Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Lynn McBee, the city’s workforce development czar, say they’re launching a new program to help more residents in underserved areas gain new skills to get higher paying jobs.
Organizers of the initiative, called Workforce Dallas, plan to work with nonprofits to reach residents in low-income areas in the city and connect them with employers such as Parkland Medical Center, American Airlines and Amazon to offer job training and placement opportunities. McBee said the aim is to eventually help up to 10,000 residents a year sharpen their job skills.
The goal is to help residents, mostly in southern Dallas, earn more money to break cycles of poverty and to build a pipeline for Dallas-based employers to draw more of their workforce from people rooted in the city.
“We’ve learned job fairs are not going to get people working and there has to be a more comprehensive, wraparound approach,” McBee told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. “You can’t expect someone to show up, identify with some job and then they’re left to figure out the training and everything else.”
The program is starting with a pilot phase expected to run through Labor Day and focus on residents in the 75212 zip code in the south Oak Cliff area, she said. Local nonprofit For Oak Cliff will help residents with train for the transportation, medical care, information technology and construction industries.
McBee said plans are for Workforce Dallas to solicit private donations to help provide transportation, child care and pay people to attend training programs. She said the goal is to train at least 50 to 100 people in the pilot and then expand.
“This is not just about plugging people into jobs. This is about helping people find something that’s going to fit and then help with upward mobility,” said McBee.
For example, she said, someone could receive training to become a patient care technician at Parkland and eventually through the skills they learn, could seek promotions. Some local nonprofits also can help residents get into GED programs to help with education barriers.
She estimated the fully developed program could cost $3 million a year. The program has currently raised about $100,000, she said.
McBee’s position as Dallas’ workforce czar and plans to improve job opportunities for residents were among the recommendations from a study commissioned by Johnson and released last year.
The report from research consulting firm Cicero Group found that Dallas residents over 25, particularly in southern Dallas, lack opportunities to learn new job skills and advance in their careers. That leaves many unable to earn more money, forcing them to take on lower-wage jobs with higher health risks and contributing to families experiencing poverty for generations.
Around 480,000 of Dallas’ 1.3 million residents are working-age adults, and 40% of households are low-income, according to the report. Findings also showed that residents between 45 and 64 are the least well-educated age group in Dallas and that 54% of white workers held jobs making more than $32,000 a year compared to 16% Hispanic, 15% Black and 15% of Asian and other ethnic groups.
Johnson appointed McBee to lead efforts to improve residents’ work opportunities in January. The report also recommended creating agreements with existing groups that focus on job and education development, better promotion of local programs to people that need them, and creating a central hub where people can get information and help to pursue new career opportunities.
“Workforce Dallas is about investing in people,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is about lifting our historically underserved and overlooked communities — particularly in southern Dallas — and breaking cycles of generational poverty.”