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21 Aug. 2018 | Comments (0)

There is tremendous economic opportunity for workers and employers when local talent is developed and connected to strong local jobs. This is clearly the case in the transportation industry, where employers often struggle to find people with the right blend of technical know-how and workplace skills to fill their large number of job vacancies. In this Q&A, LISC’s president and CEO, Maurice A. Jones, responds to questions about the organization’s partnership with Union Pacific Railroad.

Why is it important for LISC to work with a corporate partner in the transportation industry?

LISC's Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) bridge the gap between workers and job opportunities by connecting un- and underemployed residents to skills training and credentialing programs that can lead to living-wage jobs with career pathways. Individuals can also take advantage of FOC financial coaching and other support to help them grow their incomes and improve their credit, so that their economic gains will be lasting.

Corporate partnerships, such as our collaboration with Union Pacific Railroad, are crucial to the success of the program. In helping fund these efforts and hire FOC graduates, they open new doors to thousands of aspiring welders, electricians, and technology workers. Our partners get qualified employees they would not otherwise reach and build a workforce that is diverse and inclusive. That, in turn, helps build economically stable communities where these corporations do business.

Corporate partners also provide important insight to LISC, helping us tailor our skills-training programs to meet the requirements not just of their workplace, but of their industry more broadly. It gives workers a better chance to succeed and has lasting impact that ripples beyond households and companies to communities and regions.

LISC supports 80 FOCs nationwide as part of our mission to forge resilient communities, where everyone has the chance to participate in, and benefit from, a robust, growing economy. Thirty-four of our FOCs offer industry-specific skills-training programs, benefitting residents in 14 cities. In addition to transportation, LISC is currently working with employers in distribution and logistics, health care, manufacturing, hospitality, information technology, and construction to help meet their needs for qualified employees.

How did the partnership with Union Pacific come to fruition?

LISC and Union Pacific share many of the same hopes for building safe, prosperous and vibrant communities. Union Pacific recently focused its philanthropic focus to include a range of new opportunities, including a strong commitment to job training and placement in areas where unemployment remains high, despite the strong economy. In 2018, Union Pacific selected LISC as its first national workforce development partner, contributing $3 million to expand the reach of FOCs in Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles.

The partnership reflects Union Pacific’s community-focused approach to philanthropy, as well as its efforts to expand and diversify its workforce. Union Pacific jobs offer family-sustaining wages with benefits and a career trajectory to open doors to future growth. Given LISC's ability to develop untapped talent and our commitment to connecting more residents to living wage jobs, LISC and Union Pacific are well-matched partners in this effort.

How do you measure the impact of the program?

It’s important that we not just measure activity but that we consistently evaluate outcomes that connect to improved quality of life for workers. LISC collects data from our FOCs that include:

  • Details on what vocational training or credentials are completed
  • Starting hourly wages (target goal: $15.00 - $17.00 per hour)
  • Job retention
  • Job placements
  • Increases in net income
  • Increases in net worth
  • Increases in credit score

Our data reflect positive societal impact related to FOC clients and informs program adjustments to focus on what works. FOC clients have posted significant employer gains (e.g., increased tenure, an employee pipeline, diverse workforce) and increased household stability, with its related impact on families and neighborhoods at large.

Union Pacific’s investment is helping create a positive shift in communities.

What challenges did you face in the formation of the partnership and the delivery of the program?

A partnership of this nature requires significant, continuous coordination, given the number of interested parties involved (national LISC, local LISC offices, Union Pacific and its local staff, community partner agencies, other interested employers, various local and national funders) and their varied expectations. That integrated approach is part and parcel of everything LISC does—from investments in housing and businesses to our work around community safety and health. It takes strong relationships and a great deal of on-the-ground experience to make sure these collaborations produce results—complemented by deep staff expertise and a data system that enables real-time analysis and course-correction, as needed. LISC has been developing and refining these capabilities for nearly 40 years.

Will LISC be looking for corporate partnerships in other industries to utilize the organization’s Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs)?

LISC is actively partnering with corporations across multiple sectors to train workers for stable careers in high-demand industries and continues to add new FOC partners. Among recent examples:

  • Citi Foundation made a historic $10 million grant to LISC to support employee skills-development efforts—the single largest private investment in the program to date.
  • We are working with Cummins to build a collaborative of national employers in the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL) sector that will support skills training in this sector in multiple LISC markets.
  • Earlier this year, LISC announced a $45 million partnership with ProMedica, a Toledo-based health care system, that recognizes the strong connection between economic opportunity and better health. ProMedica is the first health system in the nation to directly operate a LISC FOC, where 1,000 people have seen a 25 percent increase in their net income and a 17 percent increase in their credit scores. This success, combined with other LISC-ProMedica collaborations to improve housing stability, food access and more, is helping prove the point that people live better when we address the social determinants of health.

Other large commitments have come from MetLife Foundation, Wells Fargo, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor, the federal Social Innovation Fund, Accenture, JPMorgan Chase, and State Farm. We are building on this momentum as we cultivate new corporate partners with shared priorities and common geographic interests.

  • About the Author:Maurice A. Jones

    Maurice A. Jones

    With deep experience in both the public and private sectors, Maurice Jones took the helm as LISC's fourth president & CEO in September 2016. Immediately prior to joining LISC, he served as the sec…

    Full Bio | More from Maurice A. Jones


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