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Getting a job is as much about confidence as it is skills, particularly for someone who has never held a job or is re-entering the job market after a long stretch of unemployment.

Task Force AnnouncementMany people need a hands-on touch when it comes to job-seeking – something the Baker-Polito administration hopes to give them with new initiatives developed by the Task Force on Persons Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment.

Governor Charlie Baker and Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II, announced on January 25, 2016 a $5 million investment in workforce development for populations of people who historically face higher unemployment than the statewide rate.

Last March, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order creating a task force to explore reasons for higher unemployment rates among certain groups, and find ways to improve economic opportunities. While the state’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average – at 4.7 percent in December – African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and recently-returned veterans, continue to experience higher unemployment rates, ranging from 7 to 12 percent.

Secretary Walker said the administration wanted to look at, “the real issues they have in gaining employment and being a part of this economy, which is so strong.”

“People lack skills, whether technical or soft-skills, that they need for jobs that are in demand,” Secretary Walker said. “And they lack a clear path to get the skills they need.”

The report and recommendations of the task force were released at an event held at Year Up Boston, a national nonprofit that provides skill-building and employment opportunities to low-income young adults.

Gerald Chertavian, founder of Year Up who served as a member of the task force, said a hands-on approach means helping someone develop the confidence to feel like they deserve a job, especially if they have been unemployed for some time, or they have not had opportunities in life.

“That takes working with the person. It’s not something you do online. It’s not something that’s very quick,” Chertavian said. “There’s a social, emotional element of actually getting into the workforce and feeling good about yourself.”

Good programs understand that element to helping someone get a job, Chertavian said. “It’s an investment in a human being,” he said.

Every year, Year Up helps approximately 3,100 low-income adults obtain skills and connections to find good-paying jobs. Along with helping young people gain skills, “it’s looking in someone’s eyes and saying you can do this,” Chertavian said.

One of initiatives recommended by the task force will empower community-based organizations, like Year Up, to work closely with more individuals who face barriers to finding a job.

Governor Baker’s Fiscal Year ’17 budget proposal includes $2 million to create a new Economic Opportunity Fund that will award grants to community-based organizations that partner with businesses to provide job training and employment opportunities for the populations that face chronically higher unemployment rates.

The budget also includes $2 million in funding for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund. This would be the first time funding has been available for two consecutive years. The Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund is targeted to help unemployed or underemployed individuals who need job training or education to make an employment transition.

The press release with all the recommendations: http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2016/5-million-to-target-chronically-high-unemployment.html

The full task force report can be viewed here.

With the initiatives developed by the task force, the Baker-Polito administration will make sure community-based organizations and state government are moving in the same direction to create a better future for everyone, especially those who have been left out.

Governor Baker said he is optimistic the recommendations will make a difference for those who face employment barriers.

“What I do know for sure is if you do nothing or you change nothing, nothing will happen. We will just continue to have these same issues, these same problems across these communities that we’ve had historically, and from our point of view that’s simply not acceptable,” Governor Baker said.

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