Drive-bys: SER’s Road Trip Job Placement Strategy

By Lorne C. Green, Manager of Healthcare Workforce Programs, Central States SER

In the Little Village community of Chicago, as well as the surrounding communities of North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, and Pilsen, drive-bys are rarely thought of as something positive.  Yet the job developers of Central States SER’s Healthcare Bridge Program have reinvented the term as they fill vacant certified nursing assistant (CNA) positions at many of the nursing homes and hospitals in Chicago and its suburbs.

Central States SER-Jobs for Progress was founded in 1970 with the goal of expanding career opportunities for the Hispanic community in Chicago.  Over the past decade the number of participants served has grown considerably, from 500 participants in 2002 to more than 10,000 in 2012.  SER’s 115 full-time employees work with a wide range of participants, from former gang-affiliated youth to senior citizens, who are looking to reenter the workforce by gaining skills for careers in health care, transportation, manufacturing, and many other fields.

Along with Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, Central States SER launched its CNA training program in 2007.  The program was started with the aim of helping low-skilled, low-income adults gain access to training that leads to viable health care careers and helping local health care employers find quality staff.

Central States SER’s Healthcare Bridge Program is the cornerstone of its programmatic work in these communities and, in partnership with Daley College, the program has helped nearly 150 individuals successfully complete a contextualized literacy and numeracy program.  Since 2007, these certifications opened the door for graduates to gain admission to a health care–focused occupational training program at one of the City Colleges of Chicago or Triton College and, ultimately, find employment at a health care facility.

While Central States SER and its partners were highly successful in training and graduating participants from the CNA program, they still had little success with job placement for some of their students.  Despite professional development workshops that included job search techniques, résumé writing, mock interviewing, and providing targeted job leads, many graduates still were not being hired.  This high number of unemployed graduates spurred Central States SER to gather labor market information, specifically from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, to check whether CNAs were still in demand.  Yet according to the data, there will be a 20.95% increase in demand for nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants between 2008 and 2018. Central States SER and its partners were confounded as to why participants were not getting hired.

SER decided to perform an in-depth evaluation of their program to identify where they might have been falling short.  A thorough review of case notes revealed that participants were not being proactive about their own job search:  they skipped job club meetings, did not respond to job leads, and constantly missed job interviews and appointments with their job developers.  Moreover, participants were actually scared of entering the job market.  To combat this fear, one of SER’s job developers had an idea:  not only did she take a few participants with her directly to potential employers, but she also arranged on-site interviews for each participant.  A few days later, all but one were hired.  Thus was born the concept of the “drive-by” at Central States SER.

Key to the drive-by strategy is the identification of employers that are hiring in communities near where participants live.  Job developers then arrange for health care program participants to travel together to potential employers for interviews, which gives them the opportunity to collectively prepare, share interview techniques, and encourage each other before their arrival.

The strategy has proven itself as a best practice when dealing with the hard-to-place, the not-so-motivated, or just plain nervous participants who need a little encouragement, team support, or nudging along the way.  The results speak for themselves:  on average, two out of every three “road trippers” are hired during their first drive-by.  Ultimately, what this experience taught Central State SER and its partners was that fully examining its challenges and engaging all staff will lead to innovative, successful solutions.

Pulling the Plug on Job Training Undermines Our Global Competitiveness

By Catherine Singley, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

Plenty of economists have warned about the negative effects that the so-called “fiscal cliff” would have on jobs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Congress fails to act before the New Year, then employment losses will total 1.6 million jobs by the end of 2013 thanks to the expiration of the payroll tax cut, emergency unemployment insurance, and other measures.  Automatic cuts to federal programs, from education to health care to housing, would result in another 1.3 million jobs lost.  With our recovery still in its infancy, the last thing our country can afford is to willfully increase the ranks of the unemployed.  Latinos, who still face an unemployment rate of 10%, are rightfully anxious about how Congress is approaching these weighty decisions on taxes and the federal budget.

The fate of Latino workers is not just a Latino concern—it is an American concern.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of the U.S. workforce will be Latino by 2050.  It is in our national interest to ensure that Latinos are able to fully participate in and contribute to our economic prosperity.

Labor force projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and 2050
Source: Labor force projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and 2050.

Yet the “fiscal cliff” also poses significant threats to Hispanics who are striving to reach their full potential as workers, taxpayers, and consumers.  Beyond the specter of fewer jobs, the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration would also devastate our country’s public workforce development system.  Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), federal grants give states the resources to educate and train adults, young people who are no longer in school, and workers transitioning out of dying industries.  The need for intensive adult education and vocational training is especially urgent in Latino communities.  By 2018—when Latinos will represent 18% of the American workforce—only 10% of U.S. jobs will be open to workers with less than a high school degree.  Yet today this is the maximum educational attainment of one-third of the Hispanic workforce.  WIA state grants currently serve 153,917 Latino adults and 38,351 Latino youth (about one-third of all youth served).  Cutting WIA funding would widen the education and skills gap that Latinos already face and threaten America’s future competitiveness in the global economy.

For more information about the stakes for Latinos in the federal budget debate, visit www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

Latinos Say No to Medicaid Cuts

By Jennifer Ng’andu, Director, Health and Civil Rights Policy Project, NCLR

With Congress knee-deep in efforts to reach a deal that will avert the fiscal cliff, decision-makers are eyeing health care as a place to cut overall costs.  That’s fair.  Health care spending is the gargantuan elephant in the room (you know, 17.9% of GDP, which is more than the entire economy of France and most other countries).  But in most of the recent discussions about saving money in health care, budget negotiators are focusing on quick fixes that help reach a magic number of cuts instead of making efficient changes that lower long-term spending, often without regard to how the cuts affect people.  This is a dangerous move that could put vulnerable communities—particularly working Latinos and their families—at risk.  And it could be the undoing of one of the most critical health care programs in America.

Medicaid is a health insurance lifeline for those without any other options for accessing affordable care.  For Latinos, who more often than not are denied offers of health insurance in the workplace, the role of the program is even more substantial.  In 2011, 14.5 million Latinos were covered through the program.  That’s more than one in four (27.6%) in the community.  In the same year, the program served as an even more critical resource for our children.  More than half (51.4%) of Latino children under 18 were on Medicaid or its sister program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The very last time Medicaid hit the chopping block, hundreds of Latinos wrote in to NCLR overnight to share how the program was making a difference in their lives every day.  Rigo from California’s testimonial was one that could be shared by many Latino families:

As the parent of two special needs teenage children since birth, and with no medical insurance from my employer, it is extremely important for us to keep our Medicaid insurance intact.  My family, and thousands of other families throughout this nation, cannot afford to lose our Medicaid coverage for our children. Continue reading

Why All Mamis Should Make Their Voices Heard on the Fiscal Cliff

By Liany Elba Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project, NCLR

Mamis, think the fiscal cliff isn’t a big deal?  Think again!

The fiscal cliff is approaching rapidly and negotiations between Congress and the White House appear to be going nowhere.  It seems like falling off the cliff is inevitable.  What isn’t inevitable, however, is the damage that this will cause to the economy, our communities, and our schools.

The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the start of new budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 through a process known as sequestration.  How this will affect the economy has been front-page news, but what is talked about less is what happens to our education system on January 2, when the budget cuts go into effect.  For our most vulnerable children, particularly the more than 17 million Latino children in this country, the stakes are high.

While our education system is funded primarily by local property taxes, federal funds account for 8% of all education spending.  However, poor districts receive additional funding from the federal government that they count on to keep schools open, teachers in the classroom, and assistance available to the neediest students.  For some districts, federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets.  For example, a recent analysis found that federal funds make up more than 15% of the school budgets in Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia and more than 20% of the budgets in Chicago and Milwaukee.

What does this all mean?  After the fiscal cliff, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Latino and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.  The programs that stand to lose most are those created to help these children compete.  For example:

  • 1.8 million fewer children will be served by Title I, which helps the poorest students.
  • 145,180 children will lose access to before- or after-school programs.
  • 10,899 fewer educators will be available to support special needs students.
  • 26,949 fewer infants and toddlers will receive early intervention services.

Latino children have so much at stake during this debate.  They are 23% of all public school students.  Thirty-seven percent of all Latino children attend the nation’s poorest schools.  Over one-third of all students served by Title I are Latino.  If we fall off the fiscal cliff, our children will suffer the consequences of our inaction.  As the mamis of our future leaders, we must inform ourselves and act to ensure that Congress and the Obama administration make the right decisions.  Our children are depending on us.

Latinos Are Watching How Elected Officials Respond to the Fiscal Cliff

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

NCLR hosted a national call today for leaders from the NCLR Affiliate Network, the NCLR Action Network, members of the press, and others engaged with the Hispanic community for a discussion on how to address the country’s budget challenges with a balanced approach that protects vulnerable families.  We were joined by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D–CA); Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; and Julie Rodriguez, Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the White House Office of Public Engagement.  In case you missed it, the call was recorded and is available at www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

According to the exit polls, more than 12 million Latinos cast their vote last month.  Like all Americans, Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds.  The Hispanic community has spoken, and they overwhelmingly favor a fair, balanced, and shared approach to deficit reduction.  More than 700 people signed up for today’s call, which shows that our community’s deep civic participation is continuing.  Hispanic voters are watching carefully to see how federal policymakers address the so-called fiscal cliff in ongoing debates on the federal budget.

NCLR Affiliates on the call wanted to know if lawmakers and the Obama administration will raise taxes on working families or gut critical investments in students and workers.  For example, Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, raised the issue of unemployment among Latino youth, which is over 20 percent nationwide.  He stressed the importance of providing services for Latino disconnected youth who are interested in returning to school or finding work.  Dixon made a strong case for policymakers to shift their focus to a major jobs package to address the persistent unemployment crisis.

Cynthia F. Figueroa, President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, based in Philadelphia, pointed out that poverty and inequality have risen greatly over the last four years in our nation’s urban centers.  Parents are working multiple part-time jobs or low-paying full-time jobs to make ends meet.  In this economy, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit have been lifelines to Latino families and children.  She pressed the White House to stand firm and not sacrifice these potent antipoverty tools.  Figueroa also highlighted the importance of investing in kids and maintaining important funding for education programs that our youth need.

Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization in Denver, shared that one in four Latinos in Colorado and two-fifths of children statewide rely on Medicaid for vital health coverage.  It is no secret that Medicaid is a prime target for cuts.  She asked how the White House would protect the gains won through the Affordable Care Act.

Finally, Stephen Torsell, Executive Director of Homes on the Hill in Columbus, Ohio, called attention to the ongoing fight against foreclosures and vacant and abandoned properties in his state.  He asked how the administration aims to preserve funding for vital housing and financial coaching services such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Counseling Program, which has been to be one of the most effective ways of preventing unnecessary foreclosures.

NCLR appreciates the time that the White House staff took to respond to these questions and others by leaders serving Hispanic families.  We hope the administration and Congress take notice of the issues put on the table by those closest to the community.

Latinos sent President Obama back to the White House because of his commitment to fighting for working families.  The fiscal cliff is his first opportunity to act on those campaign promises.  We all agree that something must be done to lower the federal deficit.  However, it is wrong to ask working families to sacrifice education, health care, and their children’s well-being to give tax breaks to people and corporations that do not need them.  Smart investments in education, jobs, and housing will help hardworking families move up the economic ladder—and that will benefit us all.  This is our vision of a fair economy where prosperity is shared by everyone and the most vulnerable among us are protected.

We Can Avoid the “Fiscal Cliff” Without Turning Our Backs on Our Most Vulnerable

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Janet_MurguiaLike most voters, Latinos cited jobs and the economy as their greatest concern in the days leading up to the election .  The pressing importance of these issues led to an historic turnout of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election and overwhelming support for President Obama’s reelection.  In the post-election period, Latinos are looking to our nation’s leadership to pursue policies that spur economic growth and keep us on the path to recovery.  That progress, however, will be in jeopardy if our nation falls off the dreaded fiscal cliff on January 2, 2013, the day that deep spending cuts automatically go into effect and middle-class tax cuts expire.  Most economists agree that if a compromise is not reached before then, we are more than likely to experience a double-dip recession, slower growth, and rising unemployment.

Latinos have a great deal at stake in the debate over the fiscal cliff.  Not only are Hispanics a growing share of the electorate that will continue to amplify its voice in the political process, they are an increasingly vital force in our economy.  Latino children make up almost one out of four students enrolled in America’s public schools.  And Hispanics will account for 80% of the growth in the workforce between now and 2050.   This means that investing in those future workers today will have an indelible impact on the strength and competiveness of our nation’s economy.

I recently attended a meeting with President Obama and my fellow national civil rights leaders to discuss the fiscal cliff.  We presented a unified message on behalf of those who work for minority communities:  we need to protect the most vulnerable among us in this process, and we should not raise taxes on working and middle-class families.  Balancing the budget on the backs of these people will only widen the opportunity gap that already exists.

Recent surveys show that Latinos support a balanced, fair, and shared approach to deficit reduction.  In an impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll , nearly half of Hispanic voters supported both revenue generation and targeted spending cuts.

The impact of the fiscal cliff would be felt immediately.  It is estimated that over two million Americans will lose unemployment benefits and the average middle-class family would see an increase of approximately $2,000 in taxes.  For Latinos, who face a higher unemployment rate (10%) than the national average, suffered disproportionately from the foreclosure crisis , and are especially vulnerable to the effects of the fiscal cliff, the struggle to stay afloat will become unbearable.

Latinos want the president to keep his commitment to fostering a fair economy.  That means we do not turn our backs on the sick and the hungry.  Rather, we must continue to nurture the social contract that has existed through the generations by making long-term investments that will shape a stable and growing economy.  Cutting those investments is near-sighted and will shortchange not only our community but the long-term prosperity of our entire nation.

Our nation has a long and proud history of fostering opportunities to join and maintain the ranks of the middle class.  We must maintain this tradition if we want to honor those core values that have helped pave opportunities for America’s Latinos.

What If….

A critical part of closing the education gap in America is college readiness.  As part of our committment to this, and with generous support from our sponsors, we have developed the “What If? NCLR College Readiness Initiative.” The idea is simple: What if every Latino student got the support needed to succeed in college and beyond?

Currently, we are running a contest that challenges students at our charter school network to answer that question through the use of video. The video contest gives kids the chance to speak up for their generation. Below is the first entry by Angel Damian, a student at George.I. Sanchez High School, an NCLR-affiliate charter.

Watch the video and then vote!

Sin Vergüenza: NCLR Affiliate Produces Telenovela to Raise AIDS Awareness

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

Do you know anyone who is HIV-positive?

It’s a hard issue to talk about, but one that our Los Angeles–based Affiliate AltaMed Health Services Corporation has committed to tackling head-on.  AltaMed is the largest independent federally qualified community health center in the U.S., serving 930,000 people annually in the Southern California area through 43 locations.

In honor of World AIDS Day, AltaMed produced a short web telenovela-style series called Sin Vergüenza (Without Shame) about an East Los Angeles Mexican American family dealing with HIV/AIDS.

With a seven-minute format and compelling storylines set up from the start, the series features many characters familiar to Hispanics who are at risk of contracting HIV.  A cheating spouse, a gay son in law school, and a younger daughter with a long-term boyfriend all seek to break stereotypes and dispel myths about who is and isn’t at risk of getting the disease.

According to AltaMed, Latinos account for one in five of all new HIV infections, and 1.2 million Americans are living with the virus as well.  Surprisingly, 20% of HIV-positive people don’t know they are infected.  For those engaging in high-risk behaviors such as needle-sharing and unprotected sex, AltaMed recommends getting tested for the virus as soon as possible.

Whether gay or straight, male or female, young or old, no one practicing risky behavior is immune to catching the disease.  Using condoms during sexual activity, even if you are already HIV-positive, is essential to stopping the spread of disease and giving HIV to others.

World AIDS Day, first observed in 1988, was conceived to raise awareness about the global AIDS pandemic by the United Nation’s World Health Organization.  Today it is observed in all UN member countries worldwide.

With this in mind, check out the first episode of Sin Vergüenza, which introduces the Salazar family and sets the stage for what’s to come in the multipart series. See for yourself!