Train to Work and the Health Careers Partnership grew out of a larger effort in the late 1990s to stabilize the struggling, crime-plagued Phillips neighborhood in south Minneapolis. A public-private partnership came together to create pathways into good jobs for low-income residents. Local governments, health care employers and other area businesses, community-based organizations, and philanthropies jointly developed a workforce delivery system that trained low-income residents for jobs with advancement opportunities in local hospitals and clinics. This was a win not only for the newly employed Phillips residents, but for participating employers like Allina Health, which was suffering serious labor shortages. Designed to provide Phillips residents with the training needed for access to good jobs, Train to Work provided five weeks of training following by graduation into jobs within the hospitals’ food and environmental services operations.
The success of Train to Work led to higher aspirations. In 1999, Mike Christenson, then head of the Allina Health Foundation and a key driver in the formation of the Phillips Partnership, helped launch a training program that world move Train to Work graduations and existing low-level hospital employees into higher paying positions. The training would be built around clear points of advancement, each with its own certified skill acquisition requirements, and would enable workers to move up into positions including certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, medical transcriptionists, insurance coders, and clerical support personnel.
Nonprofit and public sector training and employment service providers play an important role, often in partnerships, in working toward employment equity. These are organizations dedicated to helping disadvantaged workers connect and succeed in the labor market by providing skills training and a range of support services.
Unfortunately, limited budgets and shifts in policies surrounding government assistant for low-income workers means that robust employment attachment and advancement programs can be difficult for nonprofits and public workforce centers to develop and maintain. Major changes to the nation’s welfare system, under the 1996 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Act, and to the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, promoted a “work first” approach to service delivery, de-emphasizing pre-employment education and skills training for jobs with good earnings potential and advancement opportunities in favor of rapid attachment to any job.