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JOBS Outlook 2019

By Rev. Stephen E. Tucker

It is with the utmost excitement that JOBS Coalition announces its 2019 theme, “Becoming!” Inspired by the bestselling memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama, the Coalition’s one-word theme emerges from recent developments in addressing job training, workforce development and employment opportunities for District residents.

In 2018, the JOBS Coalition met two of the three objectives it set out to accomplish. Firstly, we continued collaboration with Jobs Partnership of Greater Washington (JPGW) in working with returning citizens, assisting through job training efforts to obtain employment and avoid recidivism. Jobs Partnership continued to hold classes both outside and inside detention facilities, specifically Montgomery County and D.C. jails. In Montgomery County, JPGW graduated its 17th class from the “Keys & Steps to Personal and Professional Success” program, a 12-week faith-based employment training initiative. Beyond the jails, program administrators continued to hold classes in area churches for persons not under supervised release.

Secondly, the Coalition maintained its support of the Academy of Construction and Design’s (ACAD) career and technical education program at IDEA Public Charter School in the District’s Deanwood neighborhood. There, in Ward 7, student scholars built “tiny houses” from the ground up. The Coalition was present during the recent announcement of support from three area banks to the ACAD program (see related story).

Unfortunately, we were unable to make good on our goal to collaborate with the Department of Employment Services. Time restraints and conflicting schedules did not allow for any progress to be made. However, it’s our hope to pick this up in 2019.

Looking ahead, our primary objective is to address three critical needs related to employability that are highlighted in the December 2016 report, “Beyond Second Chances,” by the Council for Court Excellence. The report looks at returning citizens’ re-entry struggles and successes in the District of Columbia. It emphasizes the need for pre-release efforts toward employment, efforts to improve employability while under community supervision, and the importance of dealing with shifts in employment policy for returning citizens.

Citing Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) data, the report states, “For D.C. returning citizens, unemployment is likely to be as high or even higher than across the U.S.,” adding that among employable returning citizens entering supervision in 2015, 71 percent reported being unemployed.

The JOBS Coalition also wants to continue support of ACAD by rallying the faith community to support the students’ outreach effort in working to assist poor neighborhoods in Jamaica.

The best part of embracing this theme is celebrating individual achievements along the way. We aim to do this by recognizing special youth at the 2019 Annual Meet the Future Luncheon in May.