The Gainesville For All jobs and families team has looked at ways to strengthen families and break the cycle of generational poverty through better access to child care, transportation, early education, parental engagement, job training and mentoring. Over a period of months, the team developed the following five goals.

The team recommends supporting permanent funding for programs serving children ages 0 to 18 in Alachua County. An independent children’s services council would increase access to quality, affordable child care for working families in Alachua County, which will remove major barriers for qualifying families looking to return to school or enter the local workforce.

Additionally, such a council could oversee and fund innovative strategies designed to ensure babies get a healthy start, are ready for school when they reach kindergarten, are reading proficiently before entering fourth grade, and are able to participate in safe, quality after-school programs. These measures will ensure more of our youth can succeed in school, in the future workforce and in life.

We support working with local public schools, the University of Florida and Santa Fe College to increase quality preparation in the skill sets needed for post-high school graduation success, whether that is vocational training, college or university entry, or direct entry to the workforce from high school. A children’s services council can be that unifying force.

The team recommends implementing a proactive campaign designed to build trust between local support entities and the people they serve. These outreach strategies should focus on innovative approaches to connect with disenfranchised communities.

We recommend holding informational sessions in communities to ascertain better relationship-building strategies, along with face-to-face recruitment conducted by trusted community members. Local organizations should be encouraged to participate in diversity training for their employees and a quarterly report should be generated of organizations' diversity and community relationship-building efforts.

In an effort to improve communication and trust with citizens, we propose the creation of a funded position dedicated to linking people in need of assistance to organizations providing assistance. The office will coordinate with existing organizations in order to identify programs and events that are currently active and funded. Likewise, the office will communicate with local communities, community organizations and individuals in order to identify the citizens that would benefit from the programs. This communication would include canvassing in person, advertising campaigns, social media and websites.

The team recommends significantly increased utilization of community centers. Community centers should provide affordable, meaningful and effective programs and services to citizens of all ages. Following in the steps of the evidence-based Harlem Empowerment Zone model, local community centers could be used to house collectives that serve an entire neighborhood comprehensively and create coordinated, best-practice programs to ensure our children and families receive support from birth through college to maximize their outcomes.

The team recommends the creation of a high school career academy with emphasis on high-demand trades occupations. This academy would provide opportunities for all students in Alachua County who desire a career in the trades a clear education pathway to work readiness. Students would participate in on-the-job learning through an apprentice-style program and complete internships with local trades professionals. Leadership, life skills, soft skills and work readiness skills would be addressed in an effort to have every student prepared to enter the workforce.

Lastly, the team recommends a city-wide commitment to getting people jobs under the galvanizing slogan GNV: JOBS CITY. This commitment, led by the city in partnership with local municipalities, businesses and service organizations, will commit the resources necessary to establish clear guidelines, terminology and metrics for quality jobs, and to ensure that every resident who wishes to work will have the opportunity to create a career.

Key to the approach will be to support those who are most vulnerable and who face significant barriers in accessing job training and employment. This includes those who are out of work, families with complex needs, ex-offenders, those lacking relevant skills and experience, people with learning disabilities and youth.

GNV: JOBS CITY entails a multi-front approach addressing community trust-building; educating employers on hiring diverse populations; encouraging job development in neighborhoods where unemployment is high; supporting job seeking and training; fostering living-wages; messaging on the positive impact of work; and other strategies as identified.

We believe the goals listed above will help make Gainesville a stronger community for families and the local workforce.

Jonathan Leslie and Boisy Waiters are co-chairs of the GNV4ALL jobs and families team.