Last week, the New York Times highlighted a workforce training program in San Antonio called Project QUEST that helps hundreds of people every year move out of poverty and into sustainable employment. A recent analysis of the program was particularly encouraging. Nine years after entering training, participants are still experiencing high rates of employment and earning over $5,000 more annually than a similar group that didn’t participate in the program. Such outcomes are rare in workforce development programs.
The Times article came out just as AEI’s Vocation, Career, and Work research team began discussions with Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas, an organization that uses a model similar to Project QUEST. Capital IDEA has been working with low-income families in Austin for more than 20 years to move workers from low-wage to middle-skill jobs. In 2018, program graduates earned an average starting wage of $22 per hour. A previous analysis of the program has found sustained wage gains at least four years after program completion.
[Photo Credit: RealClear Policy]
In Austin, a Public/Private Partnership for Workforce Success, RealClear Policy
The economic odds facing Avigail Rodriguez a few years ago couldn’t have been much worse. An undocumented immigrant and a single mother, she lived in a cramped apartment in a tough neighborhood in San Antonio and earned just $9 an hour working as a nurse’s assistant.
Today, Ms. Rodriguez, 26, owns her own home in a safer area, earns nearly three times as much as she did before and has secured legal residency. The key to her turnaround was a training program called Project Quest, whose own ability to beat the odds is no less striking than that of Ms. Rodriguez.Project Quest has succeeded where many similar retraining efforts have failed, taking workers lacking in skills and successfully positioning them for jobs where they can earn double or triple what they did previously.
“This really gives employers a chance to find workers they wouldn’t otherwise have considered,” said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University. “At the same time, it provides opportunities to a rather disadvantaged group of workers, both younger and older.”
Project Quest was born 27 years ago in a Hispanic neighborhood in San Antonio where poverty rates are above the citywide average. After the closing of a Levi Strauss factory there, community groups [i.e. COPS/Metro, see comment at right] created Project Quest as a way of preparing workers for better-paying, more highly skilled jobs that were less vulnerable but still in demand.
[Photo Credit: Joanna Kulesza, New York Times]
Job Training Can Save Lives. See How San Antonio Does It., New York Times [pdf]
Business columnist Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle argues that Project QUEST is the most effective workforce development program in the nation. Economist Mark Elliot, CEO of the Economic Mobility Corp., had this to say:
“To see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.”
In photo above, COPS/Metro leader Sr. Consuelo Tovar fights for local funding of Project QUEST. [Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News] In bottom photos, trainees learn to cradle a newborn and conduct PERRLA evaluations. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation [pdf]
Hundreds of Texas IAF leaders bused into the Capitol from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and West Texas, joining Central Texas Interfaith counterparts to call on state legislators to increase spending on adult and K-12 education.
After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including Medicaid, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were recognized with a House resolution in support of the ACE program.
300 leaders then convened on the South steps of the Capitol where they were joined by state legislators who pledged to continue working for investments in people. The following spoke in support of the ACE fund and increased public school funding: Central Texas Representatives Vikki Goodwin, John Bucy, Erin Zwiener, Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico; El Paso area representatives Joe Moody, Mary Gonzalez and Art Fierro; North Texas legislators Victoria Neave, Terry Meza, Julie Johnson, John Turner and Ana Ramos; and from San Antonio, Phillip Cortez.
In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson from TMO (Houston) kicks off the press conference with leaders from San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Dallas Area Interfaith, Central Texas / Austin Interfaith, West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith). After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Over 300 Texas Industrial Area Foundation leaders from across the state will hold a press conference on the south steps of the State Capitol on Thursday.
There, they will call on the House and Senate to invest in families through adult workforce development and public education.
Among those present will be more than 75 members of Valley Interfaith, which is part of the IAF network. In addition to pushing for adult workforce development and public education, Valley Interfaith members will also call for investment in border colonias.
The Rev. Kevin Collins of St. Eugene Parish in Brownsville is a leader with Valley Interfaith. He said Valley Interfaith wants legislators to increase the state’s overall share of the cost of public education and to increase the per-pupil allotment.
“Quality public education is a question of a strong Valley economy and quality of life,” Collins said. “The state needs to step up its game and invest more in public education. Property taxes skyrocketed because the state’s share of school funding went from 50 percent to barely 36 percent. The state needs to increase investment to improve the quality of public education in Texas.”
[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]
Five years after COPS/Metro's first wage win, the San Antonio Express-News is crediting the organization with the most recent wage floor hike at Alamo Colleges to $15 per hour.
"The COPS/Metro Alliance, a community organizing coalition, has for years pushed local public entities to adopt a minimum 'living wage' of $15 hourly as part of a national movement. The Alamo Colleges had already raised its minimum wage, along with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and some public school districts, with the stated intent of moving gradually toward the $15 goal. The city and county reached $15 last fall."
In photo top left, taken in 2014, over 300 COPS/Metro leaders publicly launched a "living wage and economic security" campaign to raise the living standards of public employees. In 2014, in top photo at right, a St. Alphonsus Catholic parishioners tells a reporter that her daughter, a full-time Alamo Colleges employee, earned only $8.50 / hour without benefits or vacation. In bottom photos, Alamo Colleges workers Jose Rodriguez and Jennifer Wilgen describe the impact of the wage raise.
The $15/hour minimum represents a 30% increase over the previous wage floor. Alamo College representatives argue that raising the wage floor “supports the economic and social mobility of the families of the lowest paid members of the Alamo Colleges District workforce and the persistence of a growing body of students” employed part-time at the colleges.
This position is consistent with what COPS/Metro leaders have argued for years.
[Photo Credits: Top left and bottom photos by Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News; top right photo by Rafael Paz Parra]
Alamo Colleges, Other San Antonio Employers, Embrace 'Living Wage', San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Building upon a three-year conversation campaign, Albuquerque Interfaith burst back onto the political scene with a clear cut strategy for the 2019 biennial New Mexico Legislative Session.
Through house meetings, civic academies, research actions and nonpartisan accountability assemblies, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders developed a legislative agenda to address four areas of concern: 1) Neighborhood Preservation, Community Safety and the Criminal Justice System; 2) Strengthening Schools and Public Education for All; 3) Immigrant Justice, Worker Protection and Workforce Development; and 4) Rebuilding our Behavioral Health System and Health Security for All.
Acting in teams, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders plan to track relevant legislation, gather political intelligence, testify, and advocate for their legislative agenda through collaboration with key legislators supporting bills that intersect with the ABQ Interfaith agenda. Sunday handoffs between institutional teams are already happening to ensure no political intelligence is lost.
Through public action in the Legislative Session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders hope to restore the foundation of public investments in children and fulfill their vision of creating an “inclusive, multicultural community where children thrive and there is justice and well-being for all.”
Project QUEST, the nonprofit workforce development organization created more than a quarter-century ago by the COPS/Metro Alliance, has been awarded a $1 million grant that the organization says will allow it to serve more San Antonians with expanded job training programs.
The award comes from the Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of their Communities Thrive Challenge, which awarded $1 million each to 10 organizations across the nation, working to “help low-income and financially insecure people find and retain well-paid, meaningful work, achieve financial security or build economically vibrant neighborhoods.”
San Antonio’s Project QUEST wins national $1 million grant, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
On Sunday, October 14th 2,000 leaders and parishioners from Dallas Area Interfaith assembled at the Christian Chapel Temple of Faith to challenge candidates from the Texas Tribune’s 2018 Hotlist, including Texas House Districts 105, 107, 114, and 115, and US Congressional District 32. Republican and Democratic candidates for Coppell, Richardson, and Dallas Independent School District School Board positions also participated.
At the assembly, DAI leaders publicly challenged each candidate to, if elected, commit to working with them on immigration, job training, expansion of healthcare, payday lending, and public education. All participating candidates, including local Republican candidates, publicly committed to partner with DAI leaders in supporting and / or crafting policy in these areas. One journalist reported that “in a city that’s sharply segregated by race and class, the forum was a rare example of cohesive pluralism.”
The assembly and Get Out The Vote actions are the culmination of a two-year campaign on behalf of the families and communities of Dallas. Less than a year ago, DAI leaders successfully negotiated with Police officers of the cities of Dallas, Farmers Branch, and Carrollton to accept Catholic Parishes ID’s as a form of identification. For immigrant families, having a photo ID could help prevent deportation. Since then, the parish ID strategy spread to the East Coast through DAI’s sister organization in Baltimore, BUILD. Leaders from BUILD testified at the October 14th assembly that Baltimore police officers have committed to accepting the IDs as a valid form of identification.
Since then, leaders have pushed forward with parish-based Get Out The Vote walks across the Dallas area, knocking on hundreds of doors so far and contacting thousands of voters by phone. DAI has also partnered with the business community in a joint press conference to encourage voters to participate in the midterm elections.
DAI Accountability Voter Forum [video]
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
From Levi’s to Southwest Airlines to Walmart, Business Tries to Turn Out The Vote, Dallas Morning News
[COPS / Metro Alliance] hosted a town hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Helotes, and invited Republican and Democrat incumbents and challengers for state and Congressional offices that represent West Bexar County and San Antonio’s south and west sides to attend and publicly state their positions on four issues: restoring Texas public school funding; immigration reform; reining in the “payday lending” industry; and increasing job training and re-training programs for displaced workers and in historically under-served areas....
Mendoza says COPS/Metro Alliance decided to become active in more conservative, affluent suburban communities outside the city's inner and outer freeway loops because emerging economic and social challenges are not defined by geography or political affiliation.
With the 2018 midterm elections less than three weeks away, COPS/Metro Alliance today launches a get-out-the-vote phone banking and canvassing initiative....
[Photo by Morgan Montalvo, WOAI]