Limited math skills no longer a barrier to JumpStart
by Matt Stubbs
At the Job Opportunities Task Force we take a lot of pride in our JumpStart program, a construction training course designed to improve the skills and employability of Baltimoreans who lack the necessary abilities to land high-wage jobs. Each year dozens of residents graduate from the program, but we’ve recently realized there are significant numbers of people who are not afforded this opportunity because they lack basic math skills and cannot pass our screening exam.
JumpStart and JOTF were founded on a principle of providing access to workforce opportunities and we realized that keeping potentially great JumpStart students out of the program due to a poor math score does not align with that belief. In hopes of giving access to people who would otherwise be turned away from our classes, we created the Bridge program, a refresher math session. Bridge has helped 13 students graduate from JumpStart since we began offering the two-night class earlier this year. Another 10 students are currently going through the JumpStart training.
Once an applicant is invited to join the Bridge class, there is no guarantee that they will move on to the JumpStart classes. Only Bridge class graduates who have good attendance, express a strong work ethic, and demonstrate a real grasp of the math skills can continue on to JumpStart. So far, students have met that standard and exceeded our expectation for success. The graduation rate for Bridge students has reached 80 percent, paralleling our typical JumpStart completion rates. We also found that the 13 Bridge students who graduated passed a math test given by Associated Builders and Contractors at a rate equivalent to that of traditional JumpStart students. The success of these Bridge students leads us to believe that many of our applicants have the capacity to learn or re-learn important math concepts.
Continued success in the Bridge program could lay the groundwork for Baltimoreans to gain access to a variety of training opportunities beyond JumpStart, ultimately leading them to employment and a sustainable income. If the Bridge program continues to perform well it will send an important message to people who run training programs and prospective employers who will see that many talented applicants are being passed over simply because they do not remember basic elements of math. It is our hope that the Bridge and JumpStart relationship will be a model for other organizations and companies who are committed to bringing new employment opportunities to Baltimore.