By Casey Murray | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Sacramento City Council approved a $15 million plan focused on skills development and job training, particularly for youth, in underserved areas. Kriztina Palone, outgoing workforce development manager for the City of Sacramento, said the city will focus intently on providing job training for youth in its most at-risk areas. Louis Bryant III, OBSERVER

The Sacramento City Council earlier this month approved a new $15 million plan focused on skills development and job training, particularly for youth, in underserved areas.

The money combines state and federal grants that seek to address economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted Black people.

“Our city leadership just saw a great opportunity to take some of that federal funding and really, strategically develop and implement workforce programming for both parents and young people to address the major economic disparities that arose during the pandemic,” said Kriztina Palone, outgoing workforce development manager for the city (Palone’s last day with the city is July 21). “But also some of the long-term systemic economic disparities that have been going on well before the pandemic.”

In March 2021, unemployment hit its peak at just over 12% for Black people and 7% for White people, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning economics think tank. But Black people in Sacramento and nationally have experienced a higher unemployment rate than their White counterparts for years.

With this new funding, the city hopes partly to help adults retrain and access higher-paying jobs with more opportunities for advancement, and partly get youth thinking about those jobs and gaining the skills to get them earlier on.

Of the $15 million, $7 million will go to providing opportunities for young people to work in public service and the nonprofit sector, $5 million to career exposure, life skills, training and paid internships for teens, and $2.75 million to retraining for adults, the city said.

The funding also will help the city address gaps that became apparent in earlier job development efforts.

Palone said the city will focus intently on accessing youth in its most at-risk areas and work to bring the information straight to families who need it.

“Education and skill development is absolutely number one,” Palone said. “Number two is [making programs] easily accessible — so, ensuring that these programs are embedded in our neighborhoods and communities in a way that our marginalized families aren’t having to struggle to access these resources and services.”

Palone said those the programs will attempt to engage include youth out of the foster care system, who have been incarcerated, are immigrants, or experiencing homelessness.

Dwayne Crenshaw, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, which focuses on developing employment and social justice efforts, spoke in support of the funding measures.

“There’s a lot of great concern, of course, with rising crime and gun violence and other violence,” he said. “We really need to affect social change and change the conditions in neighborhoods that perhaps lead folks to pursue less than opportune activities,” he said.

Dwayne Crenshaw, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, supports the City’s funding. Courtesy photo 

Crenshaw said he supports the newest measures for several reasons, among them that it expands the age range of “youth” who can utilize the programs and focuses heavily on paid opportunities, which he said will allow some of those who need it most to take part.

“We strongly support it and we will be aggressively pursuing opportunities to bring dollars into the Black community and other historically marginalized communities,” he said.

Crenshaw said the Urban League will apply to receive funding as part of the measure now that it has passed. He’ll be joined by other community partners in various industries.

Palone drew attention to a handful of sectors in Sacramento that are projected to have the highest growth in the coming years. The funding will partly target skills and internships in these industries.

The top five industries were health care, business and finance, transportation and warehousing, information technology and math, and hospitality.

“Many of our employers in our region are struggling to find quality workers, skilled workers, and so the city’s Workforce Development Initiative is really going to help address that labor need for employers and we’re going to advertise it as much as we possibly can,” Palone said.

However, Palone also said none of the funding will matter without community support.

“We really need all of the community, all of business, industry, neighborhood leaders, workforce leaders – we need all the stakeholders and all the partners to help us really make this all happen and be successful,” she said. “This is a heavy, heavy lift, and it takes a lot of collaboration and support.”

The city will soon hear proposals from organizations that wish to receive funding to be a part of the new economic effort, but has not yet set a specific timeline for when that will occur.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Casey Murray is a Report For America Corp Member and a Data Reporter for The Sacramento Observer.