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December 2011

How to Get a Job Without a College Degree


A Public Allies apprentice talking to a middle school student in the Police Athletic League in East New York.
After serving in Afghanistan, Tyrone is back in the Bronx trying to find a job. While a fine soldier, his civilian job resumé is limited.

Innocencia is a young mother who works in child care. She would like a better-paying job, but needs help with English and learning a trade.

Joey is 20 years old and has a knack for computers—but also had a knack for getting in trouble, which is why he has a record of suspensions and juvenile detention, and no high-school diploma. He would like to work in IT but has no formal training and has never had a full-time job.

These three New Yorkers—and many like them—have a hard time plugging into today’s already-tough job market. But with the economy in flux, job-placement counselors who still use their rolodex of local businesses aren’t much help. Large retailers have their own hiring systems. Current information on labor trends is making it easier to see who’s hiring and for what, but placement agencies need staff who can use the data.

The Trust is helping nonprofit workforce developers adapt by supporting personalized, intensive training and paid internships for disadvantaged New Yorkers and veterans; holding workshops on using labor-market data for job counselors; and connecting large employers with a network of youth employment agencies.

Learn and Earn

Joey is in luck. The City has recently ramped-up its investment in out-of-work and out-of-school youth. It has committed more than $400,000 to Project Rise, a program where Joey can get an education and get paid for working in an internship that teaches him job skills and office etiquette. A $400,000 Trust grant to the Center for Economic Opportunity will match the City’s money.

A $100,000 grant to AmeriCorps’ Public Allies program will provide paid apprenticeships to highly motivated but cash-poor young adults for careers in nonprofits. Participants have included single mothers, veterans, formerly imprisoned youth, and former foster children.


Ebonee Cochrane, a graduate of an apprenticeship program of Nontraditional Employment for Women, is now a member of Laborers' International Union Local 79.
As a child-care worker, Innocencia makes $11 an hour. As an electrician, she would make $25 an hour, enough to live on without relying on food stamps. To help women learn trade skills, a Trust grant of $100,000 to Nontraditional Employment for Women supports apprenticeship programs in construction and green jobs, such as electrical retrofitting and weatherization. Women will also attend career-planning sessions on the long-term benefits of union wages, health benefits, and contributing to one’s pension.

Bringing Job Placement Groups Up to Speed

The Trust helped start the Workforce Professionals Training Institute to make job placement agencies more effective. A $60,000 grant will help the Institute train staff at these agencies to use software that tracks real-time information on job trends. With a 2010 grant of $85,000, the Institute trained staff of 52 groups and helped them implement recruitment and placement strategies that use up-to-date labor-market information. This year the Institute will train 75 additional job developers. “When staff know how to access this data, they can give job seekers very useful, concrete information: types of available jobs, average wages, and education requirements,” says Amy Landesman, executive director of the Institute.

New Employers Demand a New Approach

Youth not working and not in school are having a hard time finding entry-level jobs because “older or displaced workers are competing for jobs once more readily available to younger people,” says Lou Miceli, executive director of JobsFirstNYC. In addition, employment agencies must deal with big corporations and institutions that demand large pools of potential employees. A grant of $125,000 to JobsFirst will help it develop a network of youth-employment agencies to strategize and offer a broader range of services to regional employers. JobsFirst will also work on creating employment pipelines by holding networking events with the Association for a Better New York and the Partnership for New York City.

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