CSBG Spotlight: Self-Sufficiency and Job Training Program in Florida Teaches Skills Needed to Move People Out of Poverty

Edited by Payten Carroll

During a time of historically high unemployment and a growing wealth gap, it’s hard to imagine that jobs exist for these low-income Americans. However, as President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address this month, he hears “from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills.” These “skills” in many instances are the only thing keeping hard working Americans from achieving self-sufficiency and financial stability.

Capital Area Community Action Agency (CACAA), in Tallahassee, Florida, recognized the dire need in their own community to connect   unemployed workers with hiring companies in the area. The Family Self-Sufficiency Program uses extensive case management services and a three-pronged approach to give people the opportunity to learn the skills needed to gain employment. The program uses a combination of short-term training classes; on-the-job training placements; and micro-enterprise small business training and start-up assistance to connect participants with employers looking for skilled workers.

The short-term training classes are based on a variety of tracks including: weatherization installation, nursing, technical office skills, electrical training, and small business start-up training. The last allows participants to apply for a micro-business loan through CACAA. Once equipped with the necessary skills, participants can opt to be matched with an employer through on-the-job training placements. These placements are facilitated through partnerships with  the public library, the local school board, construction and weatherization contractors, computer design companies, medical offices, senior living and nursing facilities, nonprofits, newspapers, and tax preparation businesses, to name a few.

Using CSBG funds to finance the program, CACAA targets their existing low-income clients for enrollment in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. People who approach the agency seeking crisis or emergency services are not only given immediate assistance, but thanks to a comprehensive intake assessment, can also be connected to this more comprehensive strategy. The goal is to move families toward long-term economic security by reducing the need for emergency aid through skilled jobs that are sustainable. With CSBG Recovery Act funds, CACAA was able to enroll more individuals than ever before.

In 2011, the Family Self-Sufficiency Program aided 189 participants to find employment in their community. Of these participants, 129 were hired for on-the-job training placements and the remaining 60 found traditional employment. Additionally, 11 participants were granted micro-business loans, which will spark the local economy in Tallahassee and lead to more employment opportunities for the community.

CACAA’s comprehensive approach to reducing unemployment and poverty is a great example of how Community Action addresses local needs. An intensive approach to job development, local partnerships, and job training contributes to greater economic security not only for program participants but also for the community as a whole. CACAA is inspiring the kind of long-term change that President Obama suggested, to secure the future for all Americans.