In Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County’s (CAP-HC) 2020 and 2021 Community Needs Assessments (CNA), respondents mentioned barriers to employment, including lack of transportation, health conditions and disabilities, and a need for job training for higher-wage job options. For the 2020 CNA, a staggering 96% of survey respondents had incomes that did not meet the average cost of living for their Hennepin County households. In response to this feedback, CAP-HC launched a new Employment Readiness Program in November 2021.
The Employment Readiness Program helps Hennepin County residents with lower incomes overcome many employment barriers by providing résumé support, interview training, and more. Program participants must be at least 18 years old and able to work a full-time job. The goal for the program is to serve at least 40 people in its first year. As of January 2022, ten Hennepin County residents have already participated, indicating a strong interest from county residents.
Carmen Mask, CAP-HC's community engagement coordinator who is managing the program, shared “there are many reasons why people seek this type of support.” As examples, she named lack of basic computer skills, language barriers, or people who have been released from prison recently. Mask added, “people come to this program with the hope to become self-sufficient … they have goals and they work hard with our support to get where they want to be.”
Later this year, CAP-HC plans to expand its Employment Services. In March, the Getting Ahead Program will begin—a 16-week cohort where participants discuss causes of poverty and make a plan to lift themselves out of poverty. Manufacturing training and job retention workshops are slated to begin in June. The training will be provided by Century College and over the five-week course, students will learn basic math, computer, and hand-tool skills. The workshops will include employer expectations, interpersonal communication, sexual harassment, trauma response, and more, with a goal to help workshop attendees maintain employment. Looking to the future, one goal for the program is to build partnerships with Hennepin County employers to connect households with lower incomes to living-wage jobs.