From Welfare to the Workforce: Training Low-Income Mothers for 21st Century Success

Valarie Shultz-Wilson
President & CEO, Urban League of Southern Connecticut

Twitter:   @UrbanLeagueSoC1

For many low-income mothers timing out of welfare-to-work programs, they face a future where they do not possess the credentials and technological skills necessary to secure 21st century jobs. New collar jobs require an easy familiarity with high levels of automation. Employers routinely seek workers with college degrees in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) and companies are increasingly relying on non-permanent, agile talent, e.g., temporary workers, consultants, and freelancers, all of which places a greater burden on workers to be competitive in our global job market.  For low-income mothers, this can translate into stubborn unemployment or underemployment in jobs that pay low wages, provide no job security or benefits, and offer limited hours. According to analyses of the 2017 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement data by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), 35.6% of families in the U.S. headed by single mothers live in poverty. In Connecticut, the rate is 29.5%.

In response to this challenge, the Urban League of Southern Connecticut (ULSC) offers an alternative to often burdensome on-site job training services, with instructor-facilitated online training for certifications in coding and G Suite, which includes Google Calendar, Docs, Drive, Forms, Gmail, Google+, Groups, Hangouts, Sheets, Sites and Slides. The program eliminates common barriers to accessing resources—securing daycare and transportation. Participants complete the at-home, web-based training with laptop computers and two years of free internet service provided through the program. Upon successful completion, participants are allowed to keep the laptops.

When we assessed the need for web-based classes among existing clients, the response in favor of implementing such a program was, and continues to be, overwhelmingly positive. Many of the low-income mothers we serve who are timing out of welfare-to-work complain that most job training programs provide services on-site, explaining that the financial burden of obtaining daycare or transportation prohibits them from taking advantage of these trainings.

The Urban League of Southern Connecticut's solution addresses the urgent need to equip low-income mothers with the required skills to compete in the job market of the future. If low-income mothers who are timing out of welfare-to-work programs are not included in tech-focused job training opportunities, they are likely to remain part of our nation's permanent underclass. By providing web-based services, more low-income mothers will have the opportunity to be trained with the skills necessary to close the digital divide and improve the quality of their lives—and the lives of their families.