Workforce development, including training underserved populations for greater self-sufficiency, is one of the five focus areas of the Opus Foundation®. Recently, the Foundation awarded
Project for Pride in Living (PPL), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, with a $50,000 Impact Fund grant to support the organization's On-Ramp 2.0 program, which combines career-readiness training with housing stability to provide positive outcomes for residents with low incomes.
Established in 1972, PPL helps nearly 13,000 individuals and families across the Twin Cities gain economic independence each year. PPL's career training programs have grown by 20% in the past three years, resulting in successful job placements for more than 300 individuals annually. Their average annual incomes have tripled and one-year employment retention rates were 84%.
The people PPL serves are disproportionately affected by systemic inequalities and need two things to become fully self-reliant: a home and a job. Currently, PPL owns or manages more than 1,500 affordable and supportive housing units, and demand continues to grow. As a volunteer member of PPL's Housing and Development Committee, I provide expertise in the areas of residential development, site selection and acquisition, project financing and partnership structuring. PPL is providing programs and resources that transform lives and it is truly gratifying to contribute in this way.
Supporting Phase 2 of the On-Ramp Program
The Impact Fund grant from the Opus Foundation supports the next phase of PPL's On-Ramp program. Piloted in 2018, the program equips PPL housing residents in North Minneapolis who have limited education and low incomes with local employer-informed competencies and work experience to overcome significant barriers to employment, positioning them to thrive with living-wage careers. The program also helps fill a business need, as PPL works with a pipeline of Twin Cities businesses looking for innovative ways to address current and projected labor shortages.
Through listening sessions with On-Ramp participants, PPL learned the diverse group needs more flexibility built into the program so it can be tailored to better meet individuals' respective circumstances. So, PPL developed “On-Ramp 2.0." As part of this revised model, delivery and approach, PPL teams of housing coordinators and employment specialists work closely together to provide each participant with ongoing 1:1 assessment, coaching and navigation support. On-Ramp 2.0 targets individuals at a lower skill level and allows them to work at their own pace, destabilizing barriers that would otherwise jeopardize enrollment, class participation and graduation. Upon completion, participants receive business cards, gift card incentives and help with professional work attire.
Grant funds from the Opus Foundation will support program oversight and evaluation, participant incentives and staff development and salaries, and program technology for the revised model.
“On-Ramp 2.0 would not be possible without support from Opus," said May Xiong, Vice President of Career Readiness at PPL. “Traditional career pathways funders, primarily public/government entities, historically have restrictive eligibility and assessment requirements for job training programs and do not allow for individuals at lower skill levels. The Opus Foundation's flexibility allows us room to innovate and test new ideas that will inform future planning and program outgrowths."
On-Ramp will serve as a new PPL career pathway model enabling economic mobility among households with lower incomes. It's important because without stable housing, it's difficult to secure and keep a job. And without employment and a steady income, it's impossible to get stable housing. By combining housing and employment training, PPL is simultaneously addressing two major barriers to economic mobility – lack of housing and unemployment or underemployment – making brighter futures possible.
The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.