NEW YORK, March 19, 2018 -- North America's largest freight railroad is investing in the infrastructure of the American workforce with a program that connects underemployed people to the education, training and good-paying jobs they need to raise their standards of living.
Omaha-based Union Pacific announced a first-time grant of $3 million to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to expand Financial Opportunity Centers, a national model that helps people build their skills, grow their incomes and improve their credit—all as part of a bundled approach to economic opportunity.
Union Pacific is focusing on four cities. In Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and Tacoma, Wash., its grant will help extend the reach of FOCs so they can provide a broader range of workforce development services to more clients.
The grant to LISC is part of a new Union Pacific effort called Building Tomorrow's Workforce. It is one pillar of the company's $20 million philanthropic commitment to under-resourced communities, which includes initiatives focused on helping communities prevent and prepare for accidents and emergencies, and build vibrant community space, in addition to job skills development.
Union Pacific expects to hire some FOC graduates for trades positions like diesel electricians and mechanics, as well as for train crews—all jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. But Moore said Union Pacific is seeking impact that goes well beyond its day-to-day business.
"Union Pacific is investing in American workers and an economic future based on quality jobs," explained Maurice Jones, LISC president and CEO. As an example, Jones pointed to FOC clients who with comprehensive coaching and an investment in basic reading and math skills can compete for employment in growth industries that require a high school degree, certifications or apprenticeships.
Outcomes data from more than 80 FOC sites across the country indicate how and why the program helps more than 20,000 people a year improve their financial stability and move into industries that are hungry for qualified workers, including health care, technology and building trades.
In Houston, for example, a young man named "Abel" had a background in construction work, but not the requisite certification to move beyond low-wage positions. He couldn't afford the tuition for education and training programs that would open new opportunities, and his financial outlook was suffering, as mounting debt threatened his future.
That all changed with a visit to a local office of SER Jobs for Progress, which operates an FOC program. He was accepted into a training program focused on welding and was eventually hired as a welder's assistant at $14/hour—more than he had been making. He continued his training and passed a certification test a few months later that helped him earn a raise to $18/hour. Even after a company lay-off that dented his progress, he worked with coaches to build his skills further and evaluate new opportunities, finding a higher-level welding job at $20/hour, where he works today.
In addition to supporting his employment efforts, his coaches also worked with him on financial challenges, helping him, over time, to build up his credit score, buy a car and start saving for the future—with the long-term goal of being able to buy a home. Jones stressed that this kind of long-term relationship between coaches and clients is a core piece of the FOC program, and a key to the success for thousands of people.
"Union Pacific wants to help bridge the gap, providing growth opportunities," said Moore. "A better trained American workforce is in the best interest of our company, our communities and our country."
Current job opportunities are available at UP.jobs/LISC.