Recommendations to improve employment opportunities for New Haven residents

[An excerpt from the Executive Summary of the report:]

New Paradigms Consulting (NPC) was hired to develop recommendations for improving employment opportunities for New Haven residents that Mayor Harp’s leadership can bring to fruition. Mayor Harp is particularly interested in learning about the state of workforce development in the city and the region, and identifying 2-3 strategies that will make a difference for jobseekers. Much of the information in this report comes from state data, and a scan of New Haven-based nonprofits that offer employment services ranging from basic education skills to occupational training. The focus of the report was to understand the level of resources that exist, and recommend ways to improve coordination and collaboration among the providers in order to increase their impact as a group for the specific purpose of connecting more people to quality jobs and training opportunities. Among the questions New Paradigms was asked to address are:

  • What resources exist in New Haven to provide employment services, and what services are offered?
  • How effective is the network of workforce development providers and can they scale up their services to serve more people?
  • Where are the opportunities to promote better coordination, stronger collaboration, and otherwise improve the impact New Haven service providers have on job seekers?
  • What will it take to “move the needle” on unemployment among lower income city residents, and what are the 2-3 strategies that could us there?

New Paradigms estimated over $37 million flowing into New Haven to support employment programs from adult basic education to occupational skill training. Half that funding comes through the Workforce Alliance, the regional workforce investment board, which serves over 5,300 New Haven residents, and helped 2,238 find a job in 2014 (one third of all placements). The Workforce Alliance is by far the largest service provider; all other providers combined account for perhaps a third of the volume that comes through the Career Center. The scale of services offered by the other nonprofit providers are low, and in need of improvement for more impact so that twice as many more program completers are prepared for a job, placement in an occupational training program, or pursue a credential at Gateway Community College.

This report recommends two core strategies for improving employment opportunities, and three goals as follows:

  • Create a workforce intermediary who can work with providers, employers and the public system to better coordinate services, and will work with providers to improve service quality, coordination and impact;
  • Mobilize the New Haven community around a campaign to “Skill UP New Haven” by focusing on reducing adult literacy as measured by increasing the number of adults who are proficient in math and literacy at a minimum 11th grade level
  • Establish a target to increase New Haven’s adult literacy rate by 5% -- or 2,500 people – over the next five years, and connect those individuals to employment, college or training.
  • Establish a target to increase the employment rate among New Haven residents by 8%, or 4,200 people by 2020.
  • Re-establish a Workforce Roundtable for local service providers as a starting point to meet regularly, share information, and begin the process of better communications and collaboration.

The job market reality is that educational levels of available jobs has increased over the past decade, and the educational skills of the jobseeker have not kept pace such that a significant gap exists between literacy levels of New Haven adults and those required by available jobs. Increasingly, these jobs require some level of post-secondary education; either an Associate’s Degree, or at minimum, an industry-recognized credential. Creating different pathways to improved literacy will open employment options for those who want those skills and make them more competitive job candidates. Putting those pathways in place will require service providers to work in new and different ways. Then these pathways have to produce literate adults at a pace far better than is currently the case. Today, at most there are 1200 adults in New Haven pursuing Adult Basic Education and/or a GED program, either at the Continuing Education Center, or at one of its satellite programs. The net result of this effort is 44 persons prepared through the Continuing Education Center passed the GED test in 2014. In order to close the gap and “begin priming a basic skills pipeline”, New Paradigms estimates New Haven’s service providers will need to produce a minimum of 632 adults each year that become proficient at a minimum 11th grade level!

The recommendations in this report align with the work of the New Haven Promise Zone (NHPZ) / City Transformation Plan planning teams that is currently underway and lead by Martha Okafor, the City of New Haven’s Community Services Administrator.