for six years.
Now the City of San Antonio is embarking on SA: Ready to Work, a program approved by the voters last November that will spend $154 million over five or six years in an effort to train the city’s working poor for good-paying jobs that the city is now generating.
[Photo Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report]
Solid Advice For Erik Walsh: Talk To The Nun, San Antonio Report [pdf]
About five years ago, COPS/Metro sought and won “living wage” minimum pay for City workers, resulting in raises for about 20 percent of the civilian workforce. They won similar measures from Bexar County, and some school districts followed suit.
Now two measures on the Nov. 3 ballot offer San Antonians the opportunity to again help lower-rung workers. Both involve a one-eighth-cent sales tax that for 20 years has provided funding to buy development rights to protect sensitive lands over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
The first ballot measure would transfer those funds to provide about $154 million over the next four years for a job training program projected to boost the incomes of up to 40,000 workers. That’s an aggressive goal, but what gives it credibility is that its approach is based on Project Quest, a jobs training program designed by COPS/Metro 28 years ago.
Interestingly, it was COPS/Metro and their sister organizations around the state that persuaded the Legislature back in 2001 to authorize local governments to spend money on job training and early childhood education. That same law, the Texas Better Jobs Act, permitted San Antonio voters to approve Pre-K 4 SA in November 2012. The highly successful preschool program is up for renewal on the ballot.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, San Antonio Report]
Election Day Ballot Will Let You Celebrate Labor Day on November 3rd, San Antonio Report [pdf]
At the urging of AMOS leaders, Governor Reynolds is investing $5 million for job training paired with wrap-around services from CARES Act funds.
After hearing stories from Iowans facing the stress of unemployment amidst a shifting economic environment, AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) began researching how to help workers get back to work in living wage jobs.
"Losing a job is a trauma for workers and their families," said AMOS leader Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bell Jr. "We know that workers need not only training to be able to access higher-wage work, but also support for that trauma, childcare access and assistance to help them complete a training program and be ready to re-enter the workforce."
Since May, AMOS leaders had been meeting with business, government, and community stakeholders to formulate a job training proposal to address the coronavirus crisis. In July, 100 AMOS leaders convened a Workforce Summit calling on Governor Reynolds to invest in intensively supported job training which was built on a model pioneered by the West / Southwest IAF. This initiative will ensure workers have the training and support they need to get back to work, strengthening their families and better able to support the communities they live in.
Governor Reynolds Heeds AMOS' Call to Invest in Iowa's Workforce, AMOS [pdf]
Less than two months before early voting begins, Mayor Ron Nirenberg has called in several heavy hitters to steer his campaign to use a sales tax to help residents get back to work after they lost their jobs to the coronavirus.
The campaign, known as “Build SA,” faces the daunting task of figuring out how to break through a noisy November election to convince San Antonio voters to put more than $150 million toward a still loosely defined proposal that city officials estimate would help 40,000 residents get higher-paying jobs....
The mayor has assembled a trio of co-chairs to lead the effort: Blakely Fernandez, a partner at law firm Bracewell and former Alamo Colleges trustee; Linda Chavez-Thompson, former executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO and a former VIA Metropolitan Transit board member; and Sonia Rodriguez, a leader of the local grassroots organization COPS/Metro.
[Photo Credit: KENS5]
San Antonio Mayor Calling In Heavy Hitters for Campaign to Win Voter Approval of Coronavirus Economic Recovery Plan, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
City to Ask Voters Whether to Redirect 1/8 Cent Sales Tax Towards Workforce Education, KENS5 [pdf]
Voters will be asked to approve a 1/8-cent sales tax to fund job training and college degrees for San Antonians who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money also would help participants pay rent and other living expenses while they complete those programs.
The sales tax revenue would be dedicated to those purposes for four years....
“Today, San Antonians need this investment more than ever,” Virginia Mata, a leader of the grassroots coalition COPS/Metro told council members Thursday. “It is not only the right thing to do but also the right investment. The seeds that you plant today will have a lasting effect and will help San Antonians rise from the shadows to the light.”
[Photo Credit: Billy Calzada, San Antonio Express-News]
'We Need Action Now': Sales Tax Proposal for San Antonio Economic Recovery Now in Voters' Hands, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
With Workforce Measure on Ballot, Project Quest Ready to Help Mend Economic Wounds, Rivard Report [pdf]
Since the onset of the pandemic, COPS/Metro with our allies, Project QUEST and the Alamo Colleges, have led the way to ensure San Antonians whose lives have been shattered by the economic free fall can re-enter the workforce equipped with new skills and good salaries. This month, the workforce development program supported by CARES and the city of San Antonio began accepting applicants whose jobs went on hiatus or completely disappeared. These applicants are supported with critical wraparound services that include a stipend, child care, transportation, tutoring and counseling, like the highly successful services provided by Project QUEST, which is recognized nationally for its high graduation and job placement rates. The Alamo Colleges will play a vital role in this program, using Project QUEST’s model along with partnerships that will strengthen and expand its capacity to serve displaced workers.
To be successful, the new Education and Workforce Program will need to adhere to a set of standards like the CARES recovery program, whose primary focus is meeting the needs of the participants. Addressing those needs must be the focal point of decision-making, not business as usual. This means providing quality wraparound services, including a 1-to-100 ratio of counselors to participants, ensuring job placement upon program completion and connecting graduates with jobs that pay a living wage with benefits. And the overall policy direction and management of the program must reside within city government, along with participants, educators and community members who can offer insight into program implementation.
Approximately 160,000 workers have been displaced due to the pandemic. The lion’s share of the funding should be directed toward them. While the majority of tax dollars will be dedicated to workforce development, funds could also go to participants with some college credits who want to complete their degrees. If the higher education institutions adequately address their needs, it is possible a fair number of college graduates could result from a small investment into this pathway. However, using public dollars to offer the same programs and services that previously failed these same students will not do. This is not a scholarship program; it is a jobs program.
[Photo Credit: Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News]
Improving Economy of City, Lives Of its Residents in Grasp, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
A group of nearly 100 people gathered Thursday to address challenges facing the state’s workforce and what needs to be done as the state continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting, hosted by AMOS Institute of Public Life, the education and training arm of AMOS [A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy], drew members of the region’s faith-based community, business leaders, and state and local government officials.
The meeting focused on Project IOWA, a nonprofit organization that offers support and training to Iowans looking to improve their careers.
Paul Osterman, a professor of human resources at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the keynote speaker of the meeting, said job training programs, such as Project IOWA, have had great success in helping low-wage workers climb the ladder to better-paying jobs.
He said nothing has changed since the pandemic began to spread, “it’s just intensified it,” in reference to the need for services.
Osterman said one challenge that needs to be addressed is helping people move from one job to another, something Project IOWA focuses on.
There isn’t a strong public system to help with that, so the work Project IOWA does is essential to not only train workers, but also provide access to good jobs and creating good jobs.
“And these programs do both of these,” Osterman said. “You provide training, skills and connection to employers, but programs like these also create worker jobs, because there is research that shows that in communities that have effective human capital, skill development systems, employers do better. More jobs are created. It’s better for entrepreneurs. It’s better for employers. It helps new businesses coming to the community when they can see that the community is invested in the skills of its people, and sharing the cost of developing the skills of its people.
“Over time, it actually improves the economic health of the community,” he said.
Change Needed in Job Training, Development in New Pandemic Workforce, Business Record [pdf]
COPS/Metro, one of the city's most powerful community organizing groups, vigorously lobbied the council to use the federal dollars to help workers who lost jobs during the pandemic to receive retraining. Under the plan, the city would partner with Workforce Solutions Alamo and Project Quest, allowing residents to access weekly stipends of $450 and services such as childcare.
Council voted 10-1 to approve the plan, saying the training opportunities will allow the city to reshape is low-wage economy and residents to access work with better earnings, benefits and job security.
San Antonio Council Votes to Spend Biggest Share of Federal COVID-19 Funds on Workforce Training, San Antonio Current [pdf]
City Council Set to Vote on $80M Plan to Teach People Skills to Earn Higher Wages, News for SA [pdf]
‘Time is of the Essence’: Council OKs $191M COVID-19 Recovery Spending Plan, Rivard Report [pdf]
Debate Over S.A. Stimulus Money a Battle Between Have-Nots, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
COPS/Metro, a network of grassroots community and religious organizations, wants $200 million of the city’s and county’s stimulus funds to underwrite what it describes as a GI Bill for the working poor. After beefing up the city fund for emergency housing assistance, COPS/Metro is calling for putting jobless workers through school at Alamo Colleges with a stipend.
“It would be a down-payment for the long term,” said Steve Mendoza, a COPS/Metro leader and co-author of an Express-News guest column outlining the proposal. “Tourism is not going to come back right away. And if we continue to focus on tourism, we’re going to get the same” dependence on low-wage jobs.
He added: “When there’s a crisis, there’s an opportunity.”
[Photo By William Luther, San Antonio Express-News]
Jefferson: $270 Milllion In Stimulus Aid Won't Plug Holes In San Antonio Budget, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
Commissioners Deciding How to Use $79 Million in Federal Coronavirus Relief, Rivard Report
Leveraging $25,000 for long-term job training, Corridor Interfaith leaders from Living Word Lutheran and San Marcos Unitarian Universalism, along with Capital IDEA alumni, succeeded in persuading Hays County Commissioners to invest local dollars into Capital IDEA. Once matched with state ACE funding, the investment will allow 7-10 Hays County students to train out of poverty and into middle-class careers.
Leaders met with their Hays County representatives over several months to educate them about Capital IDEA and to advocate for the inclusion of funding in the 2020 budget. At the final budget hearing at the commissioners' court, the request was quickly moved forward and approved!