Accessing Secure Employment Through Quality Training: Andre Ward’s Testimony

Accessing Secure Employment Through Quality Training: Andre Ward’s Testimony


Jobs are a key to successful living. With economic security comes stable housing, access to nutritious food, and paths to educational fulfillment. The United States has seen consistent job growth in recent years, but workforce development is still needed to ensure that historically disadvantaged people, including individuals with justice involvement, can access employment opportunities that help break cycles of poverty and displacement.

On March 18, Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of Employment Services and Education, testified at New York City Hall to advocate for increased access to training and jobs for all New Yorkers. For over 50 years, The Fortune Society has done this type of necessary work on behalf of individuals affected by criminal justice and the communities they live in. Our direct impact and advocacy efforts work in tandem to build a world where all individuals have many opportunities to thrive.

Read an edited version of Andre’s testimony below, then discover ways to get involved in our continued efforts to build people, not prisons.

I am testifying today on behalf of the 70 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults, with a criminal record. It is no secret that people with conviction histories face significant barriers to employment that compromise individuals’, families’, and communities’ ability to be economically stable, safe, and removed from cycles of poverty and re-incarceration.

The Fortune Society is a member of the NYC Employment and Training Coalition and a partner of Invest in Skills NYC, a city-wide coalition working to make workforce development an economic priority and achieve policy change that streamlines the workforce development system through significant and sustained state and local investment. We provide advocacy and holistic services to 7,000 people affected by the justice system annually. We provide innovative employment services to approximately 700 people each year via culinary arts certifications, commercial drivers’ license certifications, green building maintenance certifications, and environmental remediation training. Plus, we offer education services to support basic literacy, numeracy, and learning in areas fundamental to success in the workplace.

Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of Employment Services and Education, testifying at New York City Hall on March 18

We urge the City to adopt public policy that affords long-term, necessary investments to strengthen the workforce services that the public sector, funders, employers, and community-based organizations provide to all New Yorkers so that every person may achieve self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. These policies and investments will strengthen the skillset of the workforce applicant pool, ultimately leading to positive contributions to the economy and community safety.

The 2017 New York Works plan to create 100,000 new “middle class” jobs in growth sectors across New York is commendable and necessary. However, it is our belief that without direct and sustainable investments in the skill development of New Yorkers themselves, these jobs will continue to be inaccessible to most residents.

By furthering the employment access gap, growing economic inequality will persist.

We encourage the New York Works plan to identify ways to collaborate and connect with the Mayor’s 2014 Career Pathways plan to provide access to training and jobs for all New Yorkers, especially low-skill and low-income New Yorkers. We hope that all administrations will prioritize these marginalized communities.

To achieve the goal of fostering meaningful economic equity and accessibility, economic development projects and initiatives should include substantial workforce training investments that create equitable career pathways for all New Yorkers.

A minimum of 10% of the total planned cost of New York Works should be spent on new skills training programs to train the local workforce.

These training programs should include apprenticeships as envisioned under Apprentice NYC but should also offer programming for New Yorkers entering from every level of education or skill-set for bridge programs for people lacking foundational skills, and more advanced vocational programs for people seeking higher-skill work.

We encourage the Economic Development Committee to consider rebalancing the sector job goals under New York Works to make achieving these targets of a more economically diverse workforce possible. Creating more jobs in sectors like freight, transportation, and nightlife/entertainment would facilitate more hires of targeted populations, as the cybersecurity and life sciences sectors often require a higher degree of education and training.

The New York City Council can ensure the above goals are attained by streamlining oversight and requiring key reporting. The public workforce system is spread across multiple agencies. No single City Council body takes responsibility for its direct oversight. The Council should designate a body for this function with a focus on ensuring that the dollars spent by the City on economic and workforce development are not only creating job openings but are filling NYC jobs with New Yorkers in need of improved employment. The Council should require through legislation that city agencies issue clear annual public reports on the number of jobseekers they have served (via either job placement or connections to training) who come from high-unemployment populations. 

The Fortune Society hopes to partner with the NYC Council and Mayor De Blasio’s administration to help the most vulnerable New Yorkers obtain the academic credentials, experience, and technical skills required to advance into skilled training, secure entry-level work and access long-term economic mobility.

Historically, our expertise as service providers has been left out of the conversation and policy development, leading to a misalignment of programs, goals and outcomes that hurt the communities we represent and leave them out of the city’s growing economy.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today and for your support of The Fortune Society.

Article by Root Stitches LLC

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