Connecticut is one of the richest states in the nation, but Hartford is one of the poorest cities. Our capital city and region have higher unemployment rates than the state as a whole; yet while employers indicate a demand for a skilled workforce, the region is not able to meet that demand.
All of our region's residents should have access to clear pathways to employment and career advancement. How can we help residents with significant barriers to employment bring economic security to their families by becoming assets to our employers?
Context is everything.
The Hartford Foundation has been investing in workforce development for a long time, but it was our work in adult literacy that informed a more holistic approach to supporting successful employment.
In helping to establish Move UP!, the Capital Region Adult Literacy Partnership, we came to understand the importance of contextualized learning – or making instruction highly relevant and immediately usable in the workplace and life. We also saw that other life barriers or circumstances can complicate consistent program participation. Furthermore, many people don't know that programs exist, or don't know how to access them.
People without a GED, single parents, at-risk youth, former offenders, the homeless, and immigrants all face complex hurdles to employment and economic security. When so many residents in our region face challenges to obtaining a livable wage, the impact is felt in all aspects of community and family life.
In response, at its December 2015 meeting, the Foundation's board of directors approved $3.95 million over three years in grants and technical assistance to support our new Career Pathways Initiative, which aims to develop an integrated, regional career pathways system.
This initiative is bold and high risk. It is also a strategic approach to a serious community problem. We must accept that with risk, there will be failures; but this effort is too important to be timid. If successful, it could have a significant impact on the quality of life in our region.
Our work in this area is just beginning, and we look forward to the challenges we will undertake with our many partners.