Expansion of San Antonio’s Train for Jobs program under consideration


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After several months of lackluster registrations, a pandemic-era program to help low-income San Antonians find paid jobs saw a slight increase in applications this spring, officials said last week.

“We knew we would eventually see this increase; it just took a little while, ”said Deputy City Manager Alex Lopez, who oversees the Train for Jobs SA program.

The $ 75 million, federal-funded, one-year coronavirus relief program is slated to end in September, but Lopez has discussed with partner organizations about a possible extension that could increase the overlap with the SA program. Ready to Work funded by taxpayers which is slated to begin in October or November, slightly late.

“Participants who register at the end of September can still be served until they complete their training,” Lopez told the SA Ready to Work advisory board on Thursday. “The conversation we have started with all of our Train for Jobs partners is: what would an expansion look like… and what resources would you need to keep your operations going until the end of the year? “”

The program, which started last September, was intended to train up to 10,000 people, but has enrolled only around 6,000 to date.

“Anyone interested can still sign up for the program,” Lopez said. An expansion of the program would mean people could sign up for Train for Jobs after September.

The actual number of places available to participants and how quickly residents complete training depends on the type of training residents choose, Lopez told reporters on Wednesday.

This makes the current availability of places in the program difficult to quantify, Lopez said.

Since this week, approximately 344,000 Texans will no longer receive the additional federal unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week. Officials said this could lead to increased enrollment in the Train for Jobs program.

“For many, this is the time to consider their career path,” Nirenberg said. “Training for a new career is the best way for many workers to build a better future. Registrations for the program are accelerating.

About 600 participants completed the training and over 200 were employed for three months or more. Information on the remaining 400 graduates was not immediately available.

Nirenberg said he was not disappointed with Train for Jobs’ ROI so far.

“We expect those numbers to increase, obviously,” Nirenberg said. “But at the start of this program, we’re not going to see a lot of work placements until these people have completed their training.

The relatively low number of internships produced by Train for Jobs may signal problems for the voter-approved Ready to Work program, funded by a four-year sales tax that will generate approximately $ 154 million that will be spent to train up to 40,000 residents. Train for Jobs is widely seen as a sort of pilot program for Ready to Work, which will also offer two- and four-year scholarships.

Due to delays in formulating requests for proposals, the September launch of Ready to Work was delayed for at least a month.

“What we’re working on right now is really figuring out the most effective way to make the transition… so that there is no gap and there is always a program available for residents who wish to improve, “said Lopez.

A slow start

The city’s Train for Jobs program acts as an administrator for several partner organizations with workforce development initiatives, including Project Quest, Alamo College District, Alamo Workforce Solutions, Chrysalis Ministries, Family service, Restore education, and SA Works.

This network offers free training for careers in healthcare, business, information technology, manufacturing, logistics and other trades while providing a weekly allowance, if needed, for living expenses. such as rent or child care.

Approximately 4,600 residents completed the admissions process within the first seven months of Train for Jobs. Since April, approximately 1,400 additional residents have been found qualified for a training course under the program.

The program, which is part of the city’s recovery and resilience plan funded by federal coronavirus relief dollars, anticipated greater interest in short-term training programs that take several weeks, but it has seen a much higher enrollment in longer-term training opportunities, Lopez said. This means that it will take months longer for these participants to find a job.

Longer-term training typically results in higher salaries for long-term students, said David Zammiello, executive director of Project Quest. In addition to the time it takes to explore a career, many “are not going to graduate and be ready for the job market in a year”.

Partner organizations have forged stronger relationships and there is a stronger referral network through the program, Zammiello said. “It all takes time. “

David Zammiello, Executive Director of Project Quest. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

And there is no clear roadmap for how a city should launch or operate programs like Train for Jobs and Ready to Work.

“I can’t think of another city that has taken this bold strategic initiative focused on investing in its people,” Zammiello said.

Neither Mark Elliott, president of the Economic Mobility Corporation, who has studied educational attainment and economic programs across the United States, including Project Quest.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of similar situations, because we haven’t had cities that invest heavily in workforce development like this,” Elliott told the San Antonio Report.

“Judge [these programs] early is not necessarily a sensible way to determine whether they have succeeded or not, ”he said. “I have no way of knowing if the investments that are being made now will pay off. But… I wouldn’t find it surprising that they started off slowly.

“We have seen workforce development programs across the country [that] really struggled with knowing how to continue operations during the pandemic. “

Therefore, creating a program from scratch with multiple partners is likely to have similar difficulties, he said.

Government entities have invested to help businesses and businesses after the pandemic, but programs for low-income residents have come under closer scrutiny nationwide – largely by Republicans -, Elliott said.

“Fortunately, San Antonio has an organization that has demonstrated that it gives a very substantial return on investment,” he said of Project Quest.

In the society of economic mobility nine-year assessment from Project Quest, the organization found that participant incomes rose from an average of $ 11,722 to $ 33,644.

The work ahead for SA Ready to Work

One of the main hurdles that Ready to Work will face is balancing the city’s need for accountability with the need for flexibility of partner organizations, Zammiello said.

“I would prefer the city to be the facilitator and hold the agencies accountable, rather than trying to manage and control excessively,” he said.

This tension arose in December when the city offered to hire more than 60 employees to provide the case management services that partner organizations currently provide. That part of the plan has since been scrapped and the city instead plans to hire fewer than a dozen employees to administer the program.

“It’s an important balance,” Nirenberg said. “We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure that we provide proper oversight and accountability for the trust they have placed in this program.

He doesn’t want to “hamper the program with unnecessary bureaucracy.” We want to make sure that the resources are provided to these program providers, curriculum providers, [and] trainers, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A large part of these administrative and financial processes will be specified in the call for proposals and, ultimately, in the contracts signed by the partner organizations. Two separate contracts with third parties will be used for the marketing and evaluation of the program.

A draft government contract request was released in May, and the city received more than 150 comments and suggestions for changes from potential partners. After a community meeting on July 1, the solicitation is expected to be posted on July 6 and the city will accept responses for 45 days.

“The issuance of these RFPs has been quite significantly delayed, but we believe we have come to a better understanding” of the needs of partner organizations, Lopez told the Ready to Work advisory committee.

The city plans to host up to two pre-bid conferences and a symposium where applicants can ask questions about contract requirements and find out how the program should work.

In October, city council is expected to vote on partnership contracts, Lopez said. Until then, the town is expected to hire a new executive director for workforce development, as Heber Lefgren, director of the town’s animal care services, has only been temporarily reassigned to run the train. for everyday use.

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