The City of Wichita Leads the Way in Career and Technical Education

Competing in a global economy demands that we continue supporting manufacturing areas by providing skilled workers with certificates and degrees from qualified community and technical colleges.

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A 2013 report by the Brookings Institution reported that the city of Wichita was one of three American cities which had the largest share of STEM jobs not requiring a four-year degree. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Mayor Jeff Longwell. This is the first post in a series about the Mayors’ Education Task Force.

As the mayor of Wichita, Kansas, I have seen the importance of investing in Career and Technical Education (CTE). At NLC’s recent Mayors’ Education Task Force meeting, I emphasized the role of local leaders in developing opportunities for youth and adults to gain meaningful employment in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines and technical industries. In Wichita, we have experienced the value of CTE as a conduit for rewarding careers in the fields of automotive maintenance and technology, advanced manufacturing, information technology, climate and energy control, and healthcare.

Wichita is known as the “Air Capital” of the world because of our expansive global aviation supply chain. Many of the early aviation pioneers came from, or have roots in, Kansas. This has enabled Wichita to also pioneer new technologies in advanced manufacturing, such as 3-D printing and robotics.

The specialized technical education required for these jobs often can be completed in a one- to two-year program. It is precisely these career technical education programs that are important to creating a successful and available workforce. Competing in a global economy demands that we continue supporting manufacturing areas by providing skilled workers with certificates and degrees from qualified community and technical colleges.

In 2013, the Brookings Institution reported that the cities of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Birmingham, Alabama, and Wichita had the largest share of STEM jobs not requiring a four-year degree. This report also found that half of STEM jobs do not require a four-year degree, although they pay 10 percent more on average than jobs with similar educational requirements. This knowledge has been a strength of our local economy for many decades, and it has helped build our industries and improve our citizens’ lives. Cities across our nation could benefit from increased access to quality credential programs and career pathways.

The state of Kansas recognized this several years ago and created scholarships that encourage people to obtain a variety of two-year technical certificates and degrees that help to grow our economy. The Kansas Department of Education prepares secondary students for this opportunity by using the National Career Cluster Model, grouping similar job skills into 16 fields of studies as Career Clusters. By developing structured career pathways, Kansas secondary students can access further education and employment opportunities right after high school graduation. The career pathways offered are developed in collaboration with business and industry leaders to ensure relevant and trade-worthy skills are embedded into the CTE secondary curriculum.

In Kansas, skilled automotive technicians who have completed a two-year education program can often earn six-figure salaries in the industry within the first few years of their career. Even with this reality, we see many industries and companies struggle to find people with the proper credentials and technical education to fill these jobs.

Here in Wichita, we are proud to have a leading example in our Wichita Area Technical College (WATC). This nationally-recognized technical college recently launched the Wichita Promise, a scholarship program that pays tuition and fees for training and certification for specific high-wage, high-demand jobs. Recently launched in 2016, the program works with local employers and provides personal career coaching and a guaranteed interview upon completion. WATC also works with our local high schools, providing students access to low-cost or free college and technical courses before students even graduate from high school.

In partnership with the new presidential administration and CTE advocates across the nation, I believe that adequate funding and marketing strategies can encourage education leaders, high school counselors, students and parents to explore a career and technical education pathway.

The critical requirement is that state and federal lawmakers support access to these opportunities and promote quality one- to two-year career technical education programs for adults and young people graduating high school. City leaders like myself have an important leadership role to play in guiding the momentum of our communities’ economic growth. With CTE, we can help employers find a ready and skilled workforce in our cities and improve citizens’ access to training and education, preparing them for quality, well-paying careers.

About the author: Mayor Jeff Longwell was elected to office in April 2015 and sits on NLC’s Mayors’ Education Task Force. He is a long-time resident of Wichita, having grown up in a west-side neighborhood and attended West High School and Wichita State University. Mayor Longwell began his community involvement as a member of the Board of Education at the Maize School, where his children attended school.

Cities Can Lead National Effort to Get More Young People Working Again

Here are three specific areas in which cities and their partners can continue to demonstrate effective practices, adopt supportive policies, and determine what’s needed to grow initiatives that benefit more youth.

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Working constitutes a critically needed developmental experience, puts money in the pockets of youth and their families to spend locally, and builds social capital that pays off over the long term. (Getty Images)

“A country for all, and all working when able.” If more city leaders were to adopt this vision – along with those of us providing support and assistance at the national level – we could continue to build effective local stair-step responses to a nagging national dilemma: nearly six million youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 remain out of school and out of work, and less than 50 percent of youth work each summer.

As we enter into a new era of national politics, it’s wise to recall that the federal government has a critical role in assuring high quality and fairness nationwide in areas such as housing, health care, infrastructure and the environment, under an umbrella characterized by equal justice, equal opportunity, and improved outcomes for lagging groups. And when it comes to scaling what’s effective or signaling what’s important, the federal government has no peer. Yet the intensity of a presidential campaign and transition taking place in a 24-hour news cycle has a distorting effect worth noting that, too often, obliterates individuals’ sense of agency and conveys instead that “it all comes down to what happens in Washington, D.C.”

In fact, in policy areas essential to getting more young people working, cities and their partners can continue to demonstrate effective practices, adopt supportive policies, and determine what’s needed to grow initiatives to benefit still more youth – with more long-term impact. For instance, three areas to consider:

  • Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth: Over the past several years, mayors and other city leaders across the country have jumped at the opportunity to institute structured approaches to help young people finish school so they can reach the baseline qualification needed just to enter the labor market. Those same leaders also witness the persistently high cost of school dropout and pushout along dimensions ranging from public budgets to neighborhood efficacy. With too many young people still not finishing high school, and concentration of that effect in people of color and low-income communities, cities and towns have plenty of reasons to advocate for and support comprehensive reengagement initiatives. Even as the past year has seen an uptick in federal attention to reengagement, local energy and funds will continue to drive the spread of reengagement beyond its presence in some 20 cities and two states.
  • Summer Youth Employment: Mayors and the cities they lead stand at the vanguard of efforts to reduce the catastrophic recent trend of declining work experience for youth and young adults. Working constitutes a critically needed developmental experience, puts money in the pockets of youth and their families to spend locally, and builds social capital that pays off over the long term. Efforts to grow high-quality local youth hiring initiatives with the all-in participation of city governments and private sector employers might smartly leverage some federal funds, but ultimately will not depend on federal sources. Showing the benefits of bringing a new focus to summer jobs programs, to ensure that young people who need jobs the most get jobs – alternative school students, for example – must begin at the local level.
  • Juvenile Justice Reform and Jail Reduction: Cities have begun to join county and state partners in efforts to hold youth and young adults accountable in developmentally appropriate ways. In keeping with the goal of getting young people to work, reducing justice system involvement and attendant long-tail records removes a potentially significant barrier to employment. For those who do develop records, Ban the Box and similar strategies playing out mainly at the local level hold promise as tools for effective reintegration.

Meanwhile, as elements of city government, police departments have a particularly prominent role in shifting what happens at the first moments of contact between an officer and a young person, in most cases away from an emphasis on arrest and toward increased supports or formal diversion and restorative justice. Federal support could promote continued peer learning and sharing about police training, diversion, and related practices, yet has not proven essential in instituting reforms to date. Building out a robust continuum of supports and services for youth – with the major exception of mental and behavioral health services supported by Medicaid – remains a largely local and locally-funded task, alongside training and support for police officers.

Demonstrated local success in these three areas (and others) will “trickle up” to the state and federal levels.  The portion of the youth development field focused on older youth has at least six million reasons to continue generating such concrete successes.

Andrew Moore About the author: Andrew Moore is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Connections in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.

Unpredictable Work Schedules Can Lead to an Unstable Family Life. Here’s How Cities Can Help.

Many workers in hourly, low-wage jobs struggle to manage their lives while navigating difficult work schedules, but several cities have taken action recently to address the challenge and promote a healthier workforce.

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A predictable schedule is something that many nine-to-five workers take for granted; it allows people to balance school, work, and family. Basic protections from cities can make this possible for all workers. (Getty Images)

Two days each week, Andrea R. is usually scheduled to work what her fellow employees call the “clopen” shift. She closes the doors of the large retail store where she works, gets home around midnight, prepares school lunches for her children, gets a few hours of sleep, and has to be back at work by 6 a.m. to open the store.

Her schedule changes every week, so Andrea does not know in advance which days she has to work this shift. Her employer’s policy claims that workers will know their schedules two weeks in advance – but Andrea, a single mom, often gets less than a week’s notice, making it difficult to arrange child care. Her unreliable schedule means that she must often ask family members to take care of her children, but she worries that providing such short notice strains her family relationships. Making only $9 per hour, it is often less costly for Andrea to not work a shift than to find and pay for child care. “If I could rely on a reasonable set of hours of work without having to pick up shifts, I could work on going back to school,” Andrea says.

Many workers in hourly, low-wage jobs struggle to manage their lives while navigating unpredictable work schedules. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that 17 percent of workers in the labor force experienced unstable work shifts, and that the lowest income workers (those earning less than $22,500 per year) were most likely to experience this scheduling unpredictability. The study links instability of shift schedules to lower levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of family stress. Further research finds that shift work is associated with diminished cognition and physical health.

Additionally, studies find African Americans and families who speak Spanish at home are disproportionally affected by these challenges. The City of Seattle conducted a survey of approximately 700 local workers and 350 local managers to assess the scheduling challenges faced by city workers. The survey found that scheduling issues caused difficulties in the lives of roughly one third of workers overall, compared to 40 percent of workers who speak Spanish at home and 40 percent of African Americans, who said scheduling posed challenges for taking classes.

Retail, hospitality, and warehouse work all respond to demand that can fluctuate throughout the day, week, or season: a coffee shop may need more baristas during the morning hours; and an online retailer may need more shipping employees in November and December. But as traditional methods of scheduling are replaced by more precise forecasting technologies, workers have faced even more unpredictability with their schedules. The increasing use of scheduling software by businesses has led to widely fluctuating hours, impractical commutes, and convoluted childcare arrangements for many.

City leaders are recognizing the importance of balancing worker quality of life with business interests; several cities have taken action recently to address these challenges, and more are quickly joining the movement. In September, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that requires retailers and large chains to give their employees two weeks’ notice of shift scheduling. Employers who do not provide the advance notice will be required to provide additional pay, which includes:

  • One additional hour of “predictability pay” if an employer adds hours to the employee’s schedule after it is posted
  • Pay for half of the hours not worked if an employee is scheduled for a shift and then sent home early
  • Half-time pay for any shift employees who are “on-call” for but do not get called into work

In addition, the law requires a minimum of 10 hours between shifts – which would protect workers from “clopening” shifts.

Other cities are taking action as well. Portland, Oregon, and Emeryville, California, recently passed ordinances like Seattle’s, and New York City officials have voiced support for a similar measure that applies only to fast food workers.

City leaders know that low-wage, hourly workers struggle to balance the needs of their jobs with family obligations. Measures that require employers to provide advance knowledge of shift scheduling can help workers achieve that balance, maintain their employment, and advance in their careers – all of which results in healthier and more productive cities.

Lily Roberts photoAbout the author: Lily Roberts is an Intern with the NLC YEF Institute’s Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment team.

City Investments in Financial Capability are Paying Off

This post was co-written by Alysha Davis.

President Obama issued a proclamation declaring April 2015 to be National Financial Capability Month. It’s described as a to time to “renew our efforts to support the informed financial decisions that will open doors into the middle class and help ensure economic security for all.”

Financial capability 2A couple receives financial counseling and foreclosure prevention assistance in Los Angeles. (David McNew/Getty Images)

In his proclamation, the president calls upon “all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices.”

As April comes to a close, we wanted to highlight some of the innovative ways that cities are stepping up and delivering financial capability opportunities to their residents at the local level. The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) is supporting these efforts in a number of ways.

Mayors and city council members recognize the importance of helping residents become more financially secure and gain access to financial services, not just to enhance the economic stability of families but also to boost local economic development. More and more cities, often in partnership with community-based organizations and financial institutions, are offering financial education and counseling, homeownership assistance, expanded access to safe and affordable financial services and debt reduction strategies, to call out just a few of the activities taking place at the local level.

To learn more about these and other financial inclusion programs, stay tuned for a forthcoming report from the YEF Institute on how municipal leaders from across the country are stepping up to address the financial struggles of their residents. The report will document the findings of NLC’s City Scan of Local Financial Inclusion Efforts, which included a survey of 118 city leaders, follow-up telephone interviews and a roundtable with city officials and community partners focused on municipal financial inclusion efforts.

The NLC YEF Institute has a history of assisting city leaders to implement programs to build residents’ economic stability. Over the last two years, we have been working with five cities (Savannah, Ga.; Newark, N.J.; Louisville, Ky.; St. Petersburg, Fla. and Houston) to implement the Local Interventions for Financial Empowerment Through Utility Payments (LIFT-UP) program, an innovative pilot project to help low-income families pay their utility bills and achieve financial stability.

As part of LIFT-UP, we are providing technical assistance to help cities connect families who are in debt to city-owned utilities and with options such as a restructured payment plan, payment incentives and a variety of financial empowerment services, including financial counseling.

We also recently launched a project to identify best practices for local leaders to incorporate financial capability strategies into municipal youth employment programs. The aim is to improve the ability of young people (ages 14 – 24) to effectively manage their finances – from saving to building credit and keeping debt manageable. We are looking at the roles that city leaders, banks, credit unions and other partners can and do play in ensuring that young jobseekers have access to financial knowledge and services.

As part of this project, we will be providing guidance to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor on their new technical assistance opportunity to help cities include financial capability in their youth employment programs.

About the Authors:
Heidi-HeadshotHeidi Goldberg is the Director for Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Heidi on Twitter at @GoldbergHeidi.

Alysha Davis
Alysha Davis is the Associate for Research and Communications in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Opportunity for Cities to Help Young People Achieve Financial Success

NLC is providing guidance to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Labor on their new technical assistance opportunity to help cities include financial capability in their youth employment programs.

American Apparel Holds Open Call For Jobs In New York City Young jobseekers attend an open jobs call. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Each year, millions of youth in cities across the country participate in programs designed to help them secure employment. Many of these young people hail from low-income or distressed communities and do not have access to the same kind of educational and career opportunities as their more affluent peers.

Often, a lack of attachment to the labor force can lead to risk of gang activity or criminal involvement. Youth employment programs, many of which are led by municipalities, have the potential to provide crucial pathways to economic opportunity and increased social mobility for participating young jobseekers.

Being in the labor force at a young age has benefits for young people, their families and their communities. It often contributes much-needed income to families that are struggling to get by. It also encourages civic engagement and provides valuable job skills and work experience that can lead to long-term, stable employment. Moreover, when young people are employed, cities benefit from reduced crime and overall economic development.

Having a job also allows young people to be more financially independent. However, millions of young people enter the workforce without basic money management skills or knowledge about today’s complex financial systems, and these skills are not typically taught on the job. And because financial knowledge is not a core component of our education system, many young people lack the necessary awareness and skills to become financially responsible adults.

To improve the ability of young people to effectively manage their finances – from spending and saving to building credit and keeping debt manageable – NLC is working with two federal agencies to help city leaders identify ways to incorporate financial capability into youth employment programs.

As part of a broader project on financial capability and youth employment, NLC is providing guidance to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the U.S. Department of Labor on their just-announced technical assistance opportunity for up to 25 cities. Assistance will focus on ways cities can ensure that financial capability training and access to safe and affordable financial products are available for young jobseekers and workers.

For more information on how your city can receive this technical assistance, check out CFPB’s blog post and read the criteria for submission. Letters of interest are due to the CFPB by Thursday, April 30, 2015.

Heidi-Headshot
About the Author
: Heidi Goldberg is the Program Director for Early Childhood & Family Economic Success in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Heidi on Twitter at @GoldbergHeidi.

Eight Ways Cities and Stakeholders are Encouraging Youth Employment

As the economic recovery continues at a modest pace, young people remain one of the last groups to benefit from slowly expanding job opportunities.

102343030Young people attend a job fair in Chicago. Getty images.

Statistics show that only one-third of U.S. teens work regular jobs, a level half that of 30 years ago and the lowest percentage recorded since recordkeeping began after World War II.

In the face of this trend, mayors and their business and workforce development partners continue to innovate at the local level. Despite continuing economic woes, there are many promising practices being implemented in cities, such as:

  • Philadelphia has enlisted a nonprofit intermediary organization to manage jobs programs and to blend and braid financial resources from a variety of sources.
  • Dubuque, Reno, and Omaha have partnered with local school districts and others to establish dropout reengagement centers. to ensure that young people have basic educational credentials as they enter the workforce.
  • With the support of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board, Providence, R.I., and several other pilot sites have built financial literacy into job programs by educating young workers on how to manage their new income and save for their future.
  • Baltimore provides a one-stop, youth friendly point of access for referrals and training.
  • Cities across California are blending work and internship experience into secondary school designs.

Policymakers and funders are increasingly engaged in focused solution-seeking around youth employment. Three recent events demonstrate this renewed focus:

  • GenJoblessThe recent Generation Jobless conference sponsored by International House in New York City underscored the global nature of the youth employment challenge. Speakers including youth, representatives of cities and businesses, and journalists such as Fareed Zakaria outlined the causes and consequences of youth unemployment, and offered a number of possible responses.
  • The second annual gathering of teams from 21 Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund sites in the cold, clear air of Aspen, Colo. fostered a lively conversation about prospective roles of major employers in hiring youth. Check out the storify of the convening.
  • The Enough is Known for Action conference arranged by the Heller School-Center for Youth and Communities and co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor featured a call-to-action, problem-solving format as well as testimony about recent progress in multiple cities.

Andrew Moore
About the Author:
Andrew Moore is a Senior Fellow in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education & Families.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewOMoore.