Securing a steady, sustainable job with a livable wage is a critical element of many of United Way’s Steps to Success.
Unfortunately, many Richmond residents face barriers that prevent them from finding and keeping a steady job. And many employers report difficulty in locating candidates to fill open positions. The current labor market participation rate shows 118,034 people in our region are not currently in the workforce. That’s nearly 20 percent of our total population.
“Many people may have the desire to work but for a myriad of reasons are unable to secure or maintain employment. For example, if they are experiencing homelessness or lacking transportation, the likelihood of keeping a job becomes increasingly difficult.” said Kelly Green-Bloomfield, Community Resource and Employment Navigator with Flagler Housing and Homeless Services at St. Joseph’s Villa and the 2020 Co-Chair of the Workforce Partnership Team. “In the past, these barriers along with others have excluded individuals from the job market.”
The Workforce Partnership Team exists to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers by working with local nonprofits and service providers to remove barriers to employment. Read more about what the Workforce Partnership team does to make this possible below.
- Streamlines the flow of information between job seekers, service providers and employers. Information is often siloed within one organization, which creates duplication of services and creates an inefficient experience for job seekers.
- Connects job seekers to wrap-around services. The barriers to employment are often multiple and stretch beyond education and training to things like housing stability, reliable transportation, and healthcare access.
What are wrap-around services?
The barriers to employment usually stretch beyond a simple lack of training. Challenges range from basic needs like housing stability and safety to things like lack of transportation and history of incarceration. These problems rarely exist in isolation and they always impact a person’s ability to secure and maintain a decent job.
That’s why members of the Workforce Partnership Team provide coordinated “wrap-around services” for unemployed and underemployed people in our region who may be working with three or more agencies at once.
Many service providers that help with employment can help in other areas or provide an informed referral to an organization that can. This system removes barriers for job seekers and provides them with the best chance at finding and keeping a job.
- Reduces duplication of services. We work with multiple organizations to find the most efficient ways to connect job seekers and employers.
- Sets the standard for soft skills training. The Workforce Partnership team seeks to create a shared understanding of the important interpersonal skills all job seekers need.
Soft skills are social and emotional attributes that impact how we interact with one another. For a job seeker, important soft skills include basic communication, punctuality, dependability, organization and more.
“Soft skills can be as simple as knowing to call your employer and inform them of your anticipated absence when you are sick,” said Kelly Green-Bloomfield, 2020 Co-Chair of the Workforce Partnership Team. “It sounds obvious, but it is also extremely important.”
In many ways, soft skills matter more than hard skills or technical knowledge. This is because many employers provide on-the-job training for specific positions. “We can train any employee who is willing to learn,” said one employer. “But if someone lacks the basic soft skills, that’s much harder to work with.”
The Workforce Partnership Team consists of dozens of local nonprofits and community organizations who work with unemployed and underemployed people in our region. In 2020, the number of Workforce Partnership Team partners increased 58% to a current total of 41.
Chris Martin, Director of Workforce Development at SOAR365, says the Workforce Partnership Team has helped him better meet the needs of the people he serves.
“The Workforce Partnership Team is a way for me to learn about the gaps employees are facing in the job market,” Chris said. “I can offer our agency services to other agencies in the Workforce Partnership Team and I know I can partner with these same agencies for assistance with our job seekers for services that we may not offer. It all adds up to a better experience for job seekers and more people finding a job.”
Last spring, a series of “Lunch and Learn” events helped connect the Workforce Partnership Team with people across the region who care about workforce development. These events serve as a professional development opportunity for partners and other community organizations. Topics highlight issues that touch the client populations served by the Workforce Partnership Team.
As the list of partners continues to grow, Workforce Partnership Team leaders are working on ways to continue strengthening the workforce system in 2021.
“United Way has really done a terrific job of managing this program,” said Chris Martin. “When someone asks how United Way is helping people and giving back to the local community, I point them straight to the Workforce Partnership Team.”
Workforce Development at United Way
Meet Chaella Dent, a graphic design student at John Tyler Community College. This spring, Chaella completed an internship at United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg to support Workforce Partnership Team activities.
Chaella earned the position by winning a logo design contest organized through the Community College Workforce Alliance, a member of the Workforce Partnership Team. Her winning logo design can be seen on all Workforce Partnership Team materials.
During her internship, Chaella scaled her initial design concept into a full suite of Workforce Partnership Team materials, giving her valuable real-world experience she will leverage when she graduates in 2021. She also completed design projects for other members of the Workforce Partnership Team including JobsRVA and J&G Workforce Development Services, LLC.
United Way provides backbone support to the Workforce Partnership Team and employs a full-time staff member to lead team activities. The Workforce Partnership Team is supported through funding from the Bob and Anna Lou Schaberg Foundation.
For more information about WPT and contact information, visit to the Workforce Partnership Team homepage.