The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) has awarded an $11.3 million grant to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC, a national community development nonprofit, will use the grant to grow a successful program that offers job training and financial coaching to those in poverty.

The program, “Bridges to Career Opportunities” was piloted in Chicago and Indianapolis. However, it’s now available in Detroit, Houston, the Twin Cities, and San Diego. Bridges to Career Opportunities focuses on improving people’s education and skills to help them achieve a better-paying job.

The program teaches core skills like math, reading, and English as a second language, along with so-called “soft-skills” like interviewing and workplace skills like teamwork and conflict resolution. These lessons are contextualized to specific industries to sectors to make them as relevant as possible.

With the SIF grant, LISC will be able to expand its program’s reach to at least 10 cities and regions. This is good news, because Bridges to Career Opportunities has the potential to help millions of people sharpen their skills.

About 36 million U.S. adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills. Sixty-two million adults, or 30 percent of the population, have low numeracy skills. These people lack the basic education required to be successful in many jobs.

Among unemployed workers, these numbers are even higher. Twenty-three percent of unemployed adults have low literacy skills, and 42 percent have low numeracy skills.

“One of the biggest challenges facing people living in poverty who are struggling to find employment is a lack of education and skills—and that creates a mismatch with available jobs,” said Kevin Jordan, LISC senior vice president of national programs, who praised the government for honing in on this persistent challenge. “Even among those with a high school education, many still lack skills beyond the level of middle school. We’ve found a way to help close this gap—and we are seeing it bear fruit, helping people to gain knowledge and confidence, and find better-paying jobs.”

With the support of an earlier $21 million SIF grant, the LISC established an approach to help stabilize low-income families in 2010. The organization now has over 75 Financial Opportunity Centers around the country that help low-income individuals find jobs and stabilize their finances. The LISC’s strong track record makes the awarding of this second grant particularly exciting.

“We are thrilled to award the Local Initiatives Support Corporation this Social Innovation Fund grant that will provide those in poverty an opportunity to obtain the education and skills needed to secure employment opportunities with higher earning potentials,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers the Social Innovation Fund. “I am proud that CNCS is supporting this project, which will take an inventive approach to one of today’s most pressing issues. I extend my congratulations and gratitude to the private-sector partners that have joined them in making a commitment to help more people become financially secure and employed.”

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