Dreams of jobs training hit reality; Atlanta vows it won’t surrender

David Pendered

Less than 10 percent of those who applied for a job-training program initiated by Falcons team owner Arthur Blank passed the drug test required for acceptance to the program, according to Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory L. Young, Jr.

Less than 10 percent of residents who reside near the future Falcons stadium could pass tests to gain admission to a program to help them get construction jobs. Credit: newstadium.atlantafalcons.com

Less than 10 percent of residents who reside near the future Falcons stadium could pass tests to gain admission to a program to help them get construction jobs. Credit: newstadium.atlantafalcons.com

Young cited the figure to illustrate the challenge of job training for individuals who have troubles past or present. Of 160 applicants, 18 were accepted, he said.

The issue of jobs-training is again becoming relevant in Atlanta, as the new Falcons stadium creates jobs and filmmaker Tyler Perry prepares to build and operate as many as 17 studios at the shuttered Fort McPherson.

In a related development, a new report suggests the reemergence of redlining in some of the very Atlanta neighborhoods that struggle with low household income and higher rates of unemployment. Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck’s report predicts some of these areas will take a “very long time” to recover value lost during the great recession.

Workforce training is a well-worn issue in urban affairs. It’s also an issue in which politics make it hard to do much of anything, because any one thing will never adequately address the scope of the condition.

Laying blame contributes to the issue’s complexity, Young said.

“Some would condemn this entire population – shame on them,” Young said during the Oct. 10 meeting of the council’s Community Development/Human Relations Committee.

Atlanta Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr.

Atlanta Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr.

“But they are our neighbors, and more often than not the neighborhoods that raised them, they stay there,” Young said. “They are less able to compete in a very competitive job market. I’m asking for your help to help a similar demographic as the people I serve.”

Evidently, shaming is a common community response for the applicants who failed to meet the requirements of Westside Works and other adult training programs. Westside Works is the brightest of lights in the stadium neighborhoods, as residents hope to benefit from Blank’s promise to help some of them get construction jobs.

Meanwhile, Atlanta is taking steps intended to help keep youngsters out of trouble, and to train adults for meaningful jobs.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with support from the Atlanta City Council, has re-opened recreation centers in a bid to give youngsters a constructive place to spend time. The centers address the notion of idle hands and the devil’s workshop.

At his second inauguration in January, Reed garnered a standing ovation when he said the city would help troubled individuals get back on track. Reed called it a human rights issue.

“If you put the gun down, we’ll put a book in your hands, a job in your hands; we’ll work to put a future back in your hands,” Reed said. “Prisoner reentry is not simply a criminal justice issue … or race – it’s a human rights issue.”

In August, Reed addressed the city’s long-troubled job training program by naming one of his top advisors to retool the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency.

Michael Sterling, who heads the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, said his focus is to improve the agency's administration so that it can better serve residents.

Michael Sterling, who heads the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, said his focus is to improve the agency’s administration so that it can better serve residents.

The agency’s management has drawn fire for years, and Reed acted amidst the crescendo of an internal audit, an ongoing federal criminal investigation, and an external review.

The pressure is on Michael Sterling, the new AWDA director, to be quick in providing results.

Civic leaders and councilmembers voiced hopes that the AWDA will fulfill the promise of federal funds that are provided to Atlanta to teach residents the skills needed to get and keep a meaningful job.

“Sir, you are our best hope; our next generation hangs on you,” said Tony Torrance, a community leader working to clean the Proctor Creek basin. “We appreciate you for revamping AWDA. We appreciate the new group trying to push the agency forward in a new direction because it’s going to take that, where this city is going is going to take that.”

Councilmember Joyce Sheperd called on Sterling to create training programs specifically for the film industry. Skills are unique to that industry, she said, and she requested a report within 90 days on steps AWDA has taken.

“I know it’s tough,” Sheperd said. “But as we roll out jobs in our community, we have to give them training.”

These individuals met the requirements to enter a Westside Works program and completed the coursework to earn their graduation earlier this year. File/Credit: Maria Saporta

These individuals met the requirements to enter a Westside Works program and completed the coursework to earn their graduation earlier this year. File/Credit: Maria Saporta

Councilmember Michael Julian Bond noted that the problems associated with skills shortages and fitness for work date back for generations. Failure to fix them now will be a mark on the legacy of public servants, he said.

“Something has to be done, in the city of Atlanta … about poverty that has existed in Atlanta for all my life, and I’m 48,” Bond said. “If it continues to persist, those of us who have given public service will not have done very much.”

But it was Young who struck the strongest notes.

“You help those people, and we get the others and we will give you everything you need,” Young said. “God has placed you here for a very unique purpose. You’re not carrying that by yourself.”

Sterling had come to the meeting prepared to present a quarterly update on changes he has made in AWDA. He had talked about initiating efforts to help individuals find jobs, to restructure the office staff, to recovering a state award that had been withdrawn.

Sterling’s concluded his remarks to the committee with these comments:

“We are developing a timeline, a project dashboard. After we finalize that project dashboard, I’ll be happy to share with members of the committee as well, and the entire city council.

“The first step is to get strong,” Sterling said.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

28 replies
  1. atlman says:

    “Less than 10 percent of those who applied for a job-training program initiated by Falcons team owner Arthur Blank passed the drug test required for acceptance to the program, according to Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory L. Young, Jr.”
    “Some would condemn this entire population – shame on them,” Young said during the Oct. 10 meeting of the council’s Community Development/Human Relations Committee. 

    All right, fair enough. We will condemn “more than 90% of them”. Whatever it takes to get people to admit that there is a problem that cannot be blamed on “institutional racism”, “legacy of slavery”, lack of social welfare spending, etc. And no, legalizing drugs won’t fix this. Drug laws aren’t the only ones that get broken, and there is also a wide gulf between merely not being a criminal and having the initiative, discipline and motivation required to get and hold a job, and still more to use the money earned on that job to build wealth. 
    Right now, we have the conviction that stereotyping is somehow a bigger problem than the massive, pervasive behavior that causes the stereotyping in the first place. That is Young’s mentality, and so long as the leaders of these areas have this mentality, then these areas will continue with the “less than 10%” statistic.Report

    Reply
  2. atlman says:

    “Less than 10 percent of those who applied for a job-training program initiated by Falcons team owner Arthur Blank passed the drug test required for acceptance to the program, according to Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory L. Young, Jr.”
    “Some would condemn this entire population – shame on them,” Young said during the Oct. 10 meeting of the council’s Community Development/Human Relations Committee. 

    All right, fair enough. We will condemn “more than 90% of them”. Whatever it takes to get people to admit that there is a problem that cannot be blamed on “institutional racism”, “legacy of slavery”, lack of social welfare spending, etc. And no, legalizing drugs won’t fix this. Drug laws aren’t the only ones that get broken, and there is also a wide gulf between merely not being a criminal and having the initiative, discipline and motivation required to get and hold a job, and still more to use the money earned on that job to build wealth. 
    Right now, we have the conviction that stereotyping is somehow a bigger problem than the massive, pervasive behavior that causes the stereotyping in the first place. That is Young’s mentality, and so long as the leaders of these areas have this mentality, then these areas will continue with the “less than 10%” statistic.Report

    Reply
  3. WMorg says:

    What happened to individual responsibility?  Ultimately, 90% of the potential program selectees decided that ingesting a narcotic was more important than obtaining a job training slot.  That has NOTHING to do with anyone other than that individual person.  If they want a job, THEY need to stop dabbling in controlled, read ILLEGAL, substances.  If they are not responsible enough to follow the law, how will they be responsible enough to perform well on a job?  It is NOT OUR problem!!!Report

    Reply
  4. WMorg says:

    What happened to individual responsibility?  Ultimately, 90% of the potential program selectees decided that ingesting a narcotic was more important than obtaining a job training slot.  That has NOTHING to do with anyone other than that individual person.  If they want a job, THEY need to stop dabbling in controlled, read ILLEGAL, substances.  If they are not responsible enough to follow the law, how will they be responsible enough to perform well on a job?  It is NOT OUR problem!!!Report

    Reply
  5. Latosha Arnold Washington says:

    SMH! Now who’s to blame for this exclusionary policy? You can’t complain about companies bringing in employees from outside the community when those in the community knew for some time they would be offering a job training program and of course one of the requirements would be drug testing.Report

    Reply
  6. Latosha Arnold Washington says:

    SMH! Now who’s to blame for this exclusionary policy? You can’t complain about companies bringing in employees from outside the community when those in the community knew for some time they would be offering a job training program and of course one of the requirements would be drug testing.Report

    Reply
  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    “Young cited the figure to illustrate the challenge of job training for individuals who have troubles past or present.”
    If you fail a drug test, you have present drug problems. So let’s be clear – 90% of those who applied were druggies, not troubled people.
    By 2025, futurists predict that one of every three of today’s jobs will be performed by robots or software. The jobs eliminated are the jobs these druggies want. What will they do then?Report

    Reply
  8. Burroughston Broch says:

    “Young cited the figure to illustrate the challenge of job training for individuals who have troubles past or present.”
    If you fail a drug test, you have present drug problems. So let’s be clear – 90% of those who applied were druggies, not troubled people.
    By 2025, futurists predict that one of every three of today’s jobs will be performed by robots or software. The jobs eliminated are the jobs these druggies want. What will they do then?Report

    Reply
  9. ricky1961 says:

    Where are the getting these people from? Under a bridge? There are agencies that have hundreds of people in there database from the zip code that they are hiring from that have passed the drug test that have been given the run around about these jobs. This is a poor excuse and is also a testament to why they need to work with other agencies and stop trying to “cut off the hand that feeds them.” Just because it is in black and white does not make it true.Report

    Reply
  10. ricky1961 says:

    Where are the getting these people from? Under a bridge? There are agencies that have hundreds of people in there database from the zip code that they are hiring from that have passed the drug test that have been given the run around about these jobs. This is a poor excuse and is also a testament to why they need to work with other agencies and stop trying to “cut off the hand that feeds them.” Just because it is in black and white does not make it true.Report

    Reply
  11. Burroughston Broch says:

    ricky1961 Like Deep Throat advised, “Follow the money.” 
    When you understand whose friend or relative makes an easy living working for the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and how some of the funds might get to the Mayor’s pocket, you will have your answer.Report

    Reply
  12. Burroughston Broch says:

    ricky1961 Like Deep Throat advised, “Follow the money.” 
    When you understand whose friend or relative makes an easy living working for the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, and how some of the funds might get to the Mayor’s pocket, you will have your answer.Report

    Reply
  13. jamalA says:

    ricky1961 I agree that’s a awful percentage out of 160. It reads like they never even funneled applicants through Workforce’s prep programs and why a total emphasis on base level entry jobs, they could have also pulled in applicants from the local community college or the training center over by Turner Field??Report

    Reply
  14. jamalA says:

    ricky1961 I agree that’s a awful percentage out of 160. It reads like they never even funneled applicants through Workforce’s prep programs and why a total emphasis on base level entry jobs, they could have also pulled in applicants from the local community college or the training center over by Turner Field??Report

    Reply
  15. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch ricky1961
    If folks like you were half as obsessed with the good ole boys’ lining their pockets as you are with the ATL politicians, then Georgia would not be floundering under the “leadership” of people like Sonny Perdue, Nathan Deal, and now Sonny Perdue’s cousin David.Report

    Reply
  16. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch ricky1961
    If folks like you were half as obsessed with the good ole boys’ lining their pockets as you are with the ATL politicians, then Georgia would not be floundering under the “leadership” of people like Sonny Perdue, Nathan Deal, and now Sonny Perdue’s cousin David.Report

    Reply
  17. Burroughston Broch says:

    @atlman You are deluded in thinking I have more influence than I have.
    I am no fan of Gov. Deal, but this post is about the City of Atlanta government, not the State. You’re just trying to divert the focus. Why not directly respond to what I posted?Report

    Reply
  18. Burroughston Broch says:

    @atlman You are deluded in thinking I have more influence than I have.
    I am no fan of Gov. Deal, but this post is about the City of Atlanta government, not the State. You’re just trying to divert the focus. Why not directly respond to what I posted?Report

    Reply
  19. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch
    1. We have no evidence that money from the city of Atlanta is going into Reed’s pocket, yet you make this wholly unsubstantiated claim repeatedly. Incidentally, what am I supposed to respond to? Your complete and lack of evidence?
    2. We do have evidence that our last governor, current governor and current U.S. Senate candidate did profit from the terms of office of Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal. 
    So, we have option 1 where there is no evidence to talk about. And option 2, where there is evidence to talk about and can be compared to 1.
    Which is better?Report

    Reply
  20. atlman says:

    Burroughston Broch
    1. We have no evidence that money from the city of Atlanta is going into Reed’s pocket, yet you make this wholly unsubstantiated claim repeatedly. Incidentally, what am I supposed to respond to? Your complete and lack of evidence?
    2. We do have evidence that our last governor, current governor and current U.S. Senate candidate did profit from the terms of office of Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal. 
    So, we have option 1 where there is no evidence to talk about. And option 2, where there is evidence to talk about and can be compared to 1.
    Which is better?Report

    Reply
  21. Burroughston Broch says:

    atlman 
    1. What other plausible reason have you for Reed’s sycophancy toward Arthur Blank? And don’t tell me it’s out of civic pride or love of the Falcons.$200+ million of taxpayer liability to support a billionaire while the City cannot afford to correct its $1 billion backlog of decayed infrastructure.
    2.This post concerns the City of Atlanta, not the State of Georgia. That’s a different subject. You keep trying to divert focus from Reed to anyone else. Stay on focus, please.
    What’s your motivation to defend Reed? What’s in it for you?Report

    Reply
  22. Burroughston Broch says:

    atlman 
    1. What other plausible reason have you for Reed’s sycophancy toward Arthur Blank? And don’t tell me it’s out of civic pride or love of the Falcons.$200+ million of taxpayer liability to support a billionaire while the City cannot afford to correct its $1 billion backlog of decayed infrastructure.
    2.This post concerns the City of Atlanta, not the State of Georgia. That’s a different subject. You keep trying to divert focus from Reed to anyone else. Stay on focus, please.
    What’s your motivation to defend Reed? What’s in it for you?Report

    Reply
  23. WMorg says:

    jamalA It is a jobs training program, so entry level is where they should start, or are you suggesting they should automatically be placed in a position, without training, of higher responsibility?Report

    Reply
  24. WMorg says:

    jamalA It is a jobs training program, so entry level is where they should start, or are you suggesting they should automatically be placed in a position, without training, of higher responsibility?Report

    Reply

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