OPINION

Improved job skills move families out of poverty

The Examiner

How the world has changed in the past year. I commonly hear people talking about time in terms of Pre-Pandemic time versus Post-Pandemic time. COVID-19 has certainly rocked the entire world. However, it has had the most dramatic impact on the lives of those most vulnerable in our community.

Phil Hanson

In February 2020, in pre-pandemic times, we had very low unemployment and a strong economy and your Community Foundation was launching our new Job Skills for New Careers initiative. The goal is to provide job skills training to low-income families in our community to enable them to secure a job that has career opportunities and provides a path for their family out of poverty. 

Launching this program during a pandemic was certainly challenging due to social distancing requirements that impacted how training could be delivered. Despite the headwinds we had 63 participants graduate and receive a certificate that will enable them to secure a job with a future. We had 36 CNA (certified nurse's aide) graduates and 27 welding program graduates. The initiative is a strategic partnership with the Community Services League, Mid-Continent Public Library and the University of Central Missouri, combining each organization’s unique assets. We also received strong support from fundholders at the foundation who made grants to support this effort totaling $120,000 and a $60,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation.

Many things continue to be unclear due to COVID-19, which I refer to as the COVID fog. However, what is crystal clear is that the need for our Job Skills for New Careers initiative is even greater now than it was last February. Thousands of people in our community were in low wage hospitality or retail jobs and barely making ends meet prior to the pandemic, andare now unemployed and struggling to keep their families housed and fed. Many of these jobs are not coming back, and now is the time for us to give these families a hand up so they can learn new skills and get that new career, a job with a future.

This year we will expand the number of training options for in-demand jobs to appeal to more people and their career interests. We will expand from two career paths to six by offering training in medical coding and billing, phlebotomy, sustainable materials and construction as well as CNA and welding. Our goal is 125 graduates from these programs. While we realize the need is far greater than the 125 we are able to serve, the impact this opportunity will have on these families will be dramatic, it will change their world.

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 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 online application. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with trainings starting throughout the year. Help us spread the word about this program.

We are also seeking to build relationships with employers who need employees with the skills obtained through these trainings. If you are an interested employer, we would be pleased to talk with you about how you can help ensure there is a job waiting for each trainee when they complete the program.

COVID-19 has rocked the world of these families. Now it’s our turn to give them a hand up so they can learn new skills and get that new career, a job with a future that will provide their family with a path out of poverty. I hope you will join us.

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