Tackling the mismatch between available jobs and the people who need them
The poverty rate in Scranton, a city of 77,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania, is 24 percent. Yet thousands of jobs are unfilled. One reason: There’s a mismatch between the people who need jobs and the jobs that are open.
Enter a new coalition with a new model, which launched in January. The program, called Readiness In Skilled Employment (RISE) has been developed by a collaborative including Johnson College, United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development, and the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund. Participants are unemployed and underemployed adults living 250 percent below the federal poverty level. Cohorts are comprised of 20 people and run for 9–12 months.
Combining education and job training in a coordinated, comprehensive, and evidence-based ecosystem, the program offers executive skills coaching and wraparound services that remove the kind of barriers that low-wage and disadvantaged workers face, such as poor transportation; housing instability; lack of affordable, quality childcare; and, crucially, a dearth of accessible training for living-wage jobs. Add to that a bewildering array of nearly one million credentials available in the U.S., including certificates, licenses, and industry certifications, some more costly and less usable than others.
In contrast, Johnson’s record of teaching and the research that underpins RISE are solid. In 2020, graduates of Johnson’s vet nursing program achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the national licensing exam; grads of the radiologic tech program scored a pass rate of 95 percent on the national registry exam. Programs available to RISE participants include building and property maintenance, diesel preventative maintenance, welding technology, industrial technology, clinical medical assistant, and computer support specialist—all of which address gaps in the current and future job market. “These jobs require all different levels of education, training, and skills. There is opportunity!” Teri Ooms, executive director of The Institute, says. For instance, demand for welders in northeastern Pennsylvania will increase 8 percent in the next eight years. Demand for industrial technology employees will grow 19 percent.
Alongside hands-on job training, students will learn executive skills and receive case management, academic advising, career counseling, and other support services.
Not surprisingly, RISE has already been cited as a model for potential expansion into other locations.
Assessment will run throughout the program, which will fuel corrections if necessary. At the course’s end, evaluation continues, benchmarking at 6, 9, 12, and 24 months.