Friday, December 28, 2012

Poor Students Experience a Unique Blend of Barriers in their Pursuit of Higher Education and the American Dream

Grace Outreach College Prep students from one of our Bronx Opportunity Network cohorts outside the admissions office at Bronx Community College, July 2011.

Last week, The New York Times published a must-read article that delves into the struggles that young adults from low-income families face in their pursuit of higher education and a better life. The Times points out that while education should act as a ladder to lift people from poverty and narrow the achievement gap, the unique barrage of barriers that many low-income young people face when accessing higher education is actually acting to reinforce class divides and stymie access to the American Dream for the least advantaged members of our population.

For so many of New York City's young people, this story is an all-too-familiar one. Even the brightest students who excel in high school face many hurdles as they attempt to access and navigate the college system. In NYC, the majority of students who enroll in a CUNY community college will not attain a degree.  The hurdles these students face are myriad, and include having little to no social safety net to turn to for support and guidance, family and relationship troubles, crushing student loan debt, and the need to work multiple jobs to support themselves and/or their families while in school. 

Fortunatly, JobsFirstNYC is partnering with organizations in the City to create partnerships that support these very young people. One great example in the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON), a workforce collaborative funded and supported by JobsFirst

Launched in July 2011, the BON is a group of leading community-based organizations (CBO) that have developed a comprehensive borough-based approach to supporting disconnected youth in post-secondary education. The Network’s mission is to enable under-prepared Bronx students to improve their academic skills, overcome personal barriers, enroll in and complete college.  The BON is an attempt to improve their prospects by collectively improving practice in community-based organizations.  It presents participating organizations with the opportunity to intensify their own efforts, collectively benefit from a best practice model around those efforts, and to speak with a united voice when in conversation with community colleges about effective educational practices that would help our students to be more successful.  The collective voice of these community organizations engaged in common effort acts as a strong support to improved services for our students and better outcomes for their passage into college.

In the spring of 2012, the majority of students enrolled in the BON completed their first-year of college, and 62% of these students enrolled in the Fall 2012 semester. Additionally, the BON brought on board a second cohort of 105 students during an intensive 2012 summer bridge program. 

The important progress the BON is making--and the positive affect it is having on the lives on low-income students from the Bronx--was recently recognized by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a case study in their 2012 Kids Count policy report. Read more about the BON on page 8 of their report: "In the South Bronx: A Pathway to Success".

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

JFNYC Year in Review

Next year holds great promise for NYC’s young adults … thanks to JobsFirstNYC and you.

Just look at what we accomplished together in 2012 by:

Presenting the facts and engaging key players — With the release of several critical reports to the field, JobsFirstNYC is equipping practitioners with key labor market information and other tools to facilitate the connection of young people to better jobs. 

Chief among these reports are Going Beyond the Bottom Line, and Now Hiring.  While the economic outlook may appear bleak, JobsFirstNYC is helping to identify growing areas of employment opportunity — while consulting with employers and workforce service providers.

Improving opportunities for disadvantaged young adults — JobsFirstNYC advanced several major projects through our work with the Bronx Opportunity Network, the Lower East Side Employment Network, and the Restaurant Industry Partnership.  The result: more young people stay in school … connect to employment … and access career ladders. 

Of the 105 young people engaged in the Bronx Opportunity Network’s pilot program, for example, over 72% successfully completed their first year of college and are on-track for future success.  Their first-year retention rate is double that of CUNY students.

Making connections and crafting policy — We directly connected hundreds of practitioners to dozens of employers — particularly those in the retail, restaurant, and health care sectors — to expand opportunities for young people.  

And JobsFirstNYC crafted and is actively implementing a very ambitious policy and advocacy agenda to remove structural barriers to labor market access.  We’ll soon be sharing a key policy paper that provides an overview of our priorities and our efforts as we prepare for 2013.

To truly make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged young adults in New York City, JobsFirstNYC needs your support. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

5.8 million disconnected youth nationally; 350k in NYC

With a tip o' the hat to Lindsey McCormack, the Measure of America project at the Social Science Research Council has recently released One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas. The report examines 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in school and not working—5.8 million youth or an astonishing one in seven young people nationwide—and reveals startling gaps among neighborhoods, cities, and racial and ethnic groups. While the Boston metro area tops the list with the lowest overall rate of youth disconnection at 9%, Phoenix ranks last at 18.8%. African Americans have the highest rate of youth disconnection, a startling 22.5%, nearly twice the national average, and women generally fare better than men.

A companion publication, Youth Disconnection in New York City (PDF), estimates that 350,000 young people—or 15.2 percent of all 16-24 year olds—in the New York metro area are neither in school nor working.  (This figure slightly exceeds the national average and gives New York City the ninth highest rate of youth disconnection of the country's 25 largest metro areas.)  The Big Apple is also home to the widest range of disconnection by neighborhood.  In Manhattan's relatively affluent Community District 6 (Turtle Bay, Tudor City, Gramercy, Stuyvesant Town), just 3.7 percent of young people are considered disconnected, while the figure soars to over 35 percent in parts of the South Bronx. 

One in Seven is a wake-up call to this country,” says Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-author of the study. “At precisely the time in life when young people form their adult identities and move towards self-sufficiency, 5.8 million young Americans are adrift at society’s margins. Disconnection can affect everything from earnings and financial independence to physical and mental health, and even marital prospects.”

As youth disconnection in America rises, so do the costs to society. Last year alone, youth disconnection cost taxpayers $93.7 billion in government support and lost tax revenue.
“Today we are paying for failure,” Burd-Sharps explains. “In an environment where everyone is looking to reduce spending, we can invest in success by pinpointing the groups and places being left behind, and taking action to build connections between communities and both educational and employment opportunities.”

Kristen Lewis, co-author of One in Seven, adds, “In the next five years, more than 29 million job openings will need to be filled by workers with some college or a certificate, but not necessarily a four-year degree.” She explains, “In today’s economy, everyone needs some education beyond high school, but as a society, we need to rethink the ‘college-for-all’ mantra that devalues and stigmatizes career and technical education. Instead, we should provide robust pathways to postsecondary certificates or associate degree programs for those who choose this route.”

Among the key findings from One in Seven:
  • Nationwide, more than 5.8 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24—about one in seven—are neither working nor in school. The number of disconnected youth swelled by more than 800,000 from 2007 to 2010, a result of the Great Recession.
  • Of the country’s major racial and ethnic groups, African Americans have the highest rate of youth disconnection—22.5 percent—while the national rate is 14.7 percent. Pittsburgh has the greatest disparity between African Americans and whites—26.3% of African American youth there are disconnected, while only 9.4% of white youth are.
  • Boston tops the ranking overall, but has one of the highest rates of Latino youth disconnection among America’s biggest cities. Phoenix ranks last, although not everyone there is struggling. In fact, the white youth disconnection rate there is lower than the national disconnection rate for all youth.  
  • Where a person lives is highly predictive of his or her likelihood of disconnection. In New York, the metro area with the widest youth disconnection gap between neighborhoods, disconnection rates range from 4% in parts of Long Island to a shocking 36% in parts of the South Bronx.
Among the report’s key recommendations:
  • Prevention is the best cure. Investing in success is cheaper by any measure and easier than reconnecting those who have fallen out of the mainstream. Research shows that a high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds leads to higher rates of high school completion and greater job market participation for at-risk kids.
  • In the next five years, 29 million job openings will need to be filled by workers with some college or a certificate but not necessarily a four-year degree. Rethinking the college-for-all ideal will allow us to provide robust pathways to postsecondary certificates or associate degree programs for those who choose alternative routes. At the same time, students with the desire and ability to succeed in bachelor’s degree programs need more from us than exhortations; they need hands-on assistance in learning about college, applying for admission and financial aid, and paying for their education. 
  • We can heed lessons from other affluent democracies, such as Finland, Germany and Norway. These countries build strong bridges between schooling and the knowledge and experience needed in the labor market, and offer young adults a wide variety of well-regarded pathways to a productive adulthood, which has led to lower rates of youth disconnection.
  • Building a shared national responsibility to address the deep historical inequalities that persist in our society will help remove the obstacles that prevent many families from providing their children with the tools they need to realize their full potential.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

News & Upcoming Events from JobsFirstNYC (Oct. 19, 2012)

Upcoming Changes to GED® High School Equivalency (HSE) Credential addressed at October 5th CBO Meeting
As you likely know, changes are underway regarding the GED® (formally the General Educational Development test). The GED® Testing Service is a privately owned assessment tool that was recently purchased by the Educational Division of Pearson, which, in acquiring the GED® Testing Service, has plans to make structural changes to the test itself as well as to the process by which organizations can prepare people for and administer the test. The change in ownership of the GED® as well as Pearson's plans to make changes to it happened relatively quickly, and as of now, changes to the test will be in effect by January of 2014. While that is still over a year away, it is a very short time frame given the complexity of the issues at hand. 

The possibility of transition from the GED® to an alternative high school equivalency credential in New York State might be one of the most important changes underway that will directly affect young adults that are out-of-work and out-of-school in New York State. The transition underway represents a hasty shift from current standards for obtaining a HSE diploma to standards focused on career and college readiness.  

Given the very tight time table to implement changes, the State Education Department has taken a critically important step in this process by recommending to the Board of Regents (in a letter written last month (PDF)) that New York State issue a request for proposals from potential vendors to create and institute a new high school equivalency credential. The provisions of the upcoming RFP are outlined in the above letter.  
At our most recent CBO Network Meeting, practitioners in the field who work day-to-day with young adults in GED-Plus and Young Adult Workforce Programs throughout the City got to hear from and direct their questions to a panel of experts on this issue.  We were joined by Kevin Smith, Deputy Commissioner for Adult Career and Continuing Education Services at the New York State Education Department - who is on the front-line of these important changes in a leadership capacity at the state level - who spoke to us about the State's role in this process and discussed what we can expect in the coming months, and what we can be doing to help practitioners and young people prepare for what comes next.  
While in some respects this conversation left many of us with more questions than answers, it was a very important and engaged discussion, and it was clear that those in attendance and those presenting are very committed to making this process as smooth as possible, and that we will need to work together in the coming months so that those who can be tested now in advance of the changes expected in January of 2014 can pass the exam. And for those that will be facing an entirely new test in 2014, the focus needs to be on getting the right information to practitioners and young people alike so that they can prepare for the changes. 
As a next step to this process, JobsFirstNYC is planning to host a webinar in order to provide information and updates for those that were unable to attend this meeting but who are concerned about this topic. Please stay tuned for announcements regarding this in the near future. 

All of the handouts/presentations from the October 5th meeting are now zipped and available for download on our website. You can access them here. 

We want to especially thank: Bruce Carmel of F*E*G*S, Kevin Smith of the NYS Education Department, Sierra Stoneman-Bell of Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, and Venu Thelakatt of the Literacy Assistance Center for their important contributions to this discussion. We also want to thank Jacque Cooke, independent consultant and adult literacy expert, for assisting us to moderate this event.
JobsFirstNYC to Facilitate Workshop on the LESEN at Fall 2012 NYATEP Conference October 29-31
The staff of JobsFirstNYC are looking forward to the upcoming Fall 2012 NYATEP Conference in Syracuse, NY, which will take place October 29-31.

The conference will include a workshop on the Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN), facilitated by JobsFirstNYC's Deputy Executive Director Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham, and LESEN Coordinator Gaspar Caro.   

Individuals participating in the JFNYC/LESEN session will learn how the LESEN pilot is currently being rolled out, what has been learned so far about the collaborative process, and how the Network uses labor market information to help inform its current strategy. Additionally, it will be demonstrated how this represents a coordinated way to work with employers much more effectively (and to the employers' benefit) and that it is also a way to achieve a scale in terms of fulfillment that individual institutions may not have.  

The conference is right around the corner, but the good news is, there is still time to register! Click here to register for the conference.     

Information regarding workshop topics, descriptions, speakers, and time slots is now available from NYATEP online. You can view the full agenda for the conference by clicking here.  

JobsFirstNYC Events on the Horizon
Stay tuned for other announcements coming from us in the coming weeks. Plans are underway to host another Job Developer Networking Breakfast (with our colleagues at WPTI), and to additionally host another "Meet the Employers" event. We are also continuing to host practitioner work groups. You can learn more about these meetings and other events at by visiting our website. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crack-ing the reasons behind low black male graduation rates

The numbers are grim.

Last month, The Schott Foundation for Public Education reported that 52 percent of black males who entered ninth grade in the 2006-07 school year graduated in four years nationally. That compared with 78 percent of white, non-Latino males and 58 percent of Latino males.  The black male graduation rate has been rising so slowly that, if the current pace continues, it will take nearly 50 years for black and white males to graduate at the same rate.

(The numbers for New York City are worse for every demographic, with just 28% of black and Latino males completing high school in four years versus 57% of white males.  The New York City school district "boasts" the 7th lowest black male high school completion rate in the country.)

Why does the graduation gap persist?

It's easy to forget that the situation once looked much more promising.  Between the mid-1960s and the late-1980s, the educational outcomes of black students improved dramatically and was on pace to erase the racial gap completely by 1996.  Instead, the gains started to stall out around 1990, and by 2004 black male graduation had fallen back to a rate not seen since 1972.

To date, no one has shown conclusively why this reversal occurred. 

Is the War on Drugs to blame?

A new study (PDF) by three economists offers one controversial explanation: the rise of crack cocaine.  The study estimates that crack markets account for between 40 and 73 percent of the drop in black male high school graduation rates.  As the drug spread through black urban neighborhoods in the 1980s, the authors argue that it changed the educational calculus for black males in three ways:

  1. Decreased life expectancy.  The unprecedented levels of violence among drug dealers that accompanied the crack epidemic -- and often spilled over to innocent bystanders -- lead many young black males to fatalistic assumptions about dying young.  If they wouldn't live to see 30, they believed, what was the point of completing high school?   
  2. Increased likelihood of incarceration.  Politicians responded to arrival of crack by instituting ever more draconian punishments for possession and distribution.  The number of federal and state prisoners doubled between 1980 and 1996.  Young black men, in particular, found themselves increasingly targeted by law enforcement for a broad range of behavior.  As greater numbers went to prison on longer and longer sentences, incarceration became an expected rite of passage among many.  Anticipating a life behind bars, completing high school no longer seemed necessary.    
  3. The lure of money.  Crack cocaine dealing offered a unique source of tax-free income in neighborhoods that had been hit hardest by the urban deindustrialization of the 1970s.  Many young black men were recruited into the drug trade by older dealers to take advantage of the lighter sentences handed out to juvenile offenders.  As crack dealing became established -- and in many cases glorified -- as a legitimate alternative to legal employment, the perceived need for a high school diploma diminished.       

Although the economists do not extend their analysis to include changing social structures, early deaths, long prison sentences, and the unstable nature of the dealer lifestyle all significantly impacted black families.  As increasing numbers of children were born to single mothers with absent fathers, the structure and oversight necessary for high educational attainment weakened.   

Friday, September 28, 2012

Two upcoming events for youth practitioners

JFNYC is pleased to note two upcoming events sponsored by other organizations that will be of interest to anyone who works with disadvantaged youth:

1) Public reading by Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (2012), Sept. 29 @ 5:00 pm

In his groundbreaking new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (2012), journalist Paul Tough (also author of Whatever It Takes about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone) argues that skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control have more to do with youth success than academic skills as measured by test scores.

Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, can not only affect the conditions of children’s lives, it can alter the physical development of their brains as well. But now educators and doctors around the country are using that knowledge to develop innovative interventions that allow children to overcome the constraints of poverty. And with the help of these new strategies, as Tough’s extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.

This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

Learn more about Tough's work in recent interviews with the Huffington Post and EconTalk.

For more information or to register, visit  

2) Tackling Poverty Conversation and Networking Event, Oct. 3rd @ 6pm

On Wednesday October 3rd, City Limits will launch the Tackling Poverty Conversation and Networking Series to look at the solutions and innovative ideas that have had an impact in fighting the causes and effects of urban poverty.

As the new school year gets underway, we'll highlight the connection between education and poverty. This series installment will explore the role of the community in education, enrichment, and mentoring of youth who are at a disadvantage. What's working (and what isn't) in the schools responsible for educating the city's poorest students?  And is a quality education a civil right?

Featured Panelists and Speakers
  • David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Emary Aronson, Managing Director-Eduction, The Robin Hood Foundation
  • Stephan Brumberg, Professor of Education, School Psychology/Counseling, Brooklyn College
  • Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director, Brooklyn Movement Center

Introductory remarks to open the panel will be given by Ralph da Costa Nunez, President and CEO, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness

For more info or to register, visit 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Increasing the Minimum Wage will Benefit Millions of Young People

A report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the proposed Miller/Harkin increase to the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 per hour to $9.80 per hour, would benefit 21.5 million children nationwide.

And that number doesn't even account for the millions of young adults (18-24 years old) working in entry-level jobs who would benefit from this increase. An increased minimum wage in NYC would be especially beneficial--since the cost of living here is prohibitively high--and will have a positive impact on thousands of young people by increasing their potential to achieve economic self-sufficiency.  
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than New York, and this includes states where the cost of living is dramatically lower.  While an increase to the minimum wage was passed in the New York Assembly earlier this year, the increased has yet to be approved by the NY Senate.  
Apart from helping children and young people, EPI blogger Doug Hall reports that the increased wage, which would be introduced via three incremental increases, would give the economy a boost as well, as minimum wage workers would spend their new earnings immediately.  Read more about how an increase to the minimum wage would benefit more than a quarter of our nation's children--not to mention millions of struggling young adults--on the EPI blog.

Friday, August 17, 2012

JobsFirstNYC Looks Beyond the “Bottom Line” to Find Solutions for Young Adults Out of School and Out of Work

JFNYC has identified an unexplored opportunity:  to develop new and creative ways to engage employers by better meeting their hiring needs. 
There is exciting news in the workplace these days. JFNYC’s new study — Going Beyond the Bottom Line has garnered crucial information that gives young-adult workforce providers invaluable perspectives from the point of view of employers. 

Our aim is to give workforce providers a better understanding of employer perceptions, expectations, and need — as well as clear and comprehensive ways that they can meet these criteria.

We went about this by soliciting 98 employers — 33 participated in focus groups or individual interviews and 65 responded to an online survey — from a mix of businesses, including consulting firms, retailers, and the hospitality industry.  All have experience hiring young adults for entry-level positions.

This report presents findings, not conclusions.  Our purpose is to invigorate a dialogue about how to best:

  • address evolving challenges faced by young adult employment and training providers
  • capitalize on employer relationships to provide young adults with more and better opportunities
  • build a richer, more integrated and substantive inquiry

One HR Manager from a medium-sized hospitality company shared his positive experience:  “I’ve had great success with public and nonprofit providers.  They’ve been able to identify what I’m looking for.  It’s like having a bunch of agents working for me.”  

Training at Henkels & McCoy prepares participants to be successful in entering the workforce.   H&M trains for careers, not training for training’s sake. 

Another Sales Manager from a medium-sized consulting firm shared the realities of working with young people without previous job experience: They think outside of the box because they don’t even know what the box is yet.”

For more insights, shared experiences, and solid, practical advice, read what other employers have to say in the complete report Going Beyond the Bottom Line.

One sure way to successfully reduce the out-of-work and out-of-school population in NYC is to galvanize the good will, resources, and commitment of many people and institutions, and most especially employers. 

Our report is a major step in bringing these vital forces together.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Education & Employment News Roundup

Today JFNYC digs deep into its list of recent articles about education and employment that you may have overlooked.

  • Education is crucial to a skilled workforce, but are we teaching the right skills?  
  • Higher math -- required knowledge or roadblock?
  • Does everyone need to go to college?  
  • Can certificates be a viable alternative to a degree for a young person?  
  • How can online technology provide free or low-cost education and training for tomorrow's workforce?

Read on for answers to these and other questions:

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say (New York Times, Feb. 9)
Analyses of long-term data published in recent months finds that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.

Is Algebra Necessary? (New York Times, July 28)
In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail algebra.  To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school, with algebra cited as the major academic reason. The City University of New York found that 57 percent of its students didn’t pass its mandated algebra course. The depressing conclusion of a faculty report: “failing math at all levels affects retention more than any other academic factor.”  Why do we subject American students to this ordeal?

The Case of the Missing Skills (New York Times, May 21)
More than half of American employers reported having difficulty filling positions because of a lack of suitable skills in 2010, one of the highest shares for developed countries.

How Certificates Can Lift Income (New York Times, June 6)
For some people, certificates can be viable alternatives to a full-blown college degree. The median earnings of people who hold certificates are 20 percent higher than the median earnings of workers who go no further than a high school diploma. If certificate holders work in the field in which they earn the certificate, their median income is just 4 percent less than the median income of associate degree holders.

Open Education for a Global Economy (New York Times, July 11)
A website called ALISON offers some 400 vocational courses at “certificate level” (1 to 2 hours of study) or “diploma level” (about 9 to 11 hours of study) and plans to add 600 more in the coming year. Its most popular course, ABC IT, is a 15- to 20-hour training suite that covers similar ground to the widely recognized International Computer Driving License curriculum. (ALISON’s certification is free; ICDL certification can cost over $500). Other popular offerings are project management, accounting, customer service, human resources, Microsoft Excel, health studies, basic study skills, operations management and psychology.

Elite Colleges Transform Online Higher Education (The Huffington Post, August 6) 
From Harvard to Stanford, a growing number of elite universities are throwing open their digital doors to the masses. They're offering their most popular courses online for no charge, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to learn from world-renowned scholars and scientists.  The proliferation of so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, has the potential to transform higher education.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Identifying better measures for tracking the progress of young adults in workforce development programs

JobsFirstNYC is pleased to share with the field the results of a timely new study, entitled, Understanding Interim Progress Milestones in Young Adult-Serving Workforce Development Programs, which affirms the challenges that young adult-serving organizations face operating in a performance-based culture.

The paper outlines short-term progress measures that can be used by young adult-serving organizations to ensure that their participants are on track to meet employment and educational goals.  The research conducted for this study was made possible by funding from JobsFirstNYC, including a project-specific grant from the William T. Grant Foundation, and the NYC Workforce Funders.

The study was part of the New York City Benchmarking Project, written by Marty Miles and Stacy Woodruff-Bolt of P/PV, who convened the Young Adult Milestones Task Force from Fall 2010 through Spring 2011 in order to answer the following question:

What are meaningful short-term progress measures that can help young adult workforce programs know if participants are on track to accomplish employment or educational outcomes?

Through a series of task force meetings, individual data analysis projects and conference calls to share lessons learned, the following themes emerged:
  • Some specific progress measures were predictive of eventual success;
  • Lower-skilled young adults may require more than one year to earn a GED; and
  • Participating organizations reported that they benefited from the opportunity for peer learning and focused data analysis.
The report concludes with the recommendation that workforce funders, CBOs and the NYC workforce field at large will benefit from broadening  their scope of measurable outcomes to include more tangible interim milestones. While many funders currently focus on outcomes of placement and retention in employment, attainment of degree or certificate, and literacy or numeracy gains of at least one educational level, an additional set of measures--tailored to the specific circumstances of each organization but modeled on best-practices in young adult-serving workforce programs--should be considered as well.  This will allow organizations to refine their data collection practices to suit the individual needs of their programs and more importantly, engage in ongoing performance improvement at the organizational level.  

The full content of the report can be downloaded from our website by clicking here

If you have questions about the report, please contact JFNYC Deputy Executive Director Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham, at

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Education Olympics: Does America Take the Gold?

In an increasingly global world, education matters.  But how does the US stack up against the competition?  The good folks at Certification Map have recently mined the data to create a cross-country comparative "Education Olympics" infographic.

So how do we do against our top 9 competitors?  Although the US leads the world in all-time Olympic gold medals, we manage just two silvers and a bronze in the education categories rated.  Maybe 2016 will be our year . . .

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rethinking the Youth Employment Field

JFNYC Executive Director Lou Miceli and Chris Sturgis, a founding member of the Youth Transition Funders Group, recently had a chance to speak about strategies for reinvigorating, refocusing and rethinking the youth employment field. 

Reflecting on how funding streams directly impact the youth employment field, Lou shared with Chris his observation that the young adult workforce field has become reactive rather than proactive to public funding streams in particular, and that the heavy reliance amongst practitioners on this slow trickle down of money has actually hurt the field by pitting organizations against each-other. 

Additionally, by prescribing standardized, rigid goals and outcomes for workforce organizations, this system actually discourages creativity, freedom, and risk-taking amongst service providers, which in effect does a great disservice not only to workforce practitioners themselves, but more importantly to the young people they serve.

Chris summarized her reflections and takeaways from their discussion in two recent blog posts on the Youth Transition Funders Group's blog, Connected by 25

Her first post, "Time to Pro-Act: An Interview with Louis Miceli", discusses how funders could help the field by "raising the investment bar" and rewriting the rule book to encourage a more proactive and creative environment.

Her second post, "Lose the Rule Book", outlines three starting points for thinking about reinvigorating the workforce system: change the rules, innovate through intermediaries, and embrace "consilience"--a strategy of working together and coordinating efforts amongst stakeholders in order to forge new paths for young people. 

It's this last idea of "consilience" that underlies the workforce partnerships that JFNYC supports, including the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON) and Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN).  By promoting and supporting the efforts of collaboratives such as the BON and LESEN, JFNYC hopes to build capacity, improve practice, and re-imagine young adult workforce services in New York City.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BON Helps Young People Access College

Transforming the Lives of Disconnected Young Adults

Shenett’s horizons have greatly expanded thanks to Grace Outreach and their participation in the Bronx Opportunity Network (BON) — a borough based partnership with Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, and eight community-based organizations.  The BON looks to systemically increase college access—and to support post-secondary retention—among dis-engaged young adults.

Like too many young people, Shenett, a 19-year-old woman from the Bronx, possessed enormous drive, but faced a daunting series of hurdles as she attempted to pursue her dreams.

Shenett & Tiffany attend a BON event at Hostos, January 2012
Those dreams were nearly dashed when she took the CUNY COMPASS Test — an entrance requirement for anyone with a GED, and a hurdle for all of the students supported by the BON.  Shenett failed all four subtest exams, but she was more determined than ever to do better. 

She specifically received support and assistance from Grace Outreach, one of the eight community-based partners of the BON, which is working in a strategic way in the South Bronx to increase college access and support post-secondary retention for young adults like herself.

The BON’s collective power to negotiate with CUNY for a re-take of the COMPASS gave Shenett a second chance. 


“Lehman is my top college choice, and I am thinking about business management.  I would eventually like to start my own business, maybe having to do with day care or something with children. But after college, I would likely go work for a larger business or corporation to learn about how things operate on that level before starting my own. I really do love kids, so I could combine this love with skills and ideas from the business world.”
Shenett did so well the second time she took the tests that she was only required to take one remedial class in her first college semester.

With encouragement and support from the BON — and a resolve to do her personal best — Shenett did well her first semester.  She worked hard in all four of her classes and earned a grade point average of 3.0. 

Shenett is on track to earn her Associates degree in May of next year — but she already has her sights on furthering her education: “I definitely plan on transferring to a 4 year college after finishing at Hostos, probably staying at CUNY.”

The BON’s mission is to assist under-prepared Bronx students that would not consider enrolling in college to improve their academic skills, overcome personal barriers, and enroll in and complete college. Working at the policy level, an immediate goal of the BON is to continue to identify barriers and opportunities that may influence the results achieved by these high-need students within CUNY.

JobsFirstNYC is proud to nurture this vital program.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Good news on NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk policy

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for a change in New York State law to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view, a move that would drastically reduce the number of people, especially minority youth, who could be arrested for marijuana possession as a result of police stops. 

As noted last month, for the last decade New York City has held the unenviable position as national leader in unwarranted (in all senses of the word) stop-and-frisk searches by police.  This use of this tactic has risen from fewer than 100,000 cases in 2002 to nearly 700,000 in 2011, supposedly justified by the need to get weapons off the street -- although stops in 2011 yielded only one gun for every 3,000 people stopped.

In practice, the stop-and-frisk program has been targeted overwhelmingly at minorities, especially minority youth, who often find themselves stopped for vague reasons such as "furtive movements" (351,739 stops -- or 51% of the total -- in 2011), "suspicious bulge," and "clothes commonly used in a crime."  Once stopped, people can be arrested for any number of infractions that otherwise would not have justified police action.  The most egregious of these charges has been for possession of small amounts of marijuana, with 50,684 arrests — one out of every seven arrests made in the city in 2011, more than for any other offense.  In 2010, the city spent $75 million to put pot-smokers behind bars.

In essence, the police have created a Catch-22 for the people stopped.  In 1977 the state legislature reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.  But it left public display or public use of marijuana as a misdemeanor crime, setting a no-win situation.  When people empty their pockets at the demands of the police, any marijuana they may have is brought into "public view" and therefore opens them up to arrest; not complying with police orders, however, also puts the person at risk for arrest.   

Governor Cuomo's call for decriminalization has gained significant support across the political spectrum.  The New York Times and New York City Comptroller John Liu both published Op-Ed pieces supporting the move and calling for more significant reforms of police practice.  Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, both longtime defenders of the stop-and-frisk program, have endorsed the governor's proposal.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

5-31-2012 Important Updates from JobsFirstNYC

Important Updates from JobsFirstNYC         May 31, 2012   

Registration is underway for two upcoming JFNYC events: the Job Developer Networking Breakfast on June 19th, and the CBO Network Meeting on July 10th.  Please find registration details for both events below.

Additionally, JobsFirst is pleased to share with the field a new report from the Center for an Urban Future, "Now Hiring", which was commissioned and fully funded by JobsFirstNYC. A link to the full report can be found below.
Registration is Underway for the June 19th Job Developers' Networking Breakfast
We are now accepting RSVPs for the next Job Developers' Networking Breakfast, co-sponsored and co-hosted by JobsFirstNYC & WPTI.

The event will take place on June 19th from 8:30-10 AM in downtown Brooklyn. 

This event will afford job developers and front-line workforce staff the opportunity to network with their peers, re-energize their work by sharing best practices with colleagues, and provide feedback on the nitty-gritty day-to-day work you do to the staff of JFNYC and WPTI.  We hope you will join us.

This opportunity is offered to you at no-cost. However, registration is required; please click here to register.  We look forward to seeing you at this event!

If you have trouble registering, please contact Saki Mori at
The Next CBO Networking Meeting is Scheduled for July 10th
Registration is now open for the next quarterly JobsFirstNYC CBO Network Meeting!

The Macaualy Honors College at CUNY has graciously offered to host this event, which will take place on Tuesday, July 10th, from 9-11:30 AM. As with past meetings, the first half-hour will be reserved for open practitioner networking.

The tentative agenda for this meeting includes discussions of the following issues and how they affect disengaged young adults:
  • Credentials for young adults: what readily available credentials are available that can help young adults gain a foothold in the labor market
  • The use of the National Work Readiness Credential (NWRC) in NYC-funded young adult programs
  • The "new" GED exam: proposed reform measures and the need for an advocacy campaign
A more detailed agenda will follow in the coming weeks.

Please take a minute to register for the July 10th quarterly meeting by clicking here
"Now Hiring" Report Released Today by the Center for an Urban Future
The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) released a new publication today, "Now Hiring", which was commissioned and fully funded by JobsFirstNYC, and which spotlights 26 growing occupations in seven economic sectors - office/administrative, healthcare, property maintenance, transportation, telecommunications/utilities, retail and hospitality - open to young New Yorkers with limited education.

The report highlights 26 occupations that are projected to experience growth through 2018, and that also require little formal training, are available to workers that posses only a high school diploma, high school equivalency diploma, or less, and which pay a median annual wage of at least $25,000 or can lead fairly directly to opportunities for advancement.

While highlighting this potential for moving a significant number of older young adults into the economic mainstream, the authors point out that making the most of these opportunities will require new policies and strategies from both policymakers and nonprofit workforce developers; this work will be aided by the thoughtful, targeted coordination and support of intermediaries like JobsFirstNYC.

Read CUF's press release announcing the publication of "Now Hiring."

Download the full "Now Hiring" report and the "Now Hiring" job index, which breaks down the 26 occupations highlighted in the report.

We've Moved! JobsFirstNYC has new offices. Our new address and main telephone number are:

11 Park Place, Suite 1602
New York, NY 10007
(T) 646.738.5674

Now Hiring report released

JobsFirstNYC is pleased to announce the release today of a new report by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF).  This report, entitled "Now Hiring", was commissioned and fully funded by JobsFirstNYC.  Please read the press release from CUF below.  

The full report is also available for download on our website by clicking here


From the Center for an Urban Future -

For Immediate Release:

May 31, 2012 – The Center for an Urban Future, a Manhattan-based think tank, today published a new report which identifies more than two dozen occupations in New York City that are expected to have ample job openings in the years ahead which pay decent salaries and which are accessible to young adults with limited levels of educational attainment. The study, titled “Now Hiring,” details 26,000 job openings a year for much of the next decade in 26 occupations—from paratransit driver and medical assistant to bill collector and bank teller—that older young adults in New York could realistically fill.  

The report, which was funded by JobsFirstNYC, a nonprofit intermediary focused on reconnecting young adults to the economy, offers a glimmer of hope for young adults in New York at a time when the current job outlook for young New Yorkers who lack a college degree appears particularly bleak. The city’s overall unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, the teen unemployment rate is around 30 percent and the young adults with low levels of educational attainment and limited work experience are among those who are having the hardest time finding decent paying jobs. Overall fewer young people are in the labor force today than at any time since World War II.

“Too many young adults from low-income backgrounds in New York aren’t working or are stuck in dead-end, low wage jobs,” says Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. “But there is some good news out there. Thanks to expected growth in a number of sectors that have low barriers to entry, there is a clear opportunity to get more of these young people on the path to decent paying jobs.”

The report specifically focused on occupations that pay decent wages and offer some chance for advancement. Indeed, 22 of the 26 occupations identified in the report, with an estimated combined total of nearly 15,000 openings annually, pay a median wage of at least $25,000. In contrast, an entry-level home health aide in New York City earns $17,360 on average. The other 11,000 entry-level openings are in four retail and hospitality sector occupations that we included because they provide crucial work experience and training to young people who have been, at best, sporadically employed.

The growing occupations identified in the report include:
  • Paratransit Drivers - The rapid growth in the number of New Yorkers over the age of 65 had led to a dramatic increase in the number of paratransit vehicles that shuttle older adults and the disabled to doctor’s appointments, nursing homes and other destinations. Ridership on Access-a-Ride vehicles grew by 15 percent a year between 2005 and 2009. With the city’s elderly population expected to grow faster in the decades ahead (the number of New Yorkers aged 65 and over is expected to grow 35 percent by 2030), a Metropolitan Transportation Authority paratransit official told us they expect annual ridership growth of seven or eight percent going forward. We estimate that there will be as many as 600 job openings a year for paratransit drivers across the city.
  • Medical Assistants, Certified Nurse Aides & Pharmacy Technicians - In healthcare, the aging of the population and the realignment of healthcare delivery away from acute care and toward outpatient care is boosting demand for medical assistants in clinics, certified nurse aides in non-hospital settings and pharmacy technicians in drug stores. The NY State Department of Labor projects that by 2018, the number of pharmacy technicians, at a median salary of $34,530, is expected to increase upwards of 30 percent while medical assistant jobs, with a median salary of $32,360, will grow by 21 percent.
  • Bank tellers - While many New Yorkers are less than thrilled with new banks sprouting up across the city—the number of branches increased from 452 to 694 over the past decade—these new branches have created hundreds of teller positions that pay $12 to $15 an hour and do not require a college degree. The State Department of Labor projects continued employment growth in this.
  • Bill Collectors - The personal financial crises many New Yorkers are experiencing in the difficult economy have also had an upside—positions for bill collectors are expected to grow 8.6 percent by 2018 and offer a median salary of over $40,000, with only short-term on-the-job training required.
  • Office Clerks - Demand for an average of 4,620 office clerks a year is projected through 2018. Although a significant share is expected to come from employment growth, most of these openings will result from turnover among the 232,350 workers currently in office clerk positions. Office clerks earn median wages of $28,000 to $42,000 depending on their title. Only a high school diploma or High School Equivalency (such as a GED) is required to start.
  • In property maintenance there is an average of 1,700 openings a year for janitors with a median salary of $30,870 and 700 openings a year for general maintenance and repair workers with a mean salary of $45,060
  • The utilities workforce in NYC is getting older and a large number of utilities workers are nearing retirement, which will create opportunities for younger workers. In 2010, 20.1 percent of New York City utility sector workers were age 55 to 64, which is substantially higher than their share of the general working populace. One official from a local utility union told us he expects an “exodus” of older workers retiring from the utility industry in the coming years.
The report, written by Margaret Stix and Glenn von Nostitz, also finds that retail jobs are particularly important for young adults with limited educational attainment. We were not initially planning to include opportunities in the retail and hospitality sectors, based on the widely held belief that they offered dead-end jobs with low wages. However, directors of the city’s Workforce1 Career Centers and workforce development practitioners that we interviewed made us take a second look after they pointed out how these sectors offer a crucial foothold in the job market for youth with lower educational attainment and minimal work experience. Since 1990, the city’s retailers have added 38,700 jobs, a 15 percent increase, to more than 300,000 positions. NYSDOL projects that through 2018 there will be 6,200 openings a year in retail salesperson and cashier jobs in NYC.  These jobs typically offer low starting salaries but offer many other benefits to youth trying to enter the workforce. In particular, the flexibility of retail work schedules makes it suitable for young people who want to combine work with school. Jobs in these occupations also help young people who have been, at best, sporadically employed build a stable work record.

The study concludes that while there is a unique opportunity for helping New York’s young adults gain a foothold in the workforce, taking advantage of this will require new strategies and policies from both city policymakers and the private and nonprofit workforce development providers who work with this population. The report recommends everything from helping more young adults in New York obtain a driver’s license, which surprisingly has provided a key barrier to many young people getting jobs, to creating sectoral workforce programs that are geared to young adults. Currently, most of the sector-based workforce development programs are currently focused on adults.

The Center for an Urban Future is an independent and non-partisan think tank based in Manhattan that publishes studies about how to grow and diversify New York City’s economy and how to expand economic opportunity. The Center has written extensively about workforce development issues and the youth employment crisis in New York.

Click here (PDF) for the full “Now Hiring” report.

Click here (PDF) for a link to our “Now Hiring” job index, which breaks down the 26 occupations we highlight in the report.  (Also available in PNG format.)