Banking the unbanked: What’s important for Latino consumers

The toll of the Great Recession on the national economy and individual households has been well-documented. Today many aspects of our national economy are thriving, but the recovery for low-income and Latino families has been slower.

Record-high foreclosure rates and persistent unemployment have drained personal savings and increased people’s debt. This has rocked household balance sheets and caused many Latinos to fall out of the banking system.

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This UnidosUS Affiliate in Chicago is creating a community where everyone can thrive

The Center for Changing Lives (CCL) supports and uplifts individuals who have been limited by a lack of resources and economic opportunities to help them discover new possibilities, overcome barriers, and realize their full potential.

Center for Changing Lives

A mentor-led training session at the Center for Changing Lives in Chicago. Photo: CCL

The Chicago-based nonprofit operates under the fundamental belief that all people are creative, resourceful and whole. And CCL has a track record of helping clients increase their income, net worth and credit scores through financial coaching and other services.

In 2017, CCL provided financial coaching to over 360 community members. And the results speak for themselves:

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One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico: Helping Ex-offenders Gain the Power to Rebuild Their Lives

The One Stop Career Center of Puerto Rico (OSCC), founded in 2000, has a mission that benefits a community not often talked about: the reentry population.

Since 2000, OSCC has helped approximately 14,000 ex-offenders find meaningful employment and rebuild their lives. OSCC’s participants have an 85% rate of successful job placement and a recidivism rate of approximately 12%, in significant contrast to an average 76.6% recidivism rate across 30 states.

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National Skills Coalition Kicks off Welcoming Week with UnidosUS Affiliates

 Cross-posted from the National Skills Coalition Blog

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

Hundreds of immigration-related events are being held across the United States during Welcoming Week from September 15-24 (yes, it’s more than a week). Many of the events are focusing on the skills and contributions of immigrant workers.

National Skills Coalition began the week by joining more than 200 workforce advocates at the UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) 2017 Workforce Development Forum, held in Las Vegas. Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock presented two workshops and participated in a Best Practices Café.

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Join NCLR in Las Vegas for the 2017 Workforce Development Forum!

The 2017 NCLR Workforce Development pre-Forum training is now public! Take a look at the many offerings available at the premier workforce development conference dedicated to serving immigrant communities.

This year, one of the prominent themes will be addressing the needs of America’s future workforce: our young adults—especially disconnected and opportunity youth.

We even have a sneak peek at some of the sessions available.

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Workforce Training Programs Change Lives

What if students in math class who were interested in health care could do word problems about pints of blood? What if students who were interested in construction could solve math equations about different materials used in the building industry? This is one strategy NCLR’s Adult Education and Workforce Development team uses to help adults complete a high school equivalency degree so they have a chance at getting into a vocational training program that can lead to a job in the industry of their choice.

Men working on roofMath word problems tailored to students’ specific interests is just one way that NCLR’s Contextualized Adult Education program engages disconnected individuals who need a high school degree to qualify for the job of their choice. The program’s curriculum provides students with a framework that generates and sustains their interest in certain industries, according to Surabhi Jain, our Director of Adult Education and Workforce Development. She reports that students grasp concepts faster because they can relate to the content.

Together with our Los Angeles Affiliate Youth Policy Institute, we have seen increased student enrollment and retention with this curriculum. Additionally, students tend to complete the program in about seven months, compared to the 12–18 months for most GED programs.

NCLR’s Contextualized Adult Education program is one example of how our training programs address the needs and aspirations of Latino workers. Additional NCLR workforce programs include:

Adult ESL Education: We work to increase the capacity of our Affiliate organizations so they can offer English as a second language (ESL) classes for adults who want better-paying jobs or to prepare for citizenship requirements. English language skills are critical for workers to be able to participate in training that can lead to better, higher-wage jobs.

Worker ESL Education: We provide grants to organizations such as our Affiliate in Wisconsin, Vera Court Neighborhood Center, which has a workforce program that partners with employers to offer on-site English classes. The program has grown from two work sites initially to seven sites with 11 classes today, including factories, hotels, and manufacturing and packaging plants. Employers are enthusiastic in their support, with some giving staff time off to attend one or two classes per week, and some providing a bonus or gift card to workers who complete the program.

Bilingual Bank Teller Curriculum: With the generous support of Wells Fargo, NCLR runs a training program with seven Affiliates that prepares Latino millennials to become bilingual bank tellers. This program opens the door to a career in the financial sector for Latinos age 18–32 who complete an eight-week training course and offers help for students trying to secure job interviews at local banks. Just in its first year, the program had more than 200 students.

Our investment is changing lives and strengthening the workforce. We’re thrilled to hear from students such as Abril, a young mother hired by a public service credit union just one week after she completed our financial training program. Abril worked in her family’s bakery after graduating from high school but wanted to pursue full-time employment in a growing industry where she could use her bilingual skills. In the financial services training program, she honed her gift for sales, learned service recovery techniques, participated in a job shadow, and connected with employers eager to hire driven Latino millennials. Abril is delighted to start a career that will allow her to provide greater financial stability for her family.

This Labor Day, NCLR salutes the Latinos whose hard work and dedication to education are making a difference in their families’ lives and our nation’s economy.

2016 Workforce Development Forum Wrap-Up


On May 4, NCLR and some of the top business minds in the country convened the annual NCLR Workforce Development Forum in Las Vegas. The goal of the Forum was to help educate attendees on coming demographic shifts in the American workforce and their implications for the economy, as well as to provide best practices in integrating new American workers into the workforce. Attendees, stakeholders, experts, and corporate representatives spent two days discussing how employers and their employees can most effectively work together to create an efficient and conscientious workforce.

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The Role of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Preparing New Citizens

Labor Day Banner Photo 5_woman airplane maintenance

In 2014, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to modernize adult education and workforce training. For many years, these two areas had been treated separately in federal policymaking and adults with limited English proficiency were frequently stuck in English classes for years before they could advance to developing any skills. Recognizing this disconnect, WIOA borrowed models from many community groups, including NCLR Affiliates, that combined English as a second language and job training into one program. However, many immigrants want to learn English for reasons other than to find a job, including like becoming a U.S. citizen. Both WIOA and proposed rules from the Department of Education—the agency responsible for regulating adult learning programs—make clear that funding must support workforce outcomes and cannot be used for other adult learning needs.

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As we commemorate Labor Day—a look at Latino millennials in the workforce

By Karla Bachmann, Program Manager, Workforce Development

Latino millennials are an increasingly important part of the American workforce. In the first quarter of 2015, according to Pew Research, there were 53.5 million millennials in the labor force, and more than 20% were Latino. That percentage is expected to grow exponentially.

Mi Casa Bank Teller Training

Mi Casa Bank Teller Training

While we have seen a marked increase in high school and college graduation rates among Hispanic youth, both important determinants of future employment, millennial Latinos continue to be underemployed—which affects their perception of future economic stability and prosperity. According to recent surveys, while young Latinos agree that the economy has improved, many are concerned about the weak labor market and career mobility opportunities.

Those fears are based on real numbers: Latinos between 17–20 years of age who have a high school diploma have an underemployment rate of 41.9%, while those between 21–24 years of age with a bachelor’s degree have a 16.3% underemployment rate. Many of these individuals are either employed in part-time jobs, unemployed, or have given up looking for work. Individuals who lack post-secondary education end up in low-skill, low-wage jobs that pay at or near minimum-wage levels. Many individuals work two or three jobs to support their families and have little opportunity to enter into jobs that promise upward mobility.

Mi Casa Bank Teller Training 2Programs like those that NCLR and its Affiliate organizations offer, in partnership with corporations looking for a trained workforce, are critical in helping to bridge the employment gap. One of those programs is a bank teller training developed with the financial support of Wells Fargo, piloted with three NCLR Affiliates: Association House of Chicago; El Barrio, in Cleveland; and Youth Development, Inc. in Albuquerque. The training prepares Latino youth for jobs in the banking and financial sector that lead to financial and career advancement. By providing Latino youth with meaningful vocational training that builds on their existing skills, NCLR and its Affiliates can help Latino youth be more gainfully employed and on a career pathway to economic advancement. NCLR projects that by exposing Latino youth to careers in the financial sector, they and their families are more likely to be financially literate, less prone to use predatory financial products, and engaged in asset building.

The future of America’s workforce is clearly tied to the success of Latino millennials, and today, as we commemorate Labor Day, we highlight the important work being done and the work ahead to ensure that this critical sector of America’s labor force is set on a path to success.