DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Turning poverty into potential.
That's the goal of a new effort launching today called Workforce Dallas - looking to move workers who have the will to do so from just 'getting by,' to livable wage careers that will help to lift their families out of poverty.
"There are a lot of barriers," explains Marissa Castro Mikoy, president and CEO of Jubilee Park & Community Center of the struggles that nonprofits witness firsthand. "Many of our neighbors are working $8 to $12 an hour jobs... in many cases they're working two jobs. So, to stop doing that to take a training class or to give up the income that's coming in... it's just not possible."
Now, the launch of Workforce Dallas aims to leverage those trusted community relationships to provide clients a clear pathway to jobs - and training - that's also convenient and economically feasible.
"We are not going to ask people who are living paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs to go figure it out," says Dallas' new Workforce Czar Lynn McBee. "We are going to say `here are the different jobs, here are the different trainings, this is where you go'."
McBee was appointed by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson earlier this year. The appointment follows a commissioned report that analyzed the city's workforce. The report found a tremendous need for more initiatives and resources focused on working age adults, between the ages of 25 and 65-years-old.
In the newly created role, McBee is tasked with turning a hodge podge of support services that already exist, into a collaborative, coordinated approach to making it possible for help the working poor get needed skills.
"With Workforce Dallas, we are starting with a group of industry verticals, where we know there's upward mobility and good jobs," explains McBee, "Transportation logistics, healthcare, IT and construction trades... within each of industry verticals, there are different jobs within that and put training there... so it's a one stop shop."
The effort is especially geared toward underserved Dallas ZIP codes. Those interested need only have a desire to do better - then go online to get started. Still, organizers know that they are not only fighting poverty, but a mindset that mimics quicksand.
"We've got three generations of poverty in some of these zip codes," explains McBee. "And so, you have folks that have never seen anyone in their family go to work. So, what does it mean to go to work? To show up on time? That's why partnering with nonprofits and faith-based organizations will be so important."
A 'soft launch' is underway right now with plans to get the word out and grow the program over the summer. There is no fee for participants, as private dollars are funding the effort while it shows it can be successful.
"My nonprofit colleagues and I, we were over the moon," says Castro Mikoy, "This is an opportunity for our underserved to all rise up together."
Beyond the family futures that can be changed, supporters say having a workforce will the skills that employers need will be critical to Dallas' future economic growth.
"And I think we're going to be successful," shares McBee. And then suddenly she has a different thought, adding with emphasis: "I know we are going to be successful."
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