ESLARP East St. Louis Action Research Project
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Building Orpportunities

Chapter Five

General Recommendations

Relevant Themes from Recent Studies
Lessons from Recent Studies
Local Issues and Feedback
General Recommendations for Resource Use

This chapter will address the ways in which employability can be improved, and job training opportunities can be most effectively provided, for East St. Louis residents. It will begin with a synopsis of the issues raised in recent studies, and the recommendations these authors have made. A review of the relevant economic and social factors affecting these issues in East St. Louis, as well as the themes and suggestions generated in interviews, will then be presented. All of these sources have been discussed in detail in Chapters Two and Three. At the conclusion of the chapter, general recommendations for policy directions and strategies with regard to employability issues and job training resources in East St. Louis will be outlined.

Relevant Themes from Recent Studies

Jim Florio, the former Governor of New Jersey, wrote eloquently about the need for more active improvement of employment prospects in an article published in 1996, entitled "Partnership Needed to Improve Workers' Skills." He wrote:

"…only by reacting forcefully to previous problems did we move ahead. When prospects for the American workforce seemed especially bleak in the past, federal, state, and local governments took action. They followed through with ambitious efforts and the necessary resources to educate and train more people: the G.I. Bill for veterans returning from World War II; increased investment in elementary and secondary schools (a near tripling from 1952 to 1970, in inflation-adjusted dollars); publicly subsidized grants and loans to expand college enrollment by more than 125 percent between 1964 and 1980. Those investments yielded big dividends for Americans, as individuals and as a nation. It is time to get equally serious about giving American workers the skills they need for a changing economy."1

This quotation reflects the growing awareness and concern voiced about these issues of late. Many scholars have recently undertaken studies on the topics of employability and job training, and their findings and recommendations are briefly outlined here.


In studies of employability, cited and described in more detail in Chapter Two, the following concerns were identified as factors affecting the job prospects of low-income and minority community residents, in general:

Job Training

In research on job training, cited and described in more detail in Chapter Three, the following issues were identified as factors affecting low-income and minority community residents, in general:

A few recent publications have outlined specific barriers to employability and to the effectiveness of training provision, that follow from the general study findings mentioned above. They are summarized as follows:

"A serious employment policy… must include two components. It must strive to provide a quality public education and effective job-training programs, but it must also recognize that educational initiatives can be effective only within a narrow range of opportunities, and beyond this it must seek to address the structural limits to employment that confine the bulk of the city's poor to a future of limited options…. Segmentation of the labor force along racist lines is functional in holding down labor costs, as is the maintenance of a population of workers whose educational and employment options leave them no choice but to accept low-wage jobs"2

Lessons from Recent Studies

A quick look at the lessons learned in the Harry Holzer study cited in Chapter Two, as well as some other sources, is warranted. The following "policy implications" are distilled down from his study on the job prospects of less-educated workers (emphasis added):

In a 1996 paper Hal Wolman considered an idea similar to the final "policy implication" mentioned above, surmising that because there "simply are not enough low-skilled jobs out there…. Any strategy to move large numbers of welfare recipients to employment will require some demand side response such as wage subsidies to private employers or creation of community service jobs…. In some areas even this strategy will have to be buttressed by improvement in local support services."6

William Julius Wilson, in his 1996 book 'When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor," mentions a study touting the idea of direct public sector job creation, including jobs in "infrastructure maintenance." He notes, however, that such construction-related jobs are unlikely to go to the very low-skilled. Instead, government-subsidized minimum-wage jobs such as public park playground assistants are mentioned in a second cited study. Yet a third study mentioned advocates a large-scale Works Progress Administration (WPA) model, similar to the job creation program advanced in 1935 by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.7

Two recent publications that deal comprehensively with issues of community revitalization, and in so doing speak to the issues of employability and job training, are also worth noting here. They reiterate many of the ideas mentioned above, in the context of larger concerns about the overall viability of low-income communities. Diane Suchman, in "Revitalizing Low-Income Neighborhoods", published by the Urban Land Institute, includes the following recommendations regarding economic development and job training (emphasis added):

Robin Garr, in her 1995 book "Reinvesting in America", records grassroots efforts that are dealing with issues of food, housing, education, health, political power, job skills and work in struggling communities. She then compiles a list of lessons learned, which are listed below (emphasis added):

In short, these varied writings seem to focus on similar basic ideas: create jobs, enhance skills, improve accessibility and supports, build local solutions based on strengths, and ensure that the public and private sector work together.

Local Issues and Feedback

Local data was collected, and local feedback generated, on the conditions and challenges facing East St. Louis in particular. Those findings, described in detail in Chapters Two and Three, are briefly reiterated here.


In East St. Louis, several unique conditions have exacerbated the issue of low employability. They are as follows:

The interviews and surveys conducted opened with a discussion of the issue of employability, and generated the following feedback:

Job Training

In brief, the current situation regarding local job training for East St. Louis residents is as follows:

The interviews and surveys conducted progressed to asking about the issue of job training, and generated the following feedback:

General Recommendations for Resource Use

Based both on the feedback gained in interviews, and the information contained in the studies cited, the following general recommendations for local and regional improvements in employability and training provision are made.

To improve employability for East St. Louis residents, the following is recommended:

To improve job training for East St. Louis residents, the following is recommended:

The important subtext in all of these recommendations is the need to involve more parties in designing solutions, committing time and funds to improvements, and taking on responsibility for outcomes. Piecemeal efforts will not have the same effect as coordinated efforts. As Percy Harris of the Enterprise Community put it, East St. Louis residents need to "help themselves" before outside businesses will begin to come back to town. He is interested in pursuing the idea of encouraging home-based businesses, and in involving private sector credit sources. Enterprise Community funds can also be used for training costs, day care, and other such expenditures. Working in cooperation with other concerned entities, these resources can have a very positive effect in the community. No one organization or person will be able to implement the necessary changes alone. As a result, this chapter concludes with one overall recommendation, under which the others fall:


1. Florio, Jim. "Partnership Needed to Improve Workers' Skills". CUPReport. Winter 1996. page 2.

2. Lafer, Gordon. "Minority Unemployment, Labor Market Segmentation, and the Failure of Job-Training policy in New York". Urban Affairs Quarterly. Vol. 28, No. 2, December 1992. pages 213 and 227.

3. Pavetti, LaDonna, Amy-Ellen Duke. "Increasing Participation in Work and Work-Related Activities: Lessons from Five State Welfare Reform Demonstration Projects". (

4. Wolman, Hal. "Welfare to Work: The Need to Take Place Differences into Account". Technical Analysis Paper No. 45. (

5. Holzer, Harry J.. "What Employers Want: Job Prospects for Less-Educated Workers". pages 129-133.

6. Wolman, Hal. "Welfare to Work: The Need to Take Place Differences into Account". Technical Analysis Paper No. 45. (

7. Wilson, William Julius. "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor". pages 226-230.

8. Suchman, Diane R.. "Revitalizing Low-Income Neighborhoods: Recommendations from ULI Advisory Services Panels". The Urban Land Institute. pages 32-36.

9. Garr, Robin. "Reinvesting in America: The Grassroots Movements That Are Feeding the Hungry, Housing the Homeless, and Putting Americans Back to Work". pages 231-238.

Document author : Diane Gormery-Barnes
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Last modified: May 21, 1997

Chapter 5

East St. Louis Action Research Project
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