Area Foundation Invests in SA’s Critical Workforce Needs

By Hernán Rozemberg

SAN ANTONIO — The City of San Antonio’s Ready to Work program is a great new tool meant to address growing workforce needs, primarily stemming from the lingering economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to boost local job-boosting efforts, the San Antonio Area Foundation is teaming up with the city and UP Partnership’s Future Ready program to support, compliment and address unfunded needs through its support from national philanthropic funder Blue Meridian Partners.

The Area Foundation received $2.1 million from Blue Meridian last year and already started putting it to good use through its Youth Leadership Development grants, focusing on youth-serving nonprofits. The second round of Blue Meridian grants have just been disbursed to eight local nonprofits particularly focused on addressing workforce development needs.

“As your local community foundation linking nonprofit organizations to resources and tools, we’re thrilled to offer this opportunity to help the community on critical workforce issues,” said Patricia Mejia, Vice President for Community Engagement and Impact at the Area Foundation. “Coming together with the City of San Antonio and UP Partnership provides a force multiplier leading to increased mobility and quality of life for many of our neighbors looking to help their families.”

These new Area Foundation grants are meant to focus on certain goals:

  • Increasing access to childcare.
  • Increasing access to and enrollment in college, in particular to “Dreamers” and youth focused on social justice causes.
  • Providing low-wage workers access to training/certifications/degrees meant to increase their income.

The new workforce development grants go for two years with each grantee receiving two different types of awards in the first year: One for up to $50,000 (amount depending on their annual budget) for general operating purposes and one for $25,000 to support capacity-building goals.

Second-year funding will include the general operating grant as well as a $12,500 capacity-building grant.

The 2022 Area Foundation Workforce Development Grant recipients are: AVANCE San Antonio, Alamo Academies, Greater: SATX/SA Worx, San Antonio Hope Center, Each One Teach One, COPS/Metro Alliance, Workforce Solutions Alamo and Alamo Colleges/St. Phillip’s College.

Here’s a look at how grantees plan to use their new funding:

AVANCE San Antonio: Strengthening Caminos al Futuro/Pathways to the Future Program offering parents access to education and training opportunities. 

“It is exciting to collaborate with the Foundation in this way,” said Elizabeth Eguia Robinson, AVANCE’s Chief Development and Communications Officer. “With the workforce development and capacity-building funds, AVANCE will be better able to meet the families’ needs in working toward economic mobility and self-sustaining futures for generations to come.”

Alamo Academies: Grow the program and provide more opportunities for students through training, internships, field trips, industry-based projects and professional development workshops as well as expand current partnerships. 

“The timing could not have been more perfect … we needed funding to help us grow our capacity and serve the needs of our students and community,” said Executive Director Katherine Sanchez-Rocha. “The grant will allow us to move forward and enhance the plans we had been working on.”

Greater: SATX/SA Worx: Address key organizational capacity growth areas such as programmatic impact, data collection and sharing, sustainability and scalability of programs. 

“Workforce development is complicated and multi-faceted, and it will take all of us to get it right,” said Chief Workforce Officer Romanita Matta-Barrera. “We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively – we owe it to our community and it’s the right thing to do.”

San Antonio Hope Center: Increase program capacity by improving the workforce training structure and services at its various locations. 

“It was an answer to a prayer as we seek to build capacity and scale our programming and services to equip and support San Antonio community members on their journey to economic mobility,” said Megan Legacy, Chief Executive Officer.

Each One Teach One: Ability to grow the program with a specific goal of increasing enrollment in the one-on-one tutoring program from 200 to 1,000 participants in five years. 

“This grant will help us realize our mission to improve the literacy skills and economic mobility of San Antonio’s adults to address issues created by systemic inequities,” said Deborah Siller-Cruz, Executive Director.

COPS/Metro Alliance: Opportunity to identify and bring on additional staff members particularly focused on workforce development.

“COPS/Metro believes this effort focusing on workforce development issues is important and necessary for our community because underemployment and low wages negatively affect the families of our institutions,” said Mike Phillips, Workforce Action Team leader. “We need our families to have the training for the skills necessary for high-wage jobs that come with benefits and a career path.”

Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA): Strengthen and grow its Workforce Academy program, which graduates community health workers, parent liaisons, nonprofit case managers and other frontline staff as “Workforce Ambassadors.”

“Workforce development is at a crucial crossroads after experiencing the worst economic crisis in nearly 100 years,” said Adrian Lopez, Chief Executive Officer. “These Ambassadors will expand WSA’s outreach and engagement efforts to educate low-income families of career pathways into industries and occupations that are high-wage, high-growth and high-demand.”

Alamo Colleges/St. Phillip’s College: Opportunity to improve the learning environment by enhancing the college’s Nurse Aide Program with additional new resources.

“This effort is so important to address the need for nurse aides in our community,” said Jessica Cooper, Dean of Academic Success, Health and Biosciences and Public Service. “It’s encouraging to see an opportunity that would benefit our community in such an impactful way.”

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the San Antonio Area Foundation awarded approximately $72 million in grants to more than 200 local nonprofits, saving many of them from potentially having to close their doors for good. 

The Area Foundation’s grantmaking effort is led by our Community Engagement and Impact (CEI) team – click here to learn more about its work toward making San Antonio a more equitable community in which one’s zip code does not determine opportunities to advance in life and career.

Hernán Rozemberg is the Director of Communications and Storytelling at the San Antonio Area Foundation.