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Overcoming Employment Roadblocks – Uncoordinated Workforce Systems

Limited coordination within and between systems makes accessing workforce services unmanageable.

MemWorks has helped us identify the root causes that are impeding employment pathways for Memphians experiencing poverty. An accurate understanding of these roadblocks is absolutely essential, but without knowing how to effectively overcome these roadblocks, we are still unable to enable pathways to living-wage jobs.

We are excited to share evidence-based interventions that can help our community overcome these roadblocks. This email shares a roadmap for ways Memphis’ workforce systems can collaborate to simplify the path to living-wage careers for people living in poverty while enabling employers to more efficiently fill job vacancies.

Job seekers struggle to navigate Memphis’ 130+ workforce service providers

Memphis does not have a centralized organization that can help job seekers navigate employment pathways across sectors. To access services from the more than 130 workforce development organizations in Memphis, people must navigate inefficient systems with limited tools that frequently require working with multiple organizations across multiple sites spread out across the city. Without easily accessible critical support services, fewer Memphians experiencing poverty are able to find and keep living-wage jobs.

Evidence-based solutions can improve the coordination of workforce systems

Four evidence-based models were identified that can effectively improve workforce development coordination and make accessing the needed workforce services easier for job seekers who are experiencing poverty:

  • Navigator and liaison partnerships create a dedicated position within community colleges and technical programs to manage industry relationships and build workforce development partnerships. This practice helps identify and even anticipate labor market needs
  • A dual-customer approach adopts a sector-focused approach to training with significant industry involvement in the design and operation of the training program. The model aims to identify and provide training in a sector with strong local employer demand by forming close working relationships with regional employers.
  • Cross-systems collaboration builds partnerships across workforce development organizations to support the mutual referrals of existing clients of active workforce development programs.
  • Skills-based hiring reduces barriers to employment by removing degree requirements for select roles and instead substituting certifications or demonstrations of skill competencies.

Case examples: Workforce intermediaries in action

CareerWise Colorado is an apprenticeship program employing the Dual-customer approach that enables high school students to gain college credit, industry credentials, and work experience. It supports collaboration between schools, colleges, and employers to ensure enriching and coordinated student experiences.

JobsFirstNYC is a workforce intermediary in New York City that helps improve economic mobility pathways for young adults by facilitating connection between stakeholder organizations and enhancing systems coordination.

Partner4Work in Pittsburgh, PA, serves as a vital workforce intermediary, addressing the needs of both employers and job seekers by offering resources for career awareness, training opportunities, and support in building networks and retention strategies.

A path forward for Memphis

Several organizations in Memphis implement some of the evidence-based models outlined above. Agape Child & Family Services, American Jobs Centers, The Collective Blueprint, Tech901, Moore Tech, and Neighborhood Christian Center, among others, incorporate varying degrees of evidence-informed practices that help to more seamlessly connect their participants with workforce services and employers around Memphis.

There are several opportunities to improve the coordination of Memphis’ workforce systems:

  • Create a centralized workforce intermediary to coordinate with stakeholders across Memphis to prioritize employment pathways that lead to living-wage jobs
  • Adopt skills-based hiring practices and streamline application processes
  • Incorporate centralized and comprehensive navigator roles that help individual job seekers navigate the various workforce development services so they can gain the skills and support needed to reach living-wage jobs

Together we can help job-seeking Memphians experiencing poverty overcome barriers and navigate Memphis’ workforce systems on their way to living-wage career paths.

Overcoming Employment Roadblocks – Uncoordinated Workforce Systems