Skyland Workforce Center Aims to Help Bridge Digital Divide and Other Barriers to Employment in DC
Many job seekers in Washington, DC face multiple challenges related to literacy, computer skills, work readiness, transportation, housing, and other employment barriers. For some, the barrier is particularly high, such as for individuals re-entering the workforce after being incarcerated or those who are unfamiliar with, or don’t have access to, digital resources.
Recently the Washington Business Journal (WBJ) profiled how the Skyland Workforce Center (SWC), a program of WC Smith’s nonprofit partner Building Bridges Across the River, is working to help these individuals overcome barriers and get the training and skills they need to find employment.
“We have seen a lot of people who have gotten incarcerated at a young age. They come out with a criminal record, they don’t have much work experience, and so their resumes are a little thin,” said Anne-Marie Bairstow, director of the Skyland Workforce Center, told the WBJ. “There’s a lot of discrimination against returning citizens. But there’s also the discouragement where, ‘No one is going to hire me so why do I bother.’”
Chris Smith, Chairman and CEO of WC Smith, and Gary Rappaport, CEO of Rappaport Co., in 2014 conceived of and developed the Skyland Workforce Center, located across the street from Skyland Town Center. WC Smith and Rappaport are the lead developers of Skyland Town Center.
Created as a community investment initiative, Skyland Workforce Center is a collaborative of nonprofit organizations providing employment-related services for many unemployed and underemployed residents of Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, DC.
The Center leverages its seven partners’ expertise to provide high-quality workforce development programs in one location, leading to work-ready employee candidates, career-focused job placement, economic self-sufficiency, and improved quality of life. The partners are Byte Back, Calvary Women’s Services, Life Asset, Southeast Ministry, Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Independent Electrical Contractors and Samaritan Ministry.
Since its launch, SWC has served nearly 6,000 DC residents and has helped place 800 people in jobs spanning a wide range of fields: construction, retail, hospitality, and office. Two-thirds of the Center’s clients live in Ward 8; 18% live in Ward 7, and the remaining live in other parts of the city.
To learn more about SW, visit www.skylandworkforcecenter.org.