By 2015, The Cara Program will 1. create and secure 2,000 transitional and permanent jobs (in health care, financial services, manufacturing, office services, facilities management, and food service among other industries), 2. position 1,000 individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency (measured by the Living Wage Calculator derived by Pennsylvania State University), 3. support at least 70% of those individuals in achieving one year job retention, 4. advancing 500 of those individuals to a sustainable, living wage within three years of placement. With 59% of the individuals served being women, The Cara Program invests a great deal of its services in supporting women on their journey to secure and sustain quality employment, and to catapult that stability into sustainable careers which can ultimately lift their whole families out of poverty.
The Cara Program would achieve these goals through the following strategies: 1. Expand existing successful solution of: (a) core training, which includes interview readiness (being able to sell one's self and one's experience); workplace readiness (being ready for the tempo, distractions and expectations of the workplace); job readiness (being balanced in one's home, one's family and one's self to appropriately commit to a job); (b) core retention services, which includes frequent celebration (celebrating students' success at each progressive milestone through at least one year on the job); early and ongoing vulnerability assessment (focusing efforts on our most vulnerable to ensure we intervene where most needed); access to safety net (providing savings accounts deposits, fostering healthy saving habits, and leveraging financial assistance as a means of crisis prevention); (c) core advancement services (building credit: creating action plans to resolve debt (e.g. tuition) and build credit); confronting psychological barriers to success (actively fighting off fears and challenges with personal confidence that emerge, subside and re-emerge as students attain greater success); navigating educational, financial and career systems (walking students through the steps to advancement - in school (e.g. FAFSA, school registration) and at work (e.g. how to become 'promotion-eligible')). 2. Implement a multi-campus strategy to Cara's training, placement and retention services. Following a university model of having intensive services and having 'extension' services, test a multi-campus approach to see what level of differentiation in services can yield higher output with - in some cases - less investment of resources. 3. Create and sustain at least one new business (on top of the existing $2.1 M neighborhood beautification business called Cleanslate - which creates approximately 200 transitional jobs per year and has created over 20 permanent jobs within the firm to support its growth) to establish transitional job opportunities to help individuals build high-demand skills such as administrative, customer service and manufacturing skills, while also achieving enough growth to sustain substantive permanent job opportunities as well. 4. Employ an account management system both in the admissions and placement teams to better align staff resources to high-producing sectors and accounts. 5. Actively engage ten large local companies in the health care, property management, manufacturing and food service industries, who are most likely to become ambassadors for The Cara Program in their industries or networks of influence, while also activating councils, HR affinity groups, executive clubs and Cara's own volunteer corps, to identify and aggressively cultivate new hiring prospects for the individuals we serve. 6. Leverage the network of opportunities that is harvested by the individuals The Cara Program serves. Through their own independent job search, the individuals Cara serves are identifying new potential hiring partners every day - partners that would be willing to hire candidates with their experience, education and background. If an individual secures an interview on their own - independent of Cara's institutional relationships, Cara staff can now pursue said employer as a prospective new hiring partner.
Execute core training, placement, retention services. Ongoing.
On recruitment: Create & steward core referral partnerships, such that they reliably produce 60% of the total accepted students. July, 2013; and ramp up sourcing of candidates with strong potential for admin + financial services tracks. December, 2013
On training: Institute trial training at four weeks) and measure more compact curriculum's long-term impact on job-ready pool. December, 2012; secure partnership with known provider who can deliver competitive (low-skill) manufacturing training. July, 2013; secure partnership with known provider who can deliver competitive administrative training for our candidates. January, 2014; formalize partnership with trade schools, targeting women in trades in high-growth sectors. January, 2014; and research weekday v. weekend cohorts, or day v. night cohorts to bring services to greater scale. July, 2014
On placement: Convert student-identified hiring partners to institutional hiring partners. Ongoing; aggressively build out Southside Chicago employer pool to optimize placement activity. December, 2012; activate University of Chicago Booth School of Business network to source and cultivate new prospects. December, 2012; engage companies who are already strong partners as ambassadors to other firms in their network. March, 2013; activate councils, HR affinity groups & executive clubs to identify & aggressively cultivate new prospects. March, 2013; engage minority-based affinity groups (e.g. Chicago Association of Minority Recruiters, IL State Alumni network). July, 2013; develop program that offers quality candidates to prospective employers through paid internship, as a means to accelerate hiring process. July, 2013; create and cultivate Cara alumni association to build community & capture new prospects in the process. December, 2013; and create new & steward hiring partnerships, such that they grow by 40% (from 50 to 70). July, 2015
On retention: Evaluate retention support services & enhance low or no-cost practices as needed. December, 2013
On advancement: Develop and implement executable advancement model - career pathway, educational pursuits, and financial opportunity: July, 2013; and aggressively deploy financial capability fundamentals to all of our students on an advancement pathway: July, 2013.
1,731,711 Illinoisans (or 13.8% of the population) live at or below the federal poverty level, a poverty measure that - though widely used - is unfortunately neither geographically relevant, nor speaks to a true sense of self-sufficiency. Mathematically, this translates to $23,050 for a family of four - certainly not enough to sustainably support a household. Many individuals in this category are affected by homelessness, are chronically unemployed, often possess negative net worth (not to mention negative self-esteem), and face barriers such as limited education, challenges with substance abuse, and criminal history that push them down the food chain as ideal candidates in a contracted job market. Staggeringly, on top of these 1.7 million Illinoisans, an additional 2,004,794 live with household incomes just equal to $44,700 for a family of four and are often just one paycheck, one illness or one accident away from being homeless. (Statistics derived from the 2011 Report on Illinois Poverty, produced by the Social IMPACT Research Center, a program of the Heartland Alliance.)
Since 1991, The Cara Program has placed 3,250 adults in Illinois affected by homelessness and poverty into quality, permanent jobs (in health care, financial services, manufacturing, office services, facilities management, and food service among other industries) - at hourly wages of $10.68 and work weeks totaling 38 hours per week on average. 77 percent of the individuals placed into permanent employment celebrate at least one year on the job - a figure that outpaces national norms according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics by over 25 points. Additionally, 86% of those individuals transition to permanent housing by this first year on the job - a figure which speaks to the safety and unity of families, leading to not only the long-term success of the individuals served, but that of their children as well.
The Cara Program would greatly appreciate partners interested in telling its story (through media support) of connecting individuals affected by homelessness and poverty to quality employment. Stories would have an emotional lens of families reuniting under a newfound umbrella of opportunity (and in many cases, recovery and healing, since often times this population can face concurrent challenges of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, domestic abuse), an economic lens of connecting this talent pipeline with emerging industry in urban environments and of the improved productivity quotient when individuals are gainfully employed, and a social lens of the strengthening that happens in communities who are refortified when their residents meaningfully and sustainably reenter the workforce.
The Cara Program would also appreciate introductions to employers interested in a high-quality, screened, trained entry-level talent pipeline for its workforce.
The Cara Program actively seeks Chicago-based employers in the health care, manufacturing, food service, office services, and property management industries seeking quality, screened, trained, motivated candidates for entry-level positions.
The Cara Program actively seeks Chicago-based employers and training providers who wish to share credentialed skills-based training in high growth sectors, such as manufacturing and healthcare. The Cara Program also seeks employers and training providers throughout the nation, if their training can be provided in a virtual setting.
The Cara Program would greatly appreciate media support to help illustrate the stories behind its mission of lifting whole families out of poverty.
The Cara Program seeks to engage a technology innovator interested in brainstorming ways to best capture data, and innovate on workflow in order to bring these services to greater scale.
The Cara Program seeks investors of all kinds (and with whom the message of sustainable poverty alleviation resonates), including those interested in venture philanthropy and seed capital for social entrepreneurship. Over the course of its strategic plan, The Cara Program will employ multiple social enterprises (businesses that fall under this non-profit umbrella) to provide skills and on-the-job training for the individuals served, and to generate diversified revenue for the organization.
The Cara Program would be honored to provide partnership in the area of best practices in workforce development - particularly for the disadvantaged population of individuals affected by homelessness and poverty (and those who are ex-offenders).