In the past few years, Chattanooga has seen incredible economic growth, unemployment has been cut in half and wages have increased. Despite this growth, there are still neighborhoods in our city with double digit unemployment and low wages and incomes. There are many organizations doing great work to train, hire, and grow income for people in our city, but those efforts don’t always meet un/underemployed people where they are. In addition, many workforce partners are collaborating together but these collaborations were either in isolated groups or fell apart without a convener who could bring together all partners who were committed to action. The result was a duplication of effort, missed opportunities, and too many folks ready to work but with barriers left standing in their way.
The Workforce Development Working Group brings together employers, training providers, workforce funders, and employees to facilitate collaboration towards growing wages for un/underemployed adults, while ensuring businesses have the best talent from our neighborhoods. The group provides a formal space and procedure to foster collaborations of efforts that were already happening in isolation and launch new ideas. With meetings every other week and two Mayor’s Office staff facilitating, the group operates with few resources. Rather than focusing on systematic workforce development challenges, the group's purpose is to solve tangible programs and come up with ideas that can be launched quickly and improve upon. The results are a series of life-changing successes for Chattanoogans who are in most need, by meeting them where they are and delivering services more quickly and nimbly. One organization had a career coach bus, but when they took it to a neighborhood no one was showing up to use it. Connecting them with other groups has meant better promotion and that the bus is not taking people to community centers like the City’s Youth and Family Development Centers, where people in the neighborhood were used to going for help.