LISC: bridging the skills gap

By Lynn Sygiel, editor, Charitable Advisors

Over time, Centers for Working Families has learned that with the right tools, families can take small, deliberate steps that change their financial footing from unstable to solid. But families also need access to higher quality jobs, higher wages, better benefits, steady employment and opportunities for advancement.

To acquire those jobs, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) realized that there were basic skills gaps that must be filled and plans to use a federal grant to do just that.

“We just got a smaller Social Innovation Fund grant to support an adult education program to bridge the skills gap,” said Tom Orr, senior program officer at LISC.

In January, the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), part of the Federal Corporation for National and Community Service, awarded funding to three Indianapolis Centers for Working Families — John Boner Neighborhood Center, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and Edna Martin Christian Center. A fourth center, Southeast Community Services Center, receives private funding.

Overseen by LISC, the SIF grant funds Bridges to Career Opportunities, which teaches core skills such as math, reading and English as a Second Language in combination with “soft skills” like interviewing, teamwork and conflict resolution. The coursework is organized by specific industries’ or sectors’ employment needs in order to prepare participants to succeed in subsequent technical-skills training. In the next 12 months, the goal is for nearly 200 people to receive these services.

This local effort is part of an $11.3 million SIF grant to the national LISC office, which developed the Bridges to Career Opportunities program and began piloting it last year. The goal is to “prepare low-wage workers for careers in local growth sectors.”


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