As Labor Center researchers began their evaluation, they were intentional about approaching the assessment leveraging the center’s longstanding worker justice lens.
“We wanted to make sure that the evaluation wasn’t using the typical measures of success for workforce development, which are heavily focused on counting the number of job placements” said Lopez.
Instead, researchers adopted a qualitative approach that included a “theory of change framework” which facilitated a deeper analysis of each HRTP and a more holistic assessment of the long-term economic outcomes for workers.
“Equity was really important in our assessment because it’s not just about making sure that people have a job. It’s about who has access to quality jobs and whether the job provides appropriate support for workers to thrive and an opportunity for economic mobility,” said Gonzalez-Vasquez.
A High Road Training Partnership in Practice
Within the High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) model, intermediary organizations that convene workers, unions and employers serve as the glue that make collaboration possible.
Born out of the Justice for Janitors movement, Building Skills Partnership (BSP), is an example of such an organization. Since 2007, BSP has offered unionized janitors, members of SEIU-United Service Workers West, skills that support their development at work and improve their overall quality of life. As is evident in the organization’s 2020 report, BPS’s work is impactful by offering programs that address urgent immigrant worker needs such as English language attainment, citizenship and digital and financial literacy.
BSP’s approach is also versatile and responsive, a method that was put to the test in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic when cleaning companies grappled with keeping the public and janitorial staff members safe.
“The union and the employers came together and we worked with content experts to develop a program which evolved to become an infectious disease certification,” said BSP Executive Director Luis Sandoval.
The 12-hour program trained workers in “cleaning and disinfecting against deadly pathogens” and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), among other topics. Since the start of the pandemic, the program has successfully trained over 1000 workers.
Alma Bolaños, a Pasadena-area janitor who completed the infectious disease certification last spring, gets emotional as she remembers the uncertainty and fear of infection when very little was known about the transmission of the virus. Yet, she felt supported by BSP’s interventions at a time when she almost considered leaving her job to avoid infection.
“For us, the training was very important because [BSP] gave us the tools, the reassurance to continue working,” said Bolaños. “And then I even brought that knowledge back home to my family–I provided them with some peace of mind.”
Bolaños has also participated in a variety of BSP courses that have improved other aspects of her life. Over the years, she has enrolled in English, financial literacy and health and wellness classes.
“I opened up a bank account at a credit union, learned how to manage my money, and how to save,” added Bolaños enthusiastically. “I’ve also lost weight and even became a health ambassador…even my son has noticed that I cook differently, I now make more salads and we eat out less frequently.”
Bolaños’ experience reflects BSP’s mission and the HRTP overall goal of improving workers’ quality of life.
“Our partnership with SEIU-USWW represents the future of the labor movement that addresses broader worker needs,” said Sandoval. “We do one job training but that impacts what’s happening at the workplace and that impacts what’s happening at home and what’s happening at home impacts what’s happening in the community. It’s a ripple effect that gets multiplied.”