Service Connector program adds new contracts and expands focus on workforce development - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Service Connector program adds new contracts and expands focus on workforce development

Service Connector agencies help CHA residents through job training and placement programs.

In 2006, the Chicago Dept. of Human Services (CDHS) increased the number of agencies receiving three-year contracts for services to CHA residents as part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Service Connector program. There are now 13 agencies operating in 37 offices across Chicago and serving over 12,000 CHA residents in family properties, scattered sites, and those with Housing Choice Vouchers. Along with the addition of new Service Connector agencies, the program has enhanced its focus on workforce development and employment services in response to the needs of CHA residents and the challenge of achieving self-sufficiency with limited education, job skills, and work experience.

Though participation in the Service Connector program is not required, agencies perform aggressive outreach to engage residents and inform them of available services and opportunities. In 2005, 99.6 percent of eligible CHA residents were contacted by Service Connector agencies and, of those contacted, 60 percent are actively involved with their Service Connectors. Despite the barriers to employment faced by many CHA residents, the Service Connector program achieves 1,200 job placements per year, with 50 percent of residents retaining jobs for at least 30 days in 2005. Of that 50 percent, 30 percent of residents retained jobs for at least 90 days. In the first quarter of 2006, 205 job placements were made via the Service Connector.

Helping residents become self-sufficient via job training and placement strategies is one of the most challenging goals of the Plan for Transformation. In 2005, 44 percent of residents eligible for Service Connector assistance had education levels below high school and lacked GEDs; 84 percent had mathematical knowledge below 9th grade level, and 63 percent had reading abilities between 1st and 8th grades. Furthermore, as a recent article about the MidSouth community points out, many of the neighborhoods where CHA families are currently living lack basic resources and services.

In efforts to broaden the scope of employment services, Service Connector agencies now work in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development to plan job training and placement strategies for CHA residents. In addition, City Colleges of Chicago coordinate with Service Connector agencies to provide “bridge” programs for residents in need of literacy, education skills, and career orientation and to offer training for jobs in hiring industries. Moreover, in Feb. 2006, the Mayor’s Office and CHA launched a new initiative, “Opportunity Chicago,” a program with the goal of identifying 1,000 permanent jobs per year suitable to CHA residents. According to CHA, more than 50 employers have already signed up to place public housing residents through “Opportunity Chicago.” Employers participating in this program receive federal tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $8,500 per eligible employee hired. National Able Network, a Service Connector agency, will maintain a database of jobs as part of this new program.

For a list of Service Connector agencies and their contact information, visit the Chicago Dept. of Human Services Web site. Click here for a map showing the geographical scope of Service Connectors.

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