The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant economic shocks to workers and employers. More than two in five adults reported that their families suffered a job or income loss because of the economic impact of COVID-19—losses which have disproportionately affected Black and Latinx adults and have led to greater challenges in meeting basic needs like rent. Employers, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors, have also been hit hard, and local workforce systems are still adapting to the pandemic landscape.

Although the causes of the 2007 Great Recession are very different from the current recession, the US is at risk of another inequitable recovery. Workers suffering the greatest economic harm in both economic crises have been low-wage workers, people with lower education levels, and people of color (PDF), who are most likely to be clustered in low-wage jobs because of occupational segregation. Applying a racial and economic equity lens (PDF) is crucial for workforce development programs that want to help reduce racial disparities during the pandemic recovery.

At the US Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference in December, hosted by the Urban Institute, national experts and local practitioners shared how the workforce development field is responding to new challenges and opportunities and what practices and lessons have worked in their communities. These lessons can help community-based organizations and other stakeholders consider new strategies and partnerships to alleviate the effects of the pandemic and ensure an equitable economic recovery.

Place-based approaches tailor programs to the needs and strengths of a specific community and location, and they aim to address the structural and systemic barriers preventing students and their families from achieving financial security.

Strengthening and building cross-sector partnerships, which leverage the ongoing work of community organizations and school districts, can allow regional employers or industries to plug place-based approaches into their workforce development programs.

Read the full article about place-based workforce development strategies by Sonia Torres Rodríguez at Urban Institute.