By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
The director of a West Oakland-based youth job training and educational development program says that the mismanagement of Oakland’s job training money goes far beyond the amounts previously reported in
the press, and has caused her program to cut its staff and important services to at-risk Oakland youth by more than half in the past several years.
Over the past two weeks, the Oakland Post has reported that the City of Oakland sent back $600,000 in federal job training for laid-off workers because the city failed to spend the money for two years.
But La Tronda Lumpkins, founder and executive director of Pivotal Point Youth Services, says that her organization has been forced into severe program and staff cutbacks because of long delays by the city-run Workforce Investment Board (WIB) in issuing contracts.
“Some of the larger contracting agencies have the operating money to absorb the delays in funding from WIB,” Lumpkins said. “We don’t.” According to the WIB description on the City of Oakland website, Pivotal Point provides “intensive training, education, case management and other supportive services to high risk, underserved youth between 16-24 years of age.” Between 70-80 percent of Pivotal Point’s $400,000 annual budget comes from its WIB contract.
Under the terms of previous WIB contracts, Pivotal Point must provide job training and educational counseling programs for youth participants, but does not receive any City of Oakland money until program participants secure an outside job for at least three months, or enroll in college.
In addition, Lumpkins says that for at least the last two years, WIB has been six months late or more in issuing contracts to Pivotal Point and other participating agencies. While the 2012-13 WIB contract should have been issued last April so that it could go into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, Lumpkins said that she has yet to receive a contract.
As a result of several years of such delays, Lumpkins said, her agency has been forced to scale down from 8 full time workers to 3-who have gone without pay for the past half-year-and has dropped from a high of 800 youth participants served per year to 350 this year.
Currently operating out of a recreation center-style building on the corner of Adeline and 14th Street, behind Lowell Park, there is no doubt of the value of Pivotal Point’s services.
On Wednesday afternoon, Pivotal Point staff members conducted a one-hour orientation for 8 McClymonds students-7 girls and one boywho are entering the agency’s program.
Support Services Worker Roxanne Hanna-Ware sounded more like a knowing and sympathetic older sister than a city worker in leading the youth through a series of questions and answers about health problems and stress indicators for urban youth and people of color, from homicide to sexual abuse to HIV-AIDS to mental disorders to diabetes and heart disease.
Hanna-Ware listed off a long series of services that will be available to the program participants: a three- day job readiness workshop where they will learn to fill out job applications and resumés and excel in job interviews; a 12 week entrepreneurship training including an apprenticeship in Pivotal Point’s own business, natural skin and hair care product producer and retail sales Mahogany Roots; and job referrals to a variety of local businesses.
All that could be gone, according to Pivotal Point director Lumpkins, if the problems with WIB funding are not settled soon.