United Way of Dane County’s HIRE Initiative has helped to employ 1,300 in the last three years.
The organization made a goal in 2015 to get 80 people per year into jobs that pay at least $15 per hour by December 2017. The initiative surpassed this goal by 65 people, helping over 300 of its participants find living wage jobs.
United Way celebrated this milestone during a celebration on March 8.
“Whenever you have a new initiative come together there’s always learning and bumps in the road, but when we got to a point where it’s working effectively and we’re seeing a lot of families graduate we thought we should celebrate,” said United Way President and CEO Renee Moe.
The initiative was created in 2013 to address racial disparities in unemployment and education following the Race to Equity report. Its intent was to get underemployed and unemployed people, primarily those that did not finish high school, into wage-sustaining jobs. The initiative provides job training as well as assistance obtaining your GED or high school equivalency.
“It really started as a way to have United Way helping donors to do good things with their money and helping nonprofits build capacity,” Moe said. “It evolved to understanding that employers were saying we’re not getting the kinds of folks that are ready to hire out of these programs and non-profits were saying companies weren’t ready for our graduates. There was something inside that system that was obviously not working, so we built a network approach.”
In 2015 the initiative expanded to work more closely with nonprofits on training on literacy and communication skills as well as job specific training and with employers on how to work with people with diverse identities and background.
HIRE employers are a part of the Employer Council, made up of company CEOs, hiring staff and Human Resources personnel who commit to learning best practices for employing diverse employees.
“It’s been a nice mapping to understand how do you get people who need jobs into companies who need workers and have nonprofits provide that more effectively while getting the donors to actually invest to help support the programs,” Moe said. “United Way’s role is to connect the dots and make sure the larger network is working.”
Currently the network consists of 40 employers and 6 training nonprofits agencies- Centro Hispano, Urban League of Greater Madison, YWCA Madison, Madison area Urban Ministry, Literacy Network and Vera Court Neighborhood Center.
The collective has a no wrong door policy that allows potential participants to go to any one of the organizations to gain access to the entire networks resources.
“If someone is working with an organization and looking for training that another organization they will do a referral, whereas before people may have been pigeonholed into something they didn’t necessarily fit into,” said Angela Jones, United Way’s Director of Community Impact- Building Economic Stability. “Also if we have someone in a job that may not be a good fit, they will refer them to another HIRE employer if they feel that will be a better fit.”
HIRE also helps participants with non-work related barriers to employment such as child care, transportation and housing as well as working with employers to accommodate participants with criminal records.
There are an estimated 9,000 unemployed individuals in Dane County and HIRE aims to employ them all, by increasing donors and expanding its network of employers and community partners.
“That 9,000 number is not too big of a number that we can’t get our arms around that in this community,” Jones said.