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OPINION

Helping neighbors work toward better paychecks

The Examiner

During this COVID-19 year, teamwork has never been more important. Your Community Foundation has certainly had to call many audibles at the line of scrimmage to make our new initiative a success.

Phil Hanson

Earlier this month, we gathered on Zoom with donors and friends of the Community Foundation for a Virtual Behind the Scenes event, focused on progress made by the Job Skills for New Careers initiative. Teamwork was a central theme, highlighting the partnerships that have helped this program meet increased demand and continue to serve the community during this health and economic crisis.

The Job Skills initiative’s goal is to break the cycle of poverty and provide a path to financial stability for our hard-working neighbors in Eastern Jackson County. Targeted to adults in low-wage jobs with no benefits, this program connects them with training in fields that pay living wages and are in high demand in the region, including health care and skilled industrial trades. We want to enable them to truly have a career and not just a job. We knew that we couldn’t accomplish this goal alone. The initiative is a strategic partnership with the Community Services League, Mid-Continent Public Library and the University of Central Missouri.

In addition to covering the cost of training, the program provides wraparound support services, including public benefits counseling and financial coaching that will help remove barriers that may prevent program participants from reaching their goals both during the program and for the future.

Launching during a pandemic has brought unexpected challenges, but it’s also been a catalyst for new opportunities. When nursing homes and hospitals increased restrictions for visitors, students in the certified nursing assistant program weren’t able to complete required practicum training hours. This led to important conversations and valuable partnerships with local health-care employers. Now, partnering employers such as John Knox Village hire CNA candidates prior to their training and ensure a successful job placement after graduation. This investment and participation by employers is game-changing and will allow us to scale this effort in ways we never imagined. As the coronavirus continues to impact our lives and economy, it’s clear that these types of partnerships are essential for the future of our community.

Kick-started by $120,000 in support from Truman Heartland fundholders and a $60,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, even amidst the coronavirus storm, the Job Skills initiative has helped 95 participants so far this year. As we approach the second year of the program, we anticipate demand to continue to grow.

The lower-income families that this program serves have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In fact, many low-wage restaurant and retail employees – barely making ends meet before the pandemic – are still struggling to return to work. And while jobless rates have dropped in recent weeks, many labor economists argue that data doesn’t account for the people who have completely dropped out of the labor force, whether due to the current state of the job market or because of rising concerns about safety or child-care duties.

This program helps people in this space and the segment of workers who have returned to work but are eager to make a change, find a career and start building a stronger future for their families. Join us in this effort by visiting www.thcf.org/job-skills to learn more about the Job Skills for New Careers initiative and ways to help.

Truman Heartland Community Foundation, along with our partners, continues to explore new ways to leverage funding and opportunities to meet the needs of the community. If you work with organizations that support these at risk populations or know anyone who could benefit from this program, please share information about Job Skills for New Careers and encourage them to visit newskills.cslcares.org and complete a simple application. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with trainings starting soon. Help us spread the word about this program.

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving communities in and around Eastern Jackson County. Visit www.thcf.org or call 816-836-8189.