In 1976, Hennepin County asked RESOURCE (then called Multi Resource Centers or MRC) to run a pilot employment project for suburban Hennepin County residents recovering from chemical dependency. That project – called Project EARN – was the seed from which Employment Action Center developed. Later that year, RESOURCE was awarded a second contract to provide services to unemployed residents of western suburban Hennepin County.
Under the Displaced Homemakers Act, EAC established a one-year Women In Transition pilot project in 1979 to provide services to a new group of participants – women who lacked recent paid work experience. From this program, EAC developed a comprehensive set of eight customized women’s employment programs serving women on AFDC, low-income working mothers, professional women, and others.
In 1982, this small but solid core of employment services was renamed Employment Action Center (EAC). Throughout the 80s and 90s, EAC responded to community needs by adding new programs and services. For instance, Women In Transition staff identified women on welfare as a population needing specialized services, and WINGS was created to meet their needs. Later, Suburban Pathways was developed specifically to serve suburban women on welfare. Women Achieving New Directions was developed to meet the needs of working, low-income mothers. These programs were later grouped together to become EAC’s Women’s Programs.
In 1983, EAC began working with a newly named group of people – “dislocated workers.” In the beginning, this was thought of as a temporary need, but as large layoffs continued during the 80s and 90s, serving dislocated workers became an important part of EAC. EAC developed expertise in almost all industries and occupations. “Downsizing” and “rightsizing” became a permanent part of the American economy. Today EAC’s Dislocated Worker Division serves thousands of laid off workers throughout the Twin Cities.
EAC’s success in providing employment services led to the development of services specifically to help youth reach their educational and employment goals. In 1986, the City of Minneapolis began funding EAC’s Minneapolis youth program. EAC’s expertise developed into our Youth and Young Parents Division, serving at-risk middle school youth, high school drop-outs, youth involved in the correctional system, and teen and young parents.
In 1988, EAC established the SKILLS program because staff observed that most adult basic education programs were not coordinated with employment services. The SKILLS program integrates educational and vocational services in a way that reinforces both. EAC’s employment programs for low-income adult jobseekers in Minneapolis and St. Paul have seen a steady increase in the number of immigrants and refugees needing services. As a result, EAC’s Adult Division has developed employment services to meet the needs of a broad range of jobseekers.
In 1994, EAC participated in a demonstration project known as the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), which was part of the State of Minnesota’s welfare reform efforts. EAC has been at the forefront of designing innovative and effective approaches to helping welfare recipients enter the workforce. Today EAC’s Welfare to Work Division is one of the largest providers of welfare to work services in the state, serving residents of Hennepin, Ramsey, and Dakota counties.
Despite – and because of – the political, social, cultural, economic and demographic trends our society has experienced over the past 32+ years, Employment Action Center has experienced steady growth in programs and staff.
Some of the issues that EAC will continue to address in the next few years are assisting longterm welfare recipients, serving immigrants and refugees, coping with the shortage of affordable housing, and dealing with the effects of the downturn in the economy.
Never in its history has EAC had the luxury of complacently providing services in the same old way. Political change, social change, cultural change, economic change, and demographic change have continually challenged EAC staff and kept EAC vital and responsive to community needs. This requires continuous creative action on the part of all EAC staff. After all, “Action” is our middle name.
Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minnesota