Aurora Butler, a mother of three, tried to return to school three times. She was fed up with juggling restaurant shifts and children’s schedules, and motivated to find a better-paying job that worked for her and her family.
But after three tries, she began to doubt herself. If Butler hadn’t found the training program at Brighton Center in Newport, Kentucky, she might have given up entirely.
Supporting Transitions to Employment for Parents (STEPS) — one of two Kellogg Foundation pilot programs — combines workforce training with high-quality child care in a support system structured around the whole family’s well-being.
For Butler, involvement in STEPS at Brighton Center made it possible for her to become a certified medical assistant — and prove something important to herself in the process. “Now I know I could go on and finish something else,” Butler says. “That was my biggest fear to try to overcome — that I wouldn’t finish the certification.” The STEPS program at Brighton Center made all the difference. “You’re doing all the work, but they were constantly checking to make sure I was OK.”
Melissa Hall Sommer, senior director of family economic success at Brighton Center, says, “The strategies are designed to consider the needs of the whole family. It’s really about their family’s future and not just getting that job.”
Behind the scenes, STEPS spurs integration of systems with families at the center, creating space for innovation to accelerate some training programs. “The magic happens when we create an environment that is responsive to families’ hopes and dreams.”
Butler agrees that the new career has eased the strain on the whole family. “Now everybody — me and my kids — are on the same schedule,” she explains.
The Brighton Center program is one of seven sites in the U.S. reaching more than 900 parents like Butler, almost all women. At Brighton Center alone, more than 100 moms completed training for credentials in business and computer technologies, health care technology, medical assisting and child development. Of those, more than 80 percent moved into better-paying jobs, with an average wage increase of $24,697. The immediate effect on their families — including 270 children — continues to create more stable, hopeful futures.
“Now I know I could go on and finish something else. That was my biggest fear to try to overcome — that I wouldn’t finish the certification.”
Seeing workers as parents is just as critical in the success of Mobility and Opportunity for Valuable Employment by Upskilling Parents (MOVE UP), six workforce development pilot programs tailored to meet the needs of working families and employer partners.
MOVE UP has made it possible for 960 parents already working in low- or middle-skill jobs to start the journey to higher-skilled, higher-paying careers. More than 70 percent are single parents. In one example, Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP), a national labor and management workforce development organization, leveraged employer-based funding to provide 200 parents working in health care with access to education and training. Fifty percent have earned industry-recognized degrees, and twenty-five percent have better jobs with higher pay. And even more are in the pipeline.
H-CAP bolstered its standard services with child care, transportation, English-language learning and other services tailored to particular communities. The wider array enabled more working parents to participate and complete the program. In New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, this training-plus approach helps women, immigrants and workers of color break through the barriers to career advancement often faced by parents of young children.
Through tracking and evaluation, H-CAP is learning how to accelerate parents’ transitions to higher-skill jobs. Data across MOVE UP programs will help develop an evidence-based model for upskilling working parents — critical information for the health care sector, which is expected to
be the largest employer in the U.S. by 2026.
According to Daniel Bustillo, executive director of H-CAP, MOVE UP is providing opportunities to new and existing health care workers while also focusing on job quality.
“It’s easy to think about developing a career pathway on paper,” says Bustillo, “but there’s the whole range of wrap-around services for supporting existing adult learners. MOVE UP allows us to focus on the needs of working parents.”
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