Ok, I admit it: I am an avid New York Mets fan. I’m somewhat of an anomaly, I know — born and raised in the boogie-down Bronx. Although my baseball heart belongs to the blue and orange, my soul belongs to this amazing borough. My mom lives here as does most of my family. I have witnessed and been part of many of the ups and downs that the borough has faced, and I’ve battled the negative perception that is quite unwarranted. When people outside of NYC think of the Bronx, they far too often recall scenes from Paul Newman’s Fort Apache movie, or of President Jimmy Carter’s picture standing in the South Bronx in the fall of 1977. A collection of hopeless people.
But the reality is different. Here exists vibrant communities of families trying to live good lives. Yes, poverty is still way too high, but poor people from the Bronx don’t want to be poor. They often don’t know how to get out of it. That is true for most people that live in poverty across this country. They do not want to be poor! For 25 years I have been working to come up with a solution to this problem. Involved in designing and implementing successful workforce training programs for most of my career, I’ve spent the past 14 years (almost nine as President) as part of a very successful workforce organization with its headquarters in the Bronx called Per Scholas. We have been using an employer-driven approach to create training programs in the IT sector. In other words, we speak to employers, hear what skills they need, and train people in those skills. Makes sense, right?
You see, I believe that one of the best anti-poverty solutions is a good paying job. I get to witness the impact that our program has on hundreds of people every year. Lives change. After 25 years of doing this work, I have something to say: workforce training does matter. It’s time to get people back to work and into jobs that pay livable wages. And I mean all people, including those that have historically been excluded. People from my boogie-down Bronx and from poor communities throughout our country. They need to be trained for jobs that exist!! It is our obligation to make sure that happens.
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