Effective Workforce Equity Requires Community Involvement
November 08 2011
NCLR occasionally publishes guest blog posts from our Affiliates around the country. Today’s guest post comes from the Hacienda Community Development Corporation. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and our Affiliate.
By Nathan Teske, Director of Community Economic Development, Hacienda Community Development Corporation
Portland, OR and its surrounding metropolitan area has been devastated by the current recession, much like many other cities and towns across America The region has suffered from mass layoffs, business closures, and a 12.2 percent unemployment rate. Low-income people and people of color have been most affected. The 2010 U.S. Census figures show that Latinos are both the largest and fastest-growing minority population in Oregon. It has grown 63% from the 2000 Census to now make up 11 percent of the state’s population. Latinos are also a very young minority and are more likely to have much larger families. They face stark economic and social hardships that present barriers to their success. In Portland, for instance, the per capita income for Latinos is half the city average. The dropout rate is twice as high, and 26 percent of Latino families live in poverty.
In response to their communities’ needs for new jobs and to industry demands for a skilled green workforce, a coalition of nonprofit groups have banded together to develop the Green Career Pathways: Communities for Equity project. The Hacienda Community Development Corporation, the Native American Youth Association, Verde, the Urban League, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Work Systems Inc., Human Solutions, and Oregon Tradeswomen are the groups comprising this new project. Communities for Equity is made up of Portland’s disadvantaged communities: Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, the homeless, immigrants, veterans, and those with a criminal record.
The project enhances knowledge about effective programs that will benefit individuals and communities throughout the nation. It connects target populations to valuable training and employment resources, using an integrated and supportive green jobs recruitment, training, placement, and retention pathway designed and implemented by groups with direct access to those populations. Portland is a model city for sustainability, and its reputation for spearheading new green practices and industries (green building, energy efficiency retrofits, storm water management) makes it an ideal location for creating a pathway from poverty into high-growth, high-quality green jobs.
Communities for Equity is founded on the principles of equity, economic opportunity, and environmental benefits for target populations and neighborhoods. Hacienda is actively working to connect the Latino community to the burgeoning number green jobs in the Portland metro region. This includes new publicly funded green construction projects, the development of the Sustainability Center at Portland State University, and the imminent construction of Columbia BioGas. This system will convert food waste into clean, natural gas and reusable clean water. This emerging economy includes some entry-level positions, but also includes many jobs that require skills that some Latinos may not have.
Hacienda is working hand-in-glove with local green jobs trainers, including community colleges, to skill up Latino workers for these job opportunities. In addition, Hacienda offers in-house basic skill trainings, including adult education, ESL, and GED classes in Spanish. In this environmentally conscious city, Hacienda has also had success training new entrepreneurs to “green” their business model. Some successes include a married couple operating a cleaning company. They began using organic cleaning products and marketed their cleaning services as safe for children and pets. This resulted in a 25 percent increase in sales. In another case, a jewelry-maker began incorporating recycled materials into her earrings, necklaces, and other items. This new marketing approach helped her sales increase by more than 100 percent! Finally, a family tamale- vending business uses its own locally grown organic vegetables (grown on land they rent) to sell tamales and salsa with ingredients from their mini-farm. They have since been recruited to work with a nonprofit promoting urban farming in Portland. In 2012, they hope to expand their sales by entering Portland’s vibrant farmer’s market scene.
Through the combination of resources, knowledge, and effort with community partners, Hacienda CDC, along with Communities of Equity, is able to effectively serve our community and have a greater successful impact on the overall achievement of workforce equity in the Portland area.
Issues: Economy and Workforce, Career Pathways, Economy and Employment, Employee Resources, Affiliate Network
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas