Clarification of Policy Ideas Listed in Survey
Question 1: How might we create more living-wage jobs in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County?
1. Sponsored Education/Mediation Seminars with Landlord-Tenant interaction
It would be helpful to understand the industries we have in Winston-Salem and be able to train folks to fit the employment needs of those industries. See if the community colleges offer vocational classes that match up with the needs of local industries. Winston-Salem has a number of predominant sectors in the city that employ large numbers of people. Wake Forest University is a good place to start, as well as the other universities in town. Winston-Salem has big sectors in healthcare (Wake Forest Baptist and Novant), sports (Dash, Wake Forest sports, WSSU), and arts/innovation. A primary hurdle, however, seems to be transportation to and from work. Tobacco used to be a huge part of Winston-Salem, but companies like RJ Reynolds have since left and taken the jobs with them.
2. Increase communication between local businesses and high schools
Change the culture in our communities- There is a lot of opportunity for partnership and growth and we need to expose those resources. Better communication between organizations, colleges, high schools, and businesses. Businesses can invest in career, post high school programs to fulfill their employment needs. This policy suggests that there needs to be more cooperation between businesses and high schools or trade schools. It requires active participation by the schools and companies, and the government can do little to spur this other than through public encouragement. The government may provide incentives or subsidies for companies to hire directly from Forsyth Tech or local high schools. If schools better understand what local employers’ needs are, they may fine-tune curriculum to make local candidates the most appealing to local business. Either this must be done voluntarily between business and schools, or government must find extra money in the budget to provide these subsidies.
3. Raise minimum wage to meet basic needs
Most of the jobs today are in the service sector and a lot of them are low wage jobs- those jobs need to be living wages and they’re not. Raise minimum wage to meet cost of living.
The minimum wage is a hotly debated topic in our inflated economy today. Many states have taken aggressive action to raise the minimum wage, in some instances (MA, CA, Seattle, other cities) to $15/hour. North Carolina is significantly behind many other states at $7.25/hour. With the recent passing of HB2 by the North Carolina legislature, cities are no longer entitled to raise the minimum wage on their own. Many economists also argue that raising the minimum wage will take away a number of job opportunities as costs becoming higher for businesses. Winston-Salem is also one of the more affordable areas to live in the state and country. A study should be performed by scholars and business owners with specific attention to Winston-Salem to assess the best course of action in this regard.
4. Avoid the “Welfare Trap” or “Benefits Cliff” by phasing out benefits incrementally
Welfare trap- the solution is to phase out the benefits incrementally. The benefits cliff problem is associated with an increase in the minimum wage. The benefits cliff already exists, and many suggest that an increase in the minimum wage would put more people in this situation and disincentivize work. Some have proposed a living wage standard that takes benefits into its calculation, therefore addressing the benefits cliff problem. Others have suggested phasing out benefits incrementally (as this proposal does), while slowly raising the minimum wage so that there is no longer a drastic drop off of benefits.
5. Financial literacy programs
Program that teaches financial literacy/how to budget assists those living below poverty level , to pay their bills. Financial literacy has been identified by many politicians and financial experts as a part of grade school curriculum that is missing the most. Many articles have been written identified the lack of knowledge that millennials have on financial issues. While this will not eliminate poverty, it is important in helping people to get back on their feet, stay on their feet, or get ahead. Things like credit score, retirement savings, mutual funds, saving techniques, and fiscal discipline are important skills that should be taught to all citizens.
6. Promote entrepreneurial efforts
Creation of and support for entrepreneurial efforts to help citizens access the necessary knowledge and resources for development of their own businesses. Resources should include job-readiness skills and grant services. Create classes that teach entrepreneurial skills
This proposal could be combined as part of financial literacy education. Not only could individuals learn about financial responsibility, but also about entrepreneurial skills to maximize their creative talents. People without college education are hindered in their ability to find jobs by lack of resources and job-readiness skills. Resume review, interview tips, and grants for professional attire are all important components in finding a job or starting a business. Such programs could be offered in public schools and by organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill Industries. Many of these services are currently available but few people know about or take advantage of them.
7. Incentivize businesses to hire locally
Allocation of city money to local citizens, jobs should be given to local citizens, and recruitment for these jobs should start here. Address the trending inequality in which more money goes to investing in capital rather than labor. This idea suggests that it is important to keep money--both investment and wages--within Winston-Salem. It falls in line with some other proposals about the importance of incentivizing local business. Small businesses and successful businesses within Winston-Salem create jobs. If Winston-Salem can create a positive and inviting business environment, then more jobs will inevitably result. The only way this will work is if local government can incentivize businesses to come in and hire local people, or if the businesses make this decision for themselves.
8. Urban Farm School job training program
Urban Farm School brings unemployed participants to a 9-week job training program—accepts anyone, including those with criminal record (which they don’t check). There is a ten-week program that was developed in Asheville to give people skills in horticulture and agriculture. It also teaches life skills and immerses participants within the Asheville business community. An important aspect of this program is that it accepts past inmates and convicts without prejudice.
A large percentage of the unemployed are those who have been convicted of felonies and are unable to get back into the workforce.
9. Create major Winston-Salem Airport to facilitate travel and business
Create a major Winston-Salem Airport to facilitate more living-wage jobs in the city. In order to make Winston-Salem a major travel destination, it is necessary to create demand for travel to the area. Institutions, including Wake Forest University and WSSU, provide travel demand, but not enough to yield growth of the airport. There already exists Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro close by, along with Raleigh Durham and Charlotte Airports. There are also not enough tourist attractions or business opportunities to bring extensive travel into the Winston-Salem. The realization of this idea would require extensive business expansion and growth.
10. Encourage students to equip themselves for skilled/trade jobs
We need to create education programs that encourage parents to tell their children that skill-based jobs are a good/acceptable employment option. Break stigma surrounding skill/trade jobs and encourage high schoolers to pursue if college is not for them. This begins with curriculum in our schools. Hands on courses and instruction to keep students focused and inspired to pursue trade/skilled jobs. This proposal focuses predominantly on grade school education (likely at the high school level) with the goal of getting more students involved in skilled labor or trade programs. The expectation today is that all students should strive to attend higher education institutions, creating stigma against skilled labor. Occupations like plumbing, welding, electricians, etc. are important positions and can be quite lucrative. These careers are also inelastic and always needed within society. By changing the curriculum and breaking stigma at a high school level, we can help more students find their passion early on.
11. Make Winston-Salem attractive to local, regional and foreign investors
Attract local investors/foreign investors to bring their business to Winston-Salem. Renovate existing empty spaces and buildings to reinvigorate areas in Forsyth County. Try to bring jobs in textile and furniture industries. Bring back industries that have shown success in the area but have left. Make Winston-Salem Inviting and encouraging for business and travel, low business taxes, low licensing fees. Follow the Asheville model.
12. City underwrite payment of percentage of local employees of incoming businesses
Incentivize businesses to hire a certain number of local citizens as employees, and let the city underwrite that for 18 months or so. Businesses that want to come to Winston-Salem should be incentivized in some way to hire local talent.
13. Leverage buying power by only doing business with companies paying living wage
Local government and consumers refrain from doing business with companies that do not offer their employees a living wage
Question 2: How to overcome primary barriers to employment, such as felony record, ageism, racism, sexism, unpredictable schedules for low-wage workers, and others?
1. Self-promotion education programs to highlight individual strengths
Teach people how to sell themselves and to talk about what they have learned from their mistakes. Create a program for churches and schools to teach people to focus on their skills that can overshadow, for example, a felony they committed. This will change the conversation from what they did wrong to what they can contribute. For this program to work 1 or 2 counselors need to be trained in how to help low skilled workers highlight their strengths and could offer programs at different churches and schools every week.
2. Education of employers and prospective employees on legality of background checks
Employers need to be educated on the laws requiring or not requiring background checks. It is necessary to let candidates know they can have their records sealed. Accomplish through a series of informational sessions available to the community. Hold open forums in high schools or at Innovation Quarter that outline the rules for what can and cannot be asked on job applications. Have a session every month and publicize it through community organizations.
3. Program to help older people apply for jobs online
Create a program to help older people apply for jobs online. There are so many jobs that require electronic applications. There should be a program/informational sessions to teach job seekers to use computers at public libraries. Train a couple librarians in how to teach basic computer skills to the elderly. The program should teach participants how to type up a resume and cover letter as well as how to apply for jobs and do e-signatures. This program would work to break down a barrier for entry many elderly people face. This would be low cost, mainly involving the training of existing librarians.
4. Improve public transportation to accommodate irregular work schedules
Community needs to provide more transportation for people with unpredictable work schedules. It is hard for people who may have to go home early to take care of sick kids to find proper transportation. If it takes an hour to go to and from work it is hard for single mothers to raise their kids and keep a job with bad transportation. By increasing the predictability of the buses and adding more routes, it could be possible to improve public transportation. In addition, an app could be created to tell what time buses are coming. This may be a costly solution but it is necessary for a city the size of Winston-Salem to have better public transportation.
5. Legalize unions in North Carolina to challenge discrimination in hiring practices
Racism and sexism should be illegal, if we could legalize unions we would be able to turn around the conversation to put the problem on the society. If you had a group that could oversee applications and the process of determining who to hire, some of these issues and prejudices would go away. Something like a union or advisory board could be big brother, more companies would hire equally. It would require legalizing unions in North Carolina. While this would be difficult at first, the possible impact could be great. If we had private organizations overseeing the application process, it would be more likely that equal opportunity employment would become a reality.
6. Create and incentivize diverse demographic targets for employers
Create incentives for companies to meet demographic targets. Wake Forest University could serve as an example to show other local employers how this works. Incentives could be in the form of rewards or tax breaks for companies that hire older or disabled workers. Employers could be educated to see that there are real benefits to hiring a diverse group of employees. For this to happen the city would have to agree on the amount of minimum employees each company would have to hire to receive the tax benefits. However, if a lot of companies did meet the requirements, it could be detrimental to the city's revenue funds.
7. Provide year-round work for low wage employees
Some employees who work for schools are laid off during the summer months. Use should be made of flex schedules to address such unpredictable work schedules. There are many seasonal employees in the Winston Salem community. From retailers to Wake Forest University, there are low income earners that are systematically laid off for periods of the year. If there were a policy that encouraged flex schedules there could be less uncertainty in these employees’ lives. One suggestion would be to allow employees to work in different parts of companies such Aramark, like corporate dining, during the summer when Wake Forest University is closed. This would be preferable to leaving seasonal employees without jobs. This would require buy in from the business entities concerned.
8. Create a program that works on soft skills like how to interview
Even if an applicant’s resume gets her/him through the door, without interview skills the applicant is unlikely to be hired. In addition, communication is a part of any job and language barriers may even hamper people with job skills. A policy should be introduced to allow trained professional communications consultants to teach classes focused around the soft skills needed for interviews. These classes could be held in each district’s schools once a week at night. If one consultant rotated around different schools for say a six week period, many people could benefit and it would not be a costly option.
9. Make jobs more accessible to women
It is difficult for women who want to have children or single mothers who have children to hold long term, high paying jobs. The child-bearing duties that fall upon them inhibits their career path. One possible policy would be for large corporations to offer mandated paid maternity leave. In addition, the woman’s job should be guaranteed to her once she returns from leave. In addition, the City should work on child care availability and lower to costs of daycare to allow single mothers to get and sustain jobs. While this may be costly, it is imperative to allow women to have the same opportunities given to men.
10. Publicize and Incentivize second chance employment (Ban the Box)
Make the initiatives of second chance employment (Ban the Box) more widely known. The Ban the Box movement is a very important initiative of the city, however many candidates and employers do not know about it. The city should hold public open forums to allow people to in the community to ask questions about the Ban the Box initiative and have employees there to answer questions as well. This would be a low cost way to get the word out.
11. Create merit system for incarcerated persons to reflect improvement and growth
Create a program consisting of an online check/merit system that would enable prospective employers could witness individuals’ growth and improvement while incarcerated. Incarceration is intended to rehabilitate convicted persons and make them productive members of society. Unfortunately not everyone sees it this way. Future employers need to know that their candidate has undergone significant change and will be a productive member of their workforce. This merit system would highlight any classes the inmate took or organizations she or he was part of, thus personalizing the individual to the employer.
12. Educate local employers about employment demographics
Create a core group to engage corporations and share information about statistics relating to the unemployed demographics in Winston-Salem. It is possible that if they were better informed, employers would be more willing to hire without prejudice particularly as to race. This could be a low cost way to make a high impact.
13. Incubation center for startup companies to practice fair and equal employment
Establish an incubation center for startup companies to assist them in fair and equal employment practices. A main reason for the many barriers to employment is that employers are stuck in their old ways. By using startups as a model for equal employment, other companies may follow. Because startups don’t have any hiring practices already in place, if the city were to offer them tax breaks for hiring a diverse staff, they might adopt fair practices. This would not be as costly as offering all companies tax breaks and could be more effective.
14. Educate and incentivize employers to hire people released from incarceration
Change the incentives and the risks from the perceptions of the companies. Introduce a voucher system for hiring incarcerated persons and provide an updated and truthful analysis of their criminal record and reform. Keep employers more informed about the rehabilitation system and the benefits of hiring one previously incarcerated. If employers see that the candidate is not a threat to safety and has a lot to offer, they will be much more willing to hire. This would be a low cost solution.
15. Promote connections between corporations and local high schools
Better connections between public schools and employers is crucial for those who did not go to college. Create relationships between corporations and schools through corporate sponsorships. Introduce policy that requires each school to have one or two corporate sponsors. For example, a relationship between Reynolds High School and Hanes Brand would benefit both Hanes and the students. Hanes would have the opportunity to hire quality employees and a chance to advertise at the school and students would receive a leg up to a good career path.
Question 3: How to expand access to job training/skills programs, enabling more low-income individuals to secure steady work?
1. Collaboration to match job training/skills programs with local employment opportunities
City should partner with entities like Goodwill Industries to communicate strategy of bringing in jobs with the skills needed. Goodwill is already successful in many of their job training and placement programs. Instead of offering the same type and number of programs annually, the City could collaborate with Goodwill and Forysth Tech to ensure that current companies can fill their vacancies and the local government can then better attract new companies to relocate to this region. Goodwill leaders should also be present in Chamber of Commerce meetings as well as in efforts to attract new companies to Winston and Forsyth County.
2. Updated career-related curriculum throughout high school
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools should implement career-related education from freshman year onwards. Update the currently dated curriculum in schools to prepare students for the modern workforce. For too many American students, high school is a time of disengagement that fails to put them on a path to college and career success. That's why the Obama administration has laid out plans to redesign high schools and career and technical education (CTE), to ensure that young people graduate with the skills and abilities that are aligned with the needs of a global economy. In Houston, Texas, through an unprecedented partnership, each of the state agencies committed funding to support innovative education partnerships between local school districts and public community or technical colleges. The funding helped local education leaders plan and launch new opportunities for students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and a postsecondary credential that prepares them to enter high-skill, high-demand workforce fields.
3. Subsidized childcare for parents actively seeking job-training
City should subsidize free childcare for those parents actively seeking job-training. Although job training is difficult to find time for in the first place, this is especially true among parents, who already have a responsibility to look after their children. The local and state government should consider subsidizing child-care costs for those parents from low-income areas that express a desire for the service. Minimizing barriers to jobs and workforce development is a broad goal, and this could be a simple solution where the city and county could play a leading role and serve as a national model.
4. Free bus passes to those receiving job training.
Goodwill Industries in Pittsburgh, PA has successfully implemented a similar model in their RISE (Reentry through Industry Specific Education) Project. RISE Project students receive a free set of tools upon successful completion, along with job placement assistance, GED preparation classes, paid and unpaid work experience, case management and counseling. They also receive free lunches, a paid stipend, and bus passes while in training. The RISE training program covers trades and safety skills mastery in several competencies, including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, brick masonry, landscaping, facilities maintenance, painting, green building and weatherization. The award-winning training curriculum integrates work-based learning with vocational and academic skills training and includes job readiness, employability skills, career development, life skills and on-the-job training.
5. Partnership between city and local colleges to create centralized platform for local jobs
City should partner with local colleges to create a centralized platform for jobs in the region and skills desired by area employers. With five area colleges, Forsyth County benefits significantly from intellectual capital when compared to peer regions of the country, yet many students leave the area after graduation. It would be beneficial for career centers at each of the schools to have access to a centralized platform which lists the types of skills desired among local employers. Additionally, civic and political leaders could then gather collective information about the students and graduates at area schools to inform and lure employers. This may be true for local companies offering many STEM jobs who often have to go outside of the county to find qualified workers.
6. Subsidized on-the-job training
Many people come to a job without the proper training- even those who graduated with a degree from areas institutions. Instead of focusing specifically on job training, the city could partner with the state to encourage on-the-job training as a supplement to programs already in place at Goodwill Industries and Forsyth Tech. Local governments would reimburses the worker's salary, on a sliding scale, up to specified time, while the worker is being trained or provide similar tax incentives to offset costs to potential employers. This would allow the city and county to strengthen their pitches to companies and market the region’s workforce in a more positive light.
7. Public-Private Partnership fund affordable housing accessible to public transportation
Adopt a model similar to that of Mountain View, which is located in California’s Silicon Valley and home to Google and many other high-tech businesses, has a population estimated to be 76,600 in 2012, and is experiencing a severe shortage of affordable housing. To address this shortage, ROEM Development Corporation, with support from the city, Google, and Citi Community Capital, opened Franklin Street Family Apartments in September 2013. The four-story development, located in downtown Mountain View near the city’s Caltrain station, provides 51 residential units affordable to households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income. Recognizing the need for affordable housing, the city used several programs to financially support the affordable housing development. Mountain View provided ROEM with a $3.2 million loan for a long-term ground lease for the property (65 years with an option to renew for another 20 years) and a $12.5 million loan toward the project’s $23.8 million development costs. Sources of this funding were the city’s allocation under HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, housing set-aside funds from the Downtown Revitalization District’s tax increment revenues, and fees from developers who opted not to create affordable units under the city’s Below Market Rate Housing Ordinance.
8. Provide stipends for entrepreneurial ventures focusing on low-income neighborhoods
The city should encourage entrepreneurship among its low-income residents, many of whom have a passion and desire to start a venture, but lack access to capital. Winston-Salem could follow the actions of the city of Philadelphia which recently established the Urban Innovation Refinery, a partnership between the City of Philadelphia, GoodCompany Group, a social enterprise accelerator, and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. FastFWD, formerly known as the Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership, is an initiative that seeks to recruit and support entrepreneurs in developing solutions to urban challenges. Its goal is to harness entrepreneurial talents, resources and innovative ideas to create solutions to the most pressing public challenges that the city faces every day. The program invites entrepreneurs to offer their most innovative public safety solutions, services and products for consideration. Instead of Penn, the city could partner with Wake Forest University’s Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Program.
9. Provide high school students with on-the-job training as part of classroom education
Adopt a model similar to the Community Alternative Program (CAP) in Alamance County. The county worked with various companies to ensure they had an educated and skilled workforce. Seven area companies teamed up with Alamance-Burlington schools and the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce to establish CAP, which is the first program of its kind in the county and provides high school juniors with on-the-job training and classroom education. Eligible students must have a minimum grade point average of 2.8 and a good attendance record. Enrollment in classes such as physics, drafting, engineering and computers can help get students get into the program, which allows apprentices to be paid to work at one of seven companies and attend classes at Alamance Community College. Participating companies cover tuition costs at ACC.
10. Link local employer HR websites into a central location to facilitate job searches
Make Forsyth Futures, a non-profit, locally funded, community data research organization an integral part of every HR department and provide new services to residents. Look at Pittsburg, PA region as a model. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development launched ImaginePittsburgh.com in September 2006 as the communications platform for Pittsburgh250, the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the naming of Pittsburgh. In October 2008, the Conference added a searchable job listing aggregator to better connect job seekers with opportunities throughout the 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. The two functions were combined into a single website in 2010, which has been supplemented in the years since with a social media program. The platform links local employer HR websites into a central location, enabling ease and efficiency across economic sectors in the region. In 2012, ImaginePittsburgh.com drew 55,012 unique visitors, with the majority using the site to search for regional jobs.
11. Sponsor home computer program to facilitate online job searches and applications
City should consider sponsoring a program where computers are provided in the home free of charge. One of the major barriers to finding jobs is accessibility to job platforms. A majority of job postings are online and yet many of the potential applicants do not have access to a computer. Even if they could use one at the local library, job postings are typically filled quickly and require constant monitoring from applicants. The city could provide free computers to low-income families who apply and potentially partner with area corporations and universities to donate used devices that could perform these functions.