Despite improvement in Minnesota’s overall economy, some parts of Minneapolis are still struggling with high unemployment, poverty and crime rates. In North Minneapolis, for example, researchers have reported a staggering unemployment rate of 28 percent. Residents in this part of the city are also least likely to own and operate computers, putting them at an extreme disadvantage when applying for jobs.
EMERGE Community Development, a Minneapolis non-profit, is hoping to change that. Established as the workforce division of a larger organization in 1995 that then spun off as a separate entity, EMERGE goes beyond developing jobs and training to revitalizing communities. Its headquarters are based in a formerly blighted building that the non-profit revitalized. In early 2015, they completed the restoration of the historic but long-vacant North Branch Library to house the EMERGE Career and Technology Center (ECTC).
Their target population includes some of the most vulnerable people in the Twin Cities metro area, including gang-involved young men ready to turn their lives around and people rebuilding their lives after incarceration. Over the past four years, EMERGE has significantly impacted levels of youth violence and placed thousands of individuals in jobs. Through the ECTC, EMERGE intends to place at least 1,150 additional people in jobs with an average initial wage of at least $11 an hour. Their goal is that 85% will still be employed after 3 months, 80% after 6 months and 75% after one year. In addition, through ECTC, EMERGE plans to provide foundational training – including job preparedness, digital and financial literacy training and adult basic education – to at least 1,315 people.
Their new goals may very well be achieved with help from partners like Bank of America. EMERGE has recently received a Neighborhood Builder Award from the bank, which includes well-timed funding and leadership training. Says Mike Wynne, President and CEO of EMERGE, “The timing…could not be better. We are opening a new facility that we believe has potential to be a ‘game changer’ for our greater neighborhood.” He adds that “…the first two years of operations will be critical to our long-term success.” The award also coincides with a recent re-structuring of their leadership team.
The Bank of America award will allow EMERGE to pilot a number of new programs onsite at the ECTC, beginning in early 2015. This includes the establishment of an auxiliary campus of Hennepin Technical College, which establishes a North Minneapolis ‘Manufacturing Assessment & Advancement Center’ to help low-income people become credentialed and placed into living wage jobs; open computer access and basic and more advanced computer literacy and training; and a variety of other training opportunities, including property maintenance, customer service, electrical trade services, and health.
Other non-profits in the area may also benefit because the bank’s funding will allow those interested in utilizing training space at the ECTC to do so free of charge.
Wynne says EMERGE’s goal is “…to affect change in meaningful, demonstrable ways…both serving individuals facing extraordinary barriers and inequities, along with improving the community overall.” With help from partners like Bank of America, EMERGE Community Development is able to do just that.