Community Development and Policy Studies Update

August 6, 2015

In the Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Department’s field work throughout the Seventh District, CDPS contacts – in varying contexts – have voiced concerns about conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities. CDPS’ goals include conducting research on community and economic development topics that impact lower-wealth, lower-income, and recent immigrant populations, as well as other economically disadvantaged communities. CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve LMI communities in varying ways. CDPS survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of: real estate development; finance; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services. This blog is a summary of workforce development responses from the latest CDPS survey. 

From the most recent survey (echoing past surveys) many respondents believe that high school students are not learning fundamental skills in school (primarily math and sciences) and that there is a mismatch between what the companies are looking for and the skills that job candidates have to offer.  Additionally, respondents noted that companies with jobs openings are not willing to provide on-the-job training.  In the past, this sentiment seemed to run through all the responses, but during the most recent survey there were respondents that highlighted that there were qualified applicants to choose from.  This slight change in sentiment might come from the fact that some respondents noted that community/technical colleges and universities in their area have added courses to address fundamental skills issues, and to provide curricula in specialized training for certain industries.

For example, a contact from Wisconsin highlighted a few examples of higher educational facilities either responding to community needs or working with companies to help their community fill more specialized rolls by tailoring training: (1) The Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) is expanding its welding program after receiving an overwhelming response for the free welding class they offered (tuition and fees were covered under a Department of Labor grant); (2) fourteen manufacturers are working with the Lakeshore Technical College in Manitowoc to create a production technician boot camp aimed at recent high school graduates as well as the unemployed and underemployed; and (3) a new endowment to support organic crop research funded by Cliff bar and Organic Valley has been established at University of Wisconsin Madison.

An upcoming blog will highlight more in depth information on LMI communities. CDPS along with community development departments at the Federal Reserve Banks in Boston, Dallas, Kansas City and Philadelphia recently disseminated a brief survey to many contacts within their Districts, which addresses key areas of concern for LMI populations as well as organizations that serve marginalized populations.  We are hoping the responses provide us with a better understanding of regional conditions affecting LMI populations with respect to both trends over time and as compared with other regions of the country.

The views expressed in this post are our own and do not reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.


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