In collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of partners, the Ray Marshall Center (RMC) is developing and implementing a sectoral workforce development strategy for low-skilled, low-income parents of children served by early childhood programs in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is emerging evidence that children whose parents hold stable jobs with progressively rising incomes exhibit better academic and behavioral outcomes. RMC and its partners have undertaken a dual-generation approach to poverty reduction that strengthens the investment in early childhood development by equipping Head Start parents with workforce training and gainful employment opportunities. This approach employs a more holistic model than traditional workforce development programs, as it also includes employee counseling and other support services to help parents complete training and adult basic education, retain their jobs, advance in their careers, and become economically self-sufficient. The goal is to develop a sustainable sectoral strategy that can be replicated beyond Tulsa to other communities across the nation.
In the first phase of the project (2008-2009), RMC designed a sectoral job development strategy focused on industries featuring jobs that pay well and provide much-needed employee benefits (e.g., health insurance, annual and sick leave) as well as career advancement opportunities. In April 2009, Community Action Program of Tulsa County launched the pilot, CareerAdvance, at two Head Start sites in Tulsa involving 15 parents. The components of the CareerAdvance are 1) GED and college readiness instruction, as needed; 2) skills training in the healthcare sector progressing from Certified Nursing Aide to Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse; 3) weekly peer support meetings addressing a flexible set of topics (e.g., life skills, work readiness, family finances); 4) conditional cash incentives (up to $3,000 a year) for participants meeting specified benchmarks to reinforce continued participation and help offset foregone earnings; and 5) workforce intermediation between healthcare employers and training institutions provided through Workforce Tulsa. The report on the project’s first year of operation is available at the link below.
In partnership with Harvard University and the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa School of Medicine, a second pilot site was opened in July 2009 at a Tulsa Educare Center. The second pilot, EduCareers, includes all components described above as well as enhanced mental health services for participating households, curriculum enhancements for the children, parent engagement training, and a medical home.
The CareerAdvance project has now been expanded to 2015 with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. RMC and partners at Northwestern and Columbia University have been engaged to provide ongoing on data collection, implementation and outcomes analysis of project participants.