At The Fedcap Group, we are committed to improving the long-term self-sufficiency and social well-being of the disadvantaged and vulnerable.
The first step to economic self-sufficiency is employment. For many of those we serve, finding a job that pays minimum wage is cause for great celebration as it is the first time many have held a job at all. I have been privileged to observe the remarkable sense of accomplishment in the faces of those holding their first paycheck. Our expectation is that the first job is the first step on the career ladder—where ultimately those we serve are able to own a home, support their family and send their kids to college. We work to imbue the sense of possibilities that comes from joining the workforce.
That said, staying at minimum wage is never the goal. We at The Fedcap Group know that most individuals making minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom home and struggle to pay for food, child care, clothing and health care. We understand that many of these workers are supplementing their income by taking second and third jobs and tapping into a variety of federal, state and local benefits. We work closely with individuals to access SNAP, HUD and other government benefits because we know that they can make all of the difference in feeding a family.
We also understand that when a worker is offered a raise, they can lose eligibility for these benefits and actually be worse off than before the raise. This phenomenon is known as the “cliff effect.”
At The Fedcap Group we spend a lot of time talking about how to innovate our programming to address these stark realities. We consider all of the ways we can help advance how rapidly individuals climb the career ladder, thereby reducing their need for government benefits and eliminating the cliff effect. We study job sector information from the Department of Labor and build partnerships with employers in industries where there are significant growth projections. Our Career Design School trains workers and offers certifications in fields where there is significant demand for employees – resulting in promotional opportunities. We work with business to develop employer-based training so that individuals we place in these businesses can “hit the ground running” and thereby earn raises more rapidly.
We offer Job Clubs, where individuals who have obtained employment can join with others recently employed, to discuss issues on the job, ways to advance their success and resolve conflict. We push out suggestions via text and e-mail for online learning, classes at community colleges, our own ongoing training opportunities—seeking to underscore the importance of continuous learning as part of the pathway to long term self-sufficiency.
We have spent time examining the characteristics of individuals who are able to move past minimum wage to a salary that can result in self-sufficiency—and we intentionally find ways to integrate the building of these characteristics into our work readiness skill building activities.
And we evaluate our impact. Do these activities make a difference? Are we seeing changes in long term self-sufficiency?
Our results are promising. We see that training in high-growth sectors, smartly designed work readiness activities, creative business relationships, and accessible online college readiness curricula are resulting in higher salaries, savings accounts and food and housing security.
The climb to long term economic well-being for the chronically unemployed or people with disabilities is not easy. At the Fedcap Group, we believe that success is the shared responsibility of the individual served and the systems that serve them.
Do you have additional thoughts on how to help the impoverished climb the career ladder?