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New “Bridges to Career Opportunities" addresses crippling education gaps

April 12, 2016 Two local nonprofits have been awarded $300,000 to implement workforce readiness projects to help close the skills gap that traps millions of people in poverty, even in a growing economy.

"I really want to do this program because I want to make a better future for myself and my kids.  I'm learning a lot from my classes and my teachers," said Paulette Arnold.  Paulette, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Navy National Guard, is enrolled in Bridges to Career Opportunity through the IRC to gain the skills for union-based-apprenticeship programs.  Paulette currently works as an in-home caregiver and attends classes 25 hours a week.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee on Anti-Poverty of San Diego County (MAAC) received grants from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to implement the Bridges to Career Opportunity program. Job training programs have long-existed to help low-wage workers build the skills needed to advance in the workforce, but many workers lack the reading, math, and English skills necessary to enroll in training.

Bridges to Career Opportunity helps San Diegans like Paulette build core skills, such as math and English language skills, through work-based learning. This will prepare them for job training programs in career pathways that lead to higher paying jobs. Participants will receive additional one-on-one coaching to develop soft skills and financial coaching to help build savings, assets, and credit. The IRC will focus on healthcare, hospitality, telecommunications, and building trades career pathways, while MAAC will support construction and energy efficiency pathways.

“It’s clear that many hardworking families continue to struggle – despite a willingness and spirit to work. They have fallen through the cracks of our educational system and aren’t able to read, write or manage numbers well enough to move up the economic ladder,” said Edward Lopez, executive director with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s San Diego program (LISC San Diego). “This program is proving that we can address the low literacy and numeracy skills and do something about that.”

This effort is part of a $11.3 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC is a national nonprofit focused on supporting community development initiatives in cities and rural communities. It has offices in 30 cities, including San Diego. LISC made 32 Bridges to Career Opportunities grants to nonprofit organizations in 10 different cities.

“This funding from LISC allows us to do more innovative work,” noted David Murphy, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego. “We’re able to offer flexible training that meets the needs of adults who are balancing family, work, and educational responsibilities.”

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Bridges to Career Opportunities initiative,” said Arnulfo Manriquez, President and CEO of MAAC. “We’ll be part of a national effort to address the skills gap and move thousands of families out of poverty.”

The awards totaled $300,000 in San Diego in 2016, with the option of renewed funding in 2017 and 2018.  Since 2010, LISC has awarded approximately $2M in SIF grants to San Diego nonprofits.


About LISC

LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, combines corporate, government and philanthropic resources to help nonprofit community development corporations revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Since 1991, LISC San Diego has invested $212 million to support and rebuild communities throughout the region. These investments leveraged another $843 million to build and rehab nearly 6,000 homes affordable homes and one million square feet of commercial, retail and community space in low-income neighborhoods. For more, visit


About the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping restore health, safety, education, economic well-being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In San Diego, the IRC provides a wide range of social, economic, and educational programs to assist refugees become self-reliant as they make San Diego their new home.  For more, visit


About MAAC

MAAC is one of San Diego’s most distinguished and comprehensive multipurpose nonprofit organizations. It serves San Diego County families through Head Start/Early Head Start, nutritional programs, low-income home weatherization and improvement, two notably and culturally specific recovery homes, award winning affordable housing complexes and a charter high school.  For more, visit