Fort Worth Works Links Inner-City Residents with Outlying Jobs

Fort Worth Works assists employers in their search for qualified job applicants and assists unemployed and under-employed Fort Worth residents in their search for jobs. A special effort is made to help inner-city residents and to transport workers to jobs in the Alliance industrial airport area, 15 miles from downtown Fort Worth. The 30-member consortium providing resources includes the Tarrant County Workforce Board and Workforce Network.

As a result of defense down-sizing and contract cutbacks in the early 1990s, Fort Worth lost more than 44,000 jobs. In response, the City developed an Economic Diversification Plan which included efforts that ranged from attracting new companies to workforce development initiatives. At the same time, a private sector initiative launched at the Alliance Development Project, 15 miles from downtown Fort Worth, was gaining momentum. The availability of a skilled workforce and 20,000 acres of industrial park property by the City’s industrial airport was appealing to companies outside the area which were looking to relocate or develop new facilities in this part of the country. In the six years since the effort began, over 60,000 jobs have been created and businesses continue to be attracted to Fort Worth.

The City of Fort Worth extended utility services to Alliance, at considerable expense, and assisted residents – especially those in the central city – to find quality employment. Still, a 1995 follow-up study of the Alliance area showed that a smaller number of Fort Worth residents than expected had actually gotten jobs in the area. This study and other data indicated that an effort was needed to connect employers, the community workforce development resource organizations, and Fort Worth residents. The City Council approved the Fort Worth Works program in 1996, a director and an operations manager were hired, and the effort launched.

Objectives – Fort Worth Works has the dual responsibility of assisting employers in their search for qualified job applicants and assisting unemployed and under-employed Fort Worth residents to take advantage of employment opportunities. It is the "match-maker." Special emphasis is placed on assisting inner city residents to take advantage of these jobs. Fort Worth Works serves as the facilitator between a consortium of 30 community resource providers, which helps residents learn about and prepare for potential jobs, and employers. A special effort is made to assist residents to take advantage of jobs in the Alliance corridor.

Consortium – The consortium of resource providers includes a wide range of public and private agencies. Among the governmental agencies are the City’s Economic Development, Water, Health, Housing, and Parks and Recreation Departments; Tarrant County’s Workforce Board and Workforce Network, and its Junior College; and the Texas Workforce Commission, Rehabilitation Commission and Department of Human Services. Also involved are the Fort Worth Independent School District; several area colleges and universities; the Greater Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce; the Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian Chambers of Commerce; the transportation authority; the faith community; and a wide range of social service agencies.

On the employer side are six Alliance Corridor employers – Federal Express, Intel, S.W. Bell Telephone, Nokia, BF Goodrich and PCS Health Systems; other Fort Worth employers, such as Trinity Industries and Sprint; and several organizations which facilitate entrepreneurship, including the Business Assistance Center and the Fort Worth Economic Development Corporation.

Job Match – A variety of mechanisms are used to let prospective employees know about the jobs that are available. Information is available in various City and community facilities, posters are displayed, employees wear buttons which ask "Need a Job?," and cards printed in both English and Spanish are distributed, listing 11 information sites around Fort Worth and a hotline number which people can contact to learn more about available employment and training opportunities. Sixteen job fairs held in central city areas attracted 3,134 participants, 1,080 of whom were inner-city residents. A special program, JOBS PLUS, is televised on the City Cable Network and features interviews with employers needing workers at their job sites.

In matching companies with needed workers, Fort Worth Works puts significant emphasis on identifying and addressing training needs. During the initial meeting with a company, employment needs are discussed and it is then determined whether an appropriate training institution needs to be involved. Among some of the program’s successful efforts to link companies with workers and address training needs in the process:

Trinity Industries, a rail car manufacturer, landed a huge deal with Burlington Northern. The manufacturing company was faced with the difficult task of locating more than 600 welders in a tight labor market. Fort Worth Works brought together the company, the local school district adult education program and the local Job Training Partnership Act employment and training agency. A system was established to involve all of these organizations in the effort to locate qualified welders. The school district established a short-term welding training program to teach the basics. The employment and training agency screened the welder applicants for JTPA eligibility. The company provided funds for training and supplies. The welding students became company employees on their first day of training; when they passed the basic course they could start in the company’s internal training program. Through this system the company recruited the welders it needed. Of the 650 hired, 415 came from inner-city neighborhoods. Trinity ignored what would otherwise have been considered barriers to employment – such as no English-speaking ability, no high school diploma, or a criminal record – among these workers. The starting wage for those hired was $9.50/hour, with an increase to $10.50/hour within 90 days.

When Intel Corporation announced its plans to open a plant in the Alliance Corridor, Fort Worth Works worked closely with the Tarrant County Junior College to let Fort Worth residents know about the newly established semi-conductor manufacturing program that was to be offered. The staff assisted the College in advertising the open house event which introduced the program. They also held assemblies at various high schools in which representatives of the College and Intel could brief the seniors about the training and employment opportunities involved. Approximately 400 students have been enrolled each semester in the Junior College’s semi-conductor manufacturing technology program.

To identify prospective employees for its new night sorting operation at the Alliance Airport which opened in September 1997, Federal Express participated in a number of job fairs and community events sponsored by members of the Fort Worth Works Consortium. These events generated over 1,000 applications. Of the 553 people who were hired, 29 percent resided in central city neighborhoods and another 29 percent resided in other Fort Worth neighborhoods. While they were hired for part-time jobs, they nonetheless received health and other benefits.

Transportation -- Because no public transportation was available between Fort Worth’s inner-city areas and the Alliance Corridor, Fort Worth Works worked with the Transportation Authority to expand bus service between the City and the Corridor. The additional service began in January 1997. The Alliance Opportunity Center, a "One-Stop" employment service, provides transportation between a central bus stop in the Alliance Corridor and the individual company work sites.

Child Care – The City has just established a $100,000 fund using neighborhood improvement grant funds to assist prospective employees who need child care in order to be able to take a job. The employees receive assistance funds on a declining basis for 90 days, but must show that they have made arrangements to continue child care after the period of assistance is over.

"Over the last few years, Fort Worth has worked hard to attract thousands of high tech jobs – jobs that pay good wages and have good fringe benefits," says Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr. "Until we created Fort Worth Works, we had no effective way of linking the new jobs with our citizens, particularly those living in the under-served areas of the central city. Thanks to Fort Worth Works, our citizens are successfully landing the outstanding jobs that are coming to Fort Worth, and our employers are finding the skilled and/or highly trainable workers they need. It’s a winning effort."

Contact: Sam Krhovjak, Director, Fort Worth Works, (817) 871-8634

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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