Tag Archive | Chicago

The Dovetail Project Helps Young Fathers Succeed in Employment

By James A. Jones, Field Engagement Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

June 2015 Class
This Father’s Day, as we honor the contributions of dads across the country, we’d like to highlight the needs of an often overlooked population: young fathers. Between 1990 and 2010, the teen pregnancy rate declined by 51 percent. However, that decline may have been even greater if there were an increase in efforts to engage young fathers. Traditionally, young mothers have been at the center of research, prevention, and assistance efforts. As a result, little is known about best practices in engaging young fathers. What we do know is that teen fathers are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and subsequently face significant barriers to employment and economic stability.

The Dovetail Project is a Chicago-based organization whose sole mission is increasing employment opportunities and parenting skills of young, at-risk fathers. Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project, started the organization to address an issue that shaped his life as well as countless other young men in his community: absent fathers. As the son of a young father, Sheldon endured his father’s absence and lack of financial and emotional support, the result of unemployment, incarceration, and no parenting skills. This left Sheldon with a burning desire to end the cycle of fatherless children when he became a dad at age 20. The National Initiatives team recently spoke with Sheldon about the Dovetail Project and the strategies he attributes to its success.

Read More…

Oprima-1: A Creative Social Enterprise Strategy Connecting Immigrants to Employment

By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity


Founded in 1997 in Chicago’s historic Pilsen neighborhood, PODER serves Chicago’s immigrant community by providing free comprehensive English education in conjunction with an innovative social enterprise and job training. The National Initiatives team recently had the opportunity to chat with PODER’s executive director, Daniel Loftus, about their social enterprise, Oprima-1, and the critical work they’re doing to empower immigrants to build new lives in Chicago.

Read More…

Summer Jobs for Youth Reduce Violent Crime

By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity


It turns out that having a summer job can reduce violent crime among young people from highly disadvantaged neighborhoods—even more than a year after the summer job has ended. During the summer of 2012, Chicago’s One Summer Plus program offered eight weeks of subsidized, part-time summer employment, an adult job mentor, and—in some cases—a social emotional learning curriculum to youth with barriers to employment. An experimental study evaluating One Summer Plus found that over the next 16 months, violent crime arrests among youth who were offered summer jobs decreased by 43 percent compared to youth who weren’t.

By helping to implement One Summer Plus, SGA Youth & Family Services (SGA) has been central to Chicago’s efforts to curb violence and increase summer employment opportunities for the city’s vulnerable youth. SGA works in over forty communities across Chicago and offers a wide variety of services ranging from operating community health clinics to educational support and, of course, youth employment opportunities.

The National Initiatives team spoke with Jamie Roth, SGA’s Director of Workforce Development, to discuss the organization’s role in One Summer Plus and its broader work to combat poverty and bring hope and change to local communities across Chicago.

Read More…

Growing Careers: FarmWorks Combines Transitional Jobs + Contextualized Learning  

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN

Mini jpeg

With the weather in Chicago (finally!) warming up, the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team traveled to East Garfield Park to visit FarmWorks, an urban farm developed by Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS) that provides transitional jobs (TJ) to low-income residents overcoming barriers to employment.  Splitting their time between the farm and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, transitional workers develop employable skills in urban farming, landscaping, and warehousing and distribution.

While the workers gain experience that will help them obtain entry-level work, FarmWorks realizes that entry-level jobs are a first step, not an end goal, for TJ participants.  “HHCS has run TJ programming for many years, and we’ve also been working on enhancements to the TJ model to ensure participant success in career pathways that lead to self-sufficiency,” says Jay Landau, HHCS’ Director of Education and Program Development.  To this end, FarmWorks has integrated its TJ program with a contextualized adult learning curriculum so that workers can build literacy and numeracy skills along with knowledge of career pathways with family-sustaining wages.

With FarmWorks’ strategy already showing positive results, the NTJN sat down with Jay and Dave Snyder, FarmWorks’ Program Manager, to talk about how this promising program design can help workers succeed and advance on the job.    Read More…