Workforce development tactics for low-income populations

Workforce development initiatives catering specifically to low-income workers and families are focused on increasing access to education and opportunities.

A variety of workforce development initiatives are growing across the country that are catering specifically to low-income workers and families. These initiatives are centered on increasing access to education and opportunities.


The Minneapolis Saint Paul Regional Workforce Innovation Network (MSPWin) recently awarded two grants totaling $700,000 to create clear career pathways for low-income adults as well as develop more effective educational opportunities. Both of the grants were allocated to initiatives that will directly benefit low-income workers through public private partnerships. The two winning programs include:

  • Hennepin County $300,000: The county will use the grant to fuel its Workforce Leadership Council which consists of a public private partnership of local businesses, schools and government officials. The council will oversee the development of career pathways for low-income adults. All jobs created and promoted through the project will offer family-sustaining wages, health insurance and a defined benefit pension.
  • International Institute $400,000: The institute will use the funding to implement a College Readiness Academy that will help college-bound adults develop the skills necessary to succeed in collegiate programs. The new educational model aims to minimize developmental education requirements to make it easier for low-income adults to enter college.

The goal of the grants is to identify and nurture workforce development best practices that meet employers’ specific workforce needs while strengthening the economic stability of state residents.

Child Care Development Block Grants

Last November, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act was reauthorized allowing the program to continue distributing $5.3 billion in block grants to state programs providing access to child care services for low-income families while improving services and quality of care.

The overall goal of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program is to help low-income families achieve economic self-sufficiency while providing an environment for children to develop skills necessary for success in schools. Through the reauthorization of the act, the grant program can now help state programs:

  • Define health and safety requirements for child care providers to improve child well being
  • Provide stability for parents and children through family-friendly eligibility policies
  • Help parents understand child care choices available with improved accessibility and transparency of information on providers

The reauthorized act places greater emphasis on:

  • Criminal background checks
  • Monitoring
  • Training and professional development
  • Consumer education
  • Health and safety
  • Family engagement
  • Serving struggling populations

The Child Care and Development Block Grant program is an important component to low-income workforce development as the price of childcare continues to grow at a faster rate than average household incomes. A study from Child Care Aware of America found high-quality childcare can cost between 15% and 83% of a single parent’s median-income salary, depending on location. Thus, programs must be supported to keep these costs reasonable nationwide.

Bread Project

Another way to support low-income workforce development is by ensuring local nonprofits have access to funding. Bread Project in Emeryville, California, for example, offers low-income residents of the Bay Area with a free workforce development program.

The project works with struggling families, immigrants, refugees and people returning from prison. Participants have access to free classes in industrial food and beverage preparation which provide them with the necessary skills to work in bakeries and restaurants. After acquiring vital skills, the nonprofit offers follow-up services for 15 months after someone is hired. Bread Project also houses its kitchen that hires low-income workers to prepare food for local organizations.

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