Ready to Work SA Earns Its Hype

[Excerpt from San Antonio Report]

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh heaped praise on San Antonio’s city government for its expansive workforce development program, often called the largest of its kind in the country.  He said he wishes the federal government could do more.

At a roundtable discussion with local industry leaders and city officials Monday, Walsh called SA Ready to Work — the city’s $230 million program aiming to train thousands of low-wage workers for middle-class careers over the next five years — innovative and exemplary for its heavy collaboration with industry leaders.....

SA Ready to Work opened for enrollment in May, though many pre-registered. In the nearly four months since then, slightly more than 5,400 applicants have signed up — nearly fulfilling what the city anticipated to be enrollment through its entire first year.

Outpacing both contractors so far is Project Quest, the jobs training nonprofit that (like SA Ready to Work) sprang out of COPS/Metro.  Project Quest is managing the cases of 112 participants.

[Photo Credit: Alamo Colleges]

San Antonio’s Ready to Work Jobs Training Program Gets the National Attention Leaders Have SoughtSan Antonio Express News [pdf]

Labor Secretary Would Like to See Bigger Federal Investments in Ready to WorkSan Antonio Report [pdf]

U.S. Secretary of Labor visits the Alamo Colleges DistrictAlamo Colleges District [pdf]

 

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SA Ready to Work Should Guarantee $20 an Hour

Virginia Mata, Sonia Rodriguez and Mike Phillips -- all key leaders with COPS/Metro -- make their argument:

[Excerpt]

In 2020, COPS/Metro proposed the concept to city of San Antonio officials of a locally funded workforce development program using redirected existing dedicated taxes, then conducted a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in support. The residents of San Antonio responded with a resounding 77 percent voter approval. With the passage of this initiative, our city officials were given a golden opportunity to change the decades-long economic narrative from that of a low-wage town to a high-skill, high-wage city.

Wages matter. Our city needs to set a wage floor for employers that want to receive publicly funded highly trained program graduates at no less than $20 per hour.

Starting wages in our city for beginning workers need to be better than $15 per hour. Do we really think folks will enroll in full-time education training programs when the endgame pays what some fast-food entry-level jobs pay now? During the height of the pandemic, we heard unemployed members of our institutions tell us they didn’t want handouts, and that what they need is an opportunity and training for good jobs. Good jobs that pay a living wage and include benefits. The people of San Antonio expect wages that will change San Antonio’s economic narrative, not sustain it.

[Photo Credit: Josie Norris, San Antonio Express News]

Commentary: SA Ready to Work Should be Guaranteeing $20 Per HourSan Antonio Express News [pdf

 

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Historic SA Ready to Work Program Launches with COPS/Metro Support

When the pandemic precipitated a massive unemployment crisis in 2020, COPS/Metro immediately pushed the City Council to pump $75 Million into support of displaced workers as they trained for higher paying jobs. 

Leaders then engineered SA Ready to Work as a ballot initiaitve to help 15,000 more residents over the next five years, leading the San Antonio Express-News to call the workforce proposal "COPS/Metro’s baby."  That fall, COPS/Metro leaders educated and delivered more than 50,000 voters to the polls, and Prop B passed with 77% support.   

Even as they celebrate the launch, leaders continue to call on employers to raise the minimum wage standard for new graduates. 

[Excerpts from San Antonio Report]

San Antonio’s new jobs training and placement program officially launched Monday, opening enrollment to what city leaders hope will help thousands of residents develop lifelong career skills that should immediately lead to good-paying jobs.

SA Ready to Work, a $230 million five-year program...has been cast by advocates as a monumental anti-poverty effort in the wake of the pandemic’s economic shocks that could serve as a role model for cities across the country....

COPS/Metro — a grassroots coalition of congregations, schools and unions that has long advocated for anti-poverty measures and campaigned aggressively for the program’s approval — plans to host around 500 house meetings to encourage residents to enroll in the program. Some have already occurred, said Isaiah Banta, an organizer with the group.

[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, San Antonio Report]

Massive City Job Programs Launched, Open for EnrollmentSan Antonio Report [pdf]

As Historic Jobs Program Rolls Out in San Antonio, Do We Still Need It?Texas Public Radio [pdf]

San Antonio's Ready to Work Job Training Program Begins Taking First ApplicantsTexas Public Radio

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COPS Metro Video Highlights History of Achievement, Building Towards Future

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COPS/Metro Cited in Express-News for Training Generations of Leaders

[Excerpt]

The book includes critical assessments of the status of Mexican Americans, none as important, in my judgment, as the emergence of “a professional and academic voice” among Latinos and the rise of major institutions to advocate for Mexican Americans and defend their rights.

Many of those institutions were born in San Antonio, including...COPS Metro, which has trained generations of community activists.

[Photo Credit: Matthew Busch, San Antonio Express-News]

Mexican Americans' Fight for Equality Not OverSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]

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Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements

[Excerpt]

"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.

Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.

....

Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.

....

“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, San Antonio Express News]

Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare ProgramThe Houston Chronicle [pdf]

Network of Texas IAF Organizations, along with Public Officials, Hold Press Conference to Call on Comptroller Hegar to Abandon Attempt to Gut Chapter 313 Transparency and Accountability, Texas IAF

Taylor: The Chapter 313 Monster — the Mother of All Corporate Welfare — Revives?San Antonio Express News [pdf]

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COPS/Metro Leader Virginia Mata Profiled in HEB Foundation Magazine

[Excerpt]

Everyone in San Antonio knows about flash floods—“Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs are familiar on certain roads. But in the West Side, a neighborhood established by Mexican Americans who were restricted from more resourced neighborhoods north of downtown, floods were far more commonplace.

“I remember as kids getting pulled out of the [family] station wagon [that almost got swept away],” Mata said. “We were at the time like five or six, I think. But yeah, we didn’t know that was not normal.”

Mata says when you grow up experiencing poverty, “you accept it, normalize it, and blame yourself for it.” What seems normal at the time becomes absurd when you reflect back on it as an adult.

Mata speaks softly and with a kind of wisdom that comes from navigating barriers early in life..... 

Mata is retired from two careers—one in federal law enforcement, and another as a lietenant [sic] commander in the Navy Reserves. Nowadays, she spends a lot of her time with COPS/Metro, a community organizing coalition that gathers people from churches, schools, businesses and unions to represent the needs of families and children. Over the last year, Mata and her COPS/Metro partners have spurred the City of San Antonio to create and invest in a workforce training program designed to support people seeking higher-paying jobs.

Retirement from her final job as a probation officer in Del Rio in 2018 brought her back to San Antonio, where she bought a house near Sea World that is still a close enough drive to her old stomping grounds. Those stomping grounds include Holy Family Church, Mata’s church growing up, which is also where COPS/Metro was born.

The coalition’s first fight, all those decades ago? Demanding that the city fix the West Side’s drainage issues.

Mata’s story is coming full circle....

[Photo Credit: Echoes]

Someone Like VirginiaEchoes [pdf]

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Virginia Mata & Sonia Rodriguez: Halt Job Program's Slide Into Mediocrity

[Excerpt]

City staff has moved at breakneck speed by self-imposing a timeline that does not consider their need to learn more broadly what works and what does not work. This massive initiative needs a true champion to lead it now. COPS/Metro calls on Mayor Ron Nirenberg to be that champion. He is the person who can halt the drive to mediocrity and invest first in building a strong foundation for a workforce system that can deliver on the promise made to voters last year. That is why he was elected. San Antonio deserves nothing less.

Commentary: Halt Job Program's Slide Into MediocritySan Antonio Express News 

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SA Ready to Work is 'Too Big to Fail'

[Excerpt]

As San Antonio’s job training program lags and officials try to suss out the details of its next phase, a key backer worries the initiative is in trouble.

COPS/Metro, a grassroots advocacy group, aggressively lobbied city leaders to create an emergency program to help some of the thousands of people thrown out of work amid the pandemic get the skills they needed to land higher-paying jobs.

The group’s leaders later threw their weight behind Mayor Ron Nirenberg when he asked voters in November to use sales tax dollars to create an expanded program.

But months after the idea proved victorious at the polls, members of COPS/Metro have grown increasingly disillusioned with how the city’s job training efforts have played out. They feel city officials have all but ignored their concerns. The group’s leaders are disappointed in the meager number of participants who have obtained training certificates and landed jobs through the emergency program — dubbed Train for Jobs SA....

“It’s too important,” [Sonia] Rodriguez said. “This one is too big to fail.”

[Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express News]

'Too Big to Fail': San Antonio's Fledgling Job Training Program Under ScrutinySan Antonio Express-News 

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COPS/Metro Sets the Record Straight on 'SA Ready to Work'

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