Workforce development services combine in-depth understanding of U.S. education, employment, and unemployment systems for the general population and those targeted toward people with disabilities, refugees/immigrants, older workers, and low income families.
We have used research on social capital – trust based networks that provide resources needed to succeed, to develop a number of successful workforce development programs and trainings. This work demonstrated that organizations use social capital too, and that they can use their connections to find jobs for their program participants. The opposite is true too, people and organizations without the right kind of connections fail to achieve their goals. Programs include the Bridges Project, which brought African American and Latino youth from impoverished backgrounds and their peers attending elite private schools together with mentors helping them learn art, cooking or other skills while creating connections across race and class. Projects in Kenosha, Wisconsin showed how social capital helped marginalized Latino and African Americans become city leaders, using their connections to develop organizations that helped others. Consultations for the Annie E Casey foundation discussed how social connections through friends, faith communities and nonprofits proved more important than neighborhood in career outcomes for people in low income neighborhoods. Similar workshops for Maryland state workforce development staff explained how they can use social capital to improve outcomes for immigrants and refugees eligible for public assistance.