February 2016 RISC Job Training Update

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“I want a good job with benefits that I can do for the long-term, but no one gives me a chance.” Sharing stories of unemployment and the struggle to find a good job, like this story shared by a RISC congregation member who attended a house meeting last fall, have driven us for the past two years to seek job training opportunities for residents of distressed Richmond neighborhoods.

This story was shared by a life-long resident of the East End of Richmond who has faced the challenge of unemployment for several years. He believes that a criminal record from several years ago is following him; every time he applies for a job, he doesn’t hear back from the employer. Although he has a high school diploma, job experience, and has participated in a local job placement program, he is still unable to find a living-wage job. Thousands of people in Richmond’s distressed communities experience this problem; years of underemployment and a lack of good opportunities lead to feelings of hopelessness.

We believe there is hope for the unemployed and underemployed in Richmond’s underserved neighborhoods. While Richmond has 33,000 unemployed citizens, more than 33,000 jobs are available and unfilled in the Richmond region. More than half of those jobs are located in Richmond city, and many are in the healthcare field. Richmond’s hospitals, in particular, offer jobs with opportunities for advancement within the system, providing a ladder out of poverty for our unemployed neighbors.

In the first two weeks of February 2016, we met with leaders at VCU and HCA Hospitals. We are encouraged by their positive response and interest in hiring people from underserved neighborhoods. We will meet with the hospital officials again in early March and expect them to make clear commitments at our Nehemiah Action on May 2.

Furthermore, in our recent research we have learned that low-cost training is not available in the Richmond region for some in-demand healthcare jobs. While local government agencies fund training for the unemployed, they cannot cover the exorbitant fees that for-profit colleges charge. We are currently pursuing the development of low-cost training options and scholarship-funded training for more people to enter these in-demand jobs.

At this year’s Nehemiah Action, we have a good chance for a deal with the hospital systems that will ensure unemployed and underemployed people, including those in our congregations who struggle to find living-wage jobs, with the opportunity to pursue training and a ladder out of poverty.

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