This article is part of an America 360 series on Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS — When Tracie Roberts was laid off from her job at Target in 2009, she walked around the Mall of America every day for five weeks looking for work. Roberts, who's tall and soft-spoken, had worked at the Minneapolis store for 13 years as a team leader — sort of like a floor manager. She was told she was overqualified to work as a cashier. And yet without a four-year degree, she couldn't get a job in retail management. She was in her mid-40s, and she was stuck.
Twin Cities RISE!, a job training nonprofit, helps people who've fallen out of the job market climb back in. Participants range from casualties of the recession to people who face much bigger challenges, such as a history of drug abuse or incarceration. The program costs $5,000 per participant per year, and it can take more than seven months to complete. But it works. In fact, Minnesota was paying TCR for saving taxpayers money before such pay-for-success contracts were commonplace.
The key to TCR's success is its personal empowerment training. "Empowerment" can sound like mumbo-jumbo to some participants at first. At a class last week, Quinten Osgood — Roberts's old empowerment instructor — reviewed the basics with a new group. "It's all about the thought process. It's all about perception. How we think or feel," he said. And later: "It's about helping you look inside yourself for solutions." The class filled out work sheets and called out answers. They sat in foldout chairs, arrayed in a circle.