“Housing continues to be a critical barrier that is difficult to address in for the average American, and even more challenging for those with a blemish on their background.”
Because of rising costs due to gentrification in traditionally low income cities, and unfair housing practices, housing must be a priority to effectively reduce recidivism. OICA will continue to engage with the Philadelphia RC stakeholders to explore ways to better support our participants, not only in Philadelphia, but to share effective strategies with our network of affiliates.”
In February, the OICA program staff attended the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition’s 2019 Winter Stakeholder Meeting at the Office of the District Attorney in Philadelphia. The meeting was filled with 11 agencies sharing housing resources and ways to address homelessness for the re-entry population. Their Housing Subcommittee worked tirelessly to develop the Navigating Existing Housing Resources Flowchart and Guide; which is a critical tool for our population since navigating housing in a large city can take on the character of an overwhelming labyrinth for anyone regardless of their background.
National Skills Coalition’s annual fly-in event was open to skills advocates from across the country. The event included two days of federal skills policy updates from experts in the field, a rundown of the Skills for Good Jobs Agenda, a menu of policy recommendations developed by workforce practitioners on the ground, and culminated in the year’s largest advocacy day ever for skills policy on Capitol Hill.
For more information about the summit visit https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/events/2019-skills-summit
Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center (CC-OIC) has opened in Coatesville and has a mission to train the unemployed and underemployed into long-term employment opportunities. Started by Rev. Leon Sullivan over 55 years ago, to meet the employment needs of disadvantaged individuals, CC-OIC offers workforce training and case management services for everyone, including young adults and adults who have been involved in the criminal justice system.
In January, Jason Whyte, Senior Director of Operations and Strategy, visited the Latino Coalition of Community Leadership (LCCL) to learn about the work they are doing to help returning citizens successfully transition back into their communities. Both national organizations are contracted by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to provide employment-related trainings and supportive services to returning citizens, through the Employment and Training Association (ETA) department’s Reentry Employment Opportunity (REO).
After numerous meetings between Whyte and Richard Morales, Deputy Executive Director (LCCL), over the three-day visit, both organizations discovered that they function with very similar philosophies. Both organizations employ evidence-based and informed practices with a sober understanding that local adaptation is necessary; no one model is fully transferable to all communities. The organizations are also acutely aware that buy-in and commitment from leadership, a team of talented people, a culture of learning, and proper management of data and performance measurement, are foundational for successful reentry programming.
Morales introduced Whyte to associates and partners of LCCL, such as Christie Donner, Executive Director of Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC); Johanna Leal, Principal Consultant with the Alliance for Criminal Justice Innovation (ACJI); Leo Alirez, Executive Director of Lifeline; and Hassan Latif, Executive Director of the Second Chance Center. Together, these players are working to slash recidivism in Denver, Colorado.
OICA and LCCL will continue to discuss creative and innovative ways both national organizations can partner to tackle this national problem.
Photo Caption: From Left to Right: Richard Morales, Deputy Executive Director (LCCL); Christie Donner, Executive Director (CCJRC); Jason Whyte, Senior Director of Operations and Strategy (OICA)
Recently, our very own Louis
King, CEO of Summit Academy OIC was a guest on a CBS affiliate podcast in
Minneapolis, MN. discussing Summit’s efforts to get low income people and
people of color into STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) jobs. This conversation resulted from Summit’s
success with its first IT class where 17 of 19 graduates got jobs paying
$17.00/hr. after also having a Paid Internships at $12.50/hr.
Summit’s next venture is to offer
STEM exposure to kids as young as pre-school.
STEM starts to help kids at any age develop effective problem-solving
techniques and helps set them on a path of lifelong learning and an
appreciation for math and science.
They also have plans for a Gaming League and are launching a company, “STEM NATION”, which will allow for potential replication across the country. The podcast introduced Summit Academy OIC to a broad and diverse audience, while also connecting them to industry insiders in the Mid-west Region of the country. The discussion is certainly worth a listen as we continue to consider how to position OIC as a leader in workforce development. Summit’s STEM strategy seems viable regardless of the size or location of the affiliate. “We see no Alps.”
Amir Williams describes himself as “deep in the streets” from a very young age. He spent his teenage years at a school for at-risk youth, which the courts required him to attend. At age 19, he was arrested for armed robbery and spent more than a year in state prison. Upon release, he struggled to abide by probation requirements and was again incarcerated.
Then an experience in the summer of 2018 changed his life forever: his probation officer referred him to a reentry program through Philadelphia OIC, an affiliate of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America (OICA). Individuals who have been incarcerated are finding hope and stability through OICA, an organization headquartered in Philadelphia with 34 affiliates around the country. OICA affiliates provide educational and workforce development services to individuals in struggling communities.
Awarded four reentry grants by the U.S. Department of Labor, OICA coordinates programming and oversees its delivery for affiliates involved in this type of work. It is a leader in reintegrating individuals into society by fostering self-sufficiency in every facet of life: employment, family responsibilities, financial literacy and emotional stability.
Williams was referred to Philadelphia’s OIC’s SOAR program. He had already been in a series of reentry programs, but none had been effective. He was distrustful and detached, which again led to probation issues. The staff at Philadelphia OIC worked with him and the probation officer to form trust.
That summer, Williams enrolled in a housekeeping program through Philadelphia OIC’s Hospitality Training Institute. He was on time every day and earned the second- highest grades in the class. He secured an internship that turned into a paying job, and now he is forging a better life.
OICA affiliates provide an array of workforce development functions and programs that are transforming lives. Success rates are high, but not all participants are ready to change their environment or summon the strength to change behavior. Yet OICA and its affiliates are not deterred; they believe everyone deserves a chance.
COATESVILLE — Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell recently presented a check for $300,000 to representatives of Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center.
The funds, made available through a community development block grant, have been used to purchase a new primary office location for Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center in the City of Coatesville.
“It is great to be back home!” said Joyce Chester, Chester County OIC president and CEO. “The City of Coatesville is where Chester County OIC began nearly 40 years ago,” she said. “The opportunity to come back into the City from West Chester was the perfect move for us, and it is the first time that we will own our own home.”
“We thank the Chester County Commissioners and the county’s Department of Community Development for making this dream come true,” she added.
Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center’s vision is to be leaders in improving the lives of disadvantaged adults by creating educational and employment opportunities.
Along with ongoing programs offered by Chester County OIC, including GED, English Language Acquisition and Certified Nurse Aid, the organization’s new SOAR re-entry program — a strategy that addresses the range of challenges faced by formerly incarcerated young adults who are trying to make a successful transition back into their communities — will serve as a resource to youth ages 18-24 in Coatesville and throughout the County.
Chester County OIC’s new location is 22 N. 5th Avenue, Coatesville, PA 19320.
Submitted by: Jeffrey C. Woodyard, Executive Director of Tri-County OIC
In 2008, Tri-County OIC created the OIC BookyMobile – a travelling bookmobile for kids and adults. The idea of the BookyMobile started when the OIC executive director realized that many low-income children and their parents did not have access to enough books at home. Schools were struggling to provide books to students and access to libraries was limited to those who lacked transportation and resources.