The Jobs Initiative
In the early 1990s, the Casey Foundation recognized the importance of addressing economic opportunity as a key component of a larger set of strategies needed to create family economic success for low-income families. Joblessness and lack of family sustaining income have devastating consequences, not only for families, but also for communities as a whole. Improving child outcomes clearly requires increasing the employment and earning opportunities of low-skilled, low-income adults.
To address that challenge, the Casey Foundation embarked on the Jobs Initiative, an eight-year effort in six cities to connect inner-city young men and women to family-supporting jobs in the regional economy and to improve the way urban labor market systems work for low-income, low-skilled workers. From the start, the Jobs Initiative emphasized finding jobs with career opportunities and promoting longer-term job retention for participants. It has stressed the importance of employers and job seekers as customers, focused on outcomes to track performance, and used data to promote accountability.
The work of the Jobs Initiative has resulted in a number of key findings:
- Basic supportive services increase the likelihood of successful job placement for low-skilled workers.
- “Job readiness” services are the most important factor relative to workers with limited skills or previous work experience achieving short-term employment retention (that is, a three-month job retention milestone).
- “Hard skills” training is the most important factor for achieving longer-term retention for such workers (that is, retention of 12 months or longer).
- Access to employer-subsidized benefits generates higher retention rates.
- Positive wage changes following initial placement are a strong predictor of long-term retention.