A recent labor market report from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven uncovers disparities within the workplace development ecosystem, emphasizing the urgency to forge better pathways for connecting job seekers and employers in the region. Connecticut has been facing an inability to fill many middle skill job openings available in the state - despite the fact that many, as Havenly well knows, continue to be employed in survival jobs and would benefit enormously from accessing these opportunities. On the one hand, employers, despite facing labor shortages, are hesitant to collaborate with training providers in the pursuit of suitable employees. On the other, many training programs lack comprehensive support, “bringing trainees to the last step but leaving them to connect with employment on their own.” Systemic issues such as benefits cliffs, lack of transportation, and inadequate childcare further contribute to employment barriers, making it hard for members of our community, for example, to prioritize training programs over immediate jobs.
To address these challenges, the report recommends job training programs as a vital component of Connecticut's workforce development strategy. Specific suggestions include “fostering increased collaboration between employers and training organizations, advocating for more paid training opportunities, and providing continuous support for job seekers throughout their employment journey.”
As an organization committed to paid job training, we are thrilled to see the Community Foundation call attention to the need for paid job training programs with wraparound services, employer partnerships, and equitable practices, and are especially excited to see the report highlight their specific utility for women and refugee job seekers, in addition to other marginalized communities that face employment barriers.
Havenly was built on the key premise that attending an unpaid job training program is almost impossible for a working class or unemployed mother. By providing a stipend of $16.50 for each hour of learning AND working, we make it possible for women to truly invest in their education, because no one should have to choose between providing for their family and investing in their education. As of this year, we have also hired a dedicated employment specialist who connects trainees to the jobs they desire and provides support every step of the way. Our employment specialist has secured over 10 jobs for our trainees and alumni since starting her job. As the report highlights, we must invest resources in employment partnership development and 1-1 support for those job seekers that face the most barriers to employment.
Havenly actively addresses these systemic barriers by providing our trainees with wraparound services focused on transportation, interpretation, and childcare. To overcome transportation barriers, we offer bus passes and free parking to all our trainees. Our training space and cafe is also conveniently located right across from a bus stop in downtown New haven. To overcome childcare barriers, our training program runs Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 1:30pm, allowing caretakers to be home on time to pick up their children from school. We also provide childcare stipends to mothers with toddlers who are not yet in school. MATCH, another program recently emerging, is pursuing a similar strategy, providing manufacturing training during school hours for working parents specifically.
This report highlights that women of color, English language learners, and past offenders continue to face discrimination in the recruitment process. The report recommends that employers reconsider their recruitment process and address discriminatory practices since “every group of job seekers that were interviewed cited discrimination as a barrier to obtaining employment”. Havenly has repeatedly encountered this issue, with employers across New Haven refusing to hire applicants with limited English, high school degrees from another country, or untraditional backgrounds. This doesn’t even encompass the thousands of undocumented migrants that are completely barred from accessing employment in our city.
That is why we are committed to continuing to advocate for a review of hiring requirements and practices, especially in our city of New Haven that continues to pride itself on being a sanctuary for migrants. We partner with equitable employers such as Clifford Beers, Phyllis Bodell Daycare, and the University of New Haven to secure job placements and internships for our trainees. Our employment partnerships do not just provide a job, but allow us to work carefully with each employer to ensure that our graduates are connected to jobs where they are cared for, receive benefits, and most importantly have opportunities for personal and professional growth. This often means allowing for interpretation during training, such as with our partnership with CERCLE and Morning Glory daycares, or to consider alternative skills assessments to the traditional GED and Bachelor’s requirements.
As Connecticut grapples with workplace disparities, job training programs like Havenly emerge as indispensable allies to bridge the gap in the state's workforce development ecosystem. By implementing the report's recommendations and actively addressing challenges, Havenly and other job training programs can play a pivotal role in transforming workforce practices and creating a more just and prosperous future for all, especially for those who need it the most. Thank you to the Foundation for this important reflection and source of education for all of us in the workforce ecosystem.