teacher in front of class

Teaching the technical skills employers seek

A successful formula builds relationships and inspires hope in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s underserved north side.

Tulsa Community WorkAdvance (TCW) makes connections — between local employers in need of a skilled workforce and unemployed or underemployed residents in search of a career. The “dual-customer” model provides job seekers with free technical training in fields such as manufacturing and health care, as well as placement assistance and up to 18 months of career counseling. At the same time, Tulsa businesses benefit from a larger pool of qualified job applicants. “It’s a win all around,” says TCW Executive Director Karen Pennington.

Some area residents require additional preparation before they can fully benefit from this type of intensive job training. So in 2019, TCW launched Due North, an initiative focused on the city’s underserved north side, where unemployment rates are significantly higher than the rest of the city, says Pennington, and high school completion rates are low.

The idea behind Due North is to engage with the community, introducing paths to an education and career. “Due North is helping create a pipeline to prepare people for a program like WorkAdvance,” says Pennington. Designed to meet people where they are, Due North works with local organizations to offer free workshops in resume writing, job applications and interviewing skills, as well as periodic programs on topics such as time management and mindfulness. “At a minimum, you start planting the seed that there is an opportunity out there to get an education and earn more money,” says Pennington. After pausing in 2020 because of the coronavirus, Due North is up and running again, with a goal of helping 60 residents land a job, start an education or identify a career path in 2021.

Bank of America provides funding to Due North as part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. “Not only is Bank of America engaged with what we’re doing in the community, they understand the need,” says Pennington. “Their support is a game changer for a program like Due North.”