The Opportunity Collaborative Releases Barriers to Employment Report

The Opportunity Collaborative, a Baltimore regional consortium including local city and county governments, state agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations, of which CPHA is one, released a report last week identifying barriers to employment for job seekers in our region.  The Collaborative is tasked with developing a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD), including a Regional Workforce Development Plan, by 2015.

The Collaborative surveyed over 1,000 active job seekers, conducted interviews with workforce development managers, and examined relevant literature.  Results indicate that there are several major barriers that prevent job seekers from finding suitable employment.  These include: lacking the required degree or training, a criminal record, inadequate transportation and/or housing, insufficient job salaries, lack of social supports such as childcare, and inability to obtain a driver’s license.  82%  of job seekers surveyed encountered three or more barriers, while 55% deal with six or more.

These barriers are related and therefore compound one another, which makes them difficult to address, both for the job seekers encountering the barriers, and for policy makers trying to reduce them.  For example, a person without permanent housing cannot get a driver’s license, and is therefore limited to jobs which do not require a license.  In order to get to work, they must walk or ride the bus, and because of public transportation options, a 15 minute drive could take 75 minutes by bus.  Furthermore, 62% of the job seekers surveyed cannot find a job with a sufficient salary to support a family, and more than half of the job creation projected for 2020 will require at least a high school diploma.  The unemployment rate for job seekers in the region without a high school diploma is 20.4%, compared to 9.7% overall.

Low-skill, low-income job seekers want to work, but have more difficulty finding a well-paying job than others, because of these multiple systemic barriers. Because the issues are many, it can be difficult to see when progress is made.  African Americans, in particular, encounter almost all barriers at a higher rate than whites.  African American job applicants without a criminal record are less likely to receive a call back for a job than a white candidate with a criminal record.  So, even if changes were made to address structural racism, and that person did get a job, they still may have to deal with a 75 minute commute by bus, and low wages because of their lack of education. This results in less time at home to contribute to their families or neighborhoods, thus perpetuating the cycle of barriers to opportunity in their community.

The report recommends improvements in five key areas, including: workforce development strategies, training and degree-completion options, transportation to areas with job growth, addressing structural racism, and increasing resources to workforce development organizations.  However, recommendations need not stop there.  If, for instance, you use public transportation everyday, or if you would benefit if certain improvements were made, your feedback is essential.  The Collaborative relies on your suggestions from your personal experience to improve transportation, or adult education and training.  The Opportunity Collaborative’s framework allows for many stakeholders’ voices to be heard – and yours can be one of them!

Over the next few weeks, CPHA will be providing in-depth coverage of some of these barriers to employment, and proposed recommendations.  Articles will focus on particular barriers, and will provide suggestions for individuals and communities to get engaged with these issues, and to directly impact the Regional Workforce Development Plan.  You can start by reading the overview, and leaving comments for the Opportunity Collaborative or contacting us, and look for our “Get Engaged” articles, starting this week.

Read the full report here.


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Elise Bruner

Elise Bruner

This article was written by Elise Bruner and edited by Steve Holt. Click here to meet our writing team.
Elise Bruner

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