Grant to fund innovative job and skills training program for lower-income 18-24-year-olds that uses mobile app and
Level Up incentives to drive traditional skills development
SOMERVILLE – Somerville is one of six Massachusetts cities to receive a grant as part of the Working Cities Challenge (WCC), a program designed to fund proposals that will significantly impact the lives of lower-income residents. One of twenty submissions, Somerville’s project aims to support out-of-school “youth” aged 18 to 24 through workforce development training that pairs innovative mobile technology and unique partnerships with the local business community with traditional skills development. A one-year seed award of $100,000 will help the City and its partners get this program off the ground.

Of Somerville’s nearly 9,700 residents in this age bracket, over 40% are classified as either low- or very-low-income. Moreover, two-thirds of these residents have very little formal post-secondary education. Nationally, just 54% of Americans in this age bracket hold jobs, the lowest rate since 1948. Somerville’s WCC proposal, “Pocket Change: Creating a Somerville that Works for All,” blends the use of mobile technology with traditional workforce development in order to reach the 18-24 out-of-school demographic, with a specific focus on training for lower-income, lower-skilled individuals.

“Somerville’s unemployment rate remains below the state and national average, but for the individuals in our community who are struggling to find employment—including some of our younger workers—all that matters is whether they can get the one job they need. So as we work to bring good jobs to Somerville through economic development at sites like Assembly Row and Union Square, we must also ensure that our residents are prepared for the jobs that new businesses will bring to our city, and this program will help us do just that,,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “With the support of the WCC and Boston Fed, Pocket Change will help us cultivate new job opportunities and give our recent high school graduates and younger workers better incentives to obtain jobs in a competitive market by arming them with the necessary tools and experience. This is a great step in the right direction, building on our momentum with the Jobs Advisory Committee and Future Economies Commission.”

“Pocket Change” will engage 18-24-year-olds over a one-year period in a pilot program. Through partnerships with more than 15 nonprofit and businesses throughout Somerville, participants will gain workforce experience designed using a “Level-Up” approach, offering youth the opportunity to gain experience at various levels dependent upon successful completion of work at each level as well as completion of job training and career development workshops.

“Pocket Change is a unique and innovative tool that the City of Somerville and our community and business partners will be able to use to help prepare a new generation for a growing workforce, particularly by capitalizing on the strengths and skills possessed by this group of young adults in our community. It will give young people the opportunity to gain additional, necessary experience that employers are seeking in today’s economy, opportunities that many of these residents would not otherwise have, and we are extremely thankful to Boston Fed and its funding partners for making this possible for our young residents,” said Ed O’Donnell, Economic Development Director for the City of Somerville.

Other communities receiving grant funding include Lawrence, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Chelsea, and Salem.

Funding awards have been made possible by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, MassDevelopment, Living Cities, Bank of America, The Boston Foundation, Surdna Foundation, the Move the World Foundation, the Hyams Foundation, and Boston Private Bank and Trust. Other key partners in the endeavor include Boston Community Capital, which will serve as fiscal agent, and MassINC, which is a long-time leader on small city initiatives.

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