New ‘Bridges to Career Opportunities’ addresses crippling education gaps
INDIANAPOLIS (January 25, 2016)—A federal program that fuels grassroots solutions to community challenges is helping close the skills gap that traps millions of people in poverty, even in a growing economy.
The Social Innovation Fund (SIF)—part of the Federal Corporation for National and Community Service—has awarded funding to the new Bridges to Career Opportunities program at three Centers for Working Families (CWFs) in Indianapolis. The Bridges program is overseen by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis in order to help low-income workers build the skills necessary to earn a living wage. Coaches at three community centers will teach core skills like math, reading, and English as a second language in combination with “soft skills” like interviewing, teamwork and conflict resolution—all organized around the employment preferences of specific industries or sectors—preparing participants to succeed in subsequent technical skills training.
This local effort is part of an $11.3 million SIF grant to the national LISC office, which developed the Bridge skills program and began piloting it last year in several cities. Thanks to this grant LISC is now expanding the model through community organizations across the country that each provide a foundation of integrated services and long-term financial coaching that helps low-income families expand their income, credit, savings and job opportunities.
“It’s clear that many hardworking families continue to struggle—but not because there are no good jobs and not because they aren’t willing to work. They have fallen through the cracks of our educational system and aren’t able to read, write or manage numbers well enough to move up the economic ladder,” said Bill Taft, executive director of LISC Indianapolis. “This program is proving that we can equip them to make real financial progress.”
LISC recently awarded a total of $525,000 to three Centers for Working Families to build the Bridges program in Indy that will reach 187 people over the next 12 months. The grantees are John Boner Neighborhood Center, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and Edna Martin Christian Center.
These local challenges are not unique: an estimated 36 million American adults have low literacy skills and 62 million have low numeracy skills.
“We can’t ignore this skills gap if we care about our national economic health,” said Kevin Jordan, LISC senior vice president who oversees national programs. “It’s a fundamental part of helping unemployed and underemployed workers take advantage of the good jobs that are out there.
SIF funded LISC’s initial expansion of CWFs back in 2010 as a promising new approach to addressing economic mobility issues. The $21 million it has provided since then—along with funding from foundations and corporations and neighborhood nonprofits has helped more than 23,000 people annually tackle their financial challenges through CWFs.
About LISC INDIANAPOLIS
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis is the local office of a national organization that helps resident-led, community-based development organizations transform distressed communities and neighborhoods into healthy ones — good places to live, do business, work, and raise families. By providing capital, technical expertise, training, and information, LISC supports the development of local leadership and the creation of affordable housing; commercial, industrial, and community facilities; businesses; and jobs. In short, we help neighbors build communities.