Marano Fellows Class of 2014
Name: May Xiong

Director, Employment Training Programs


Project for Pride in Living, Inc.

Location: Minneapolis, MN
Industry Sector: Healthcare

Organizational Background & Mission: Project for Pride in Living, Inc. (PPL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering low-income people to become self-reliant through integrated services. Our mission: PPL works with lower-income individuals and families to achieve greater self-sufficiency through housing, employment training, support services, and education. PPL began as an affordable housing developer in 1972, and has since become a robust multi-service agency that today serves more than 14,000 low-income people annually. PPL has had significant organizational transformations throughout our history. Response to community need is the root of these evolutions.

  • 1980s: With housing as the bedrock, it soon became clear that low-income families needed more training and support to ensure self-sufficiency. In response, PPL launches job training and the Self-Sufficiency Program.
  • 1990s: Driven by residents, PPL invests in education and begins youth services to build a foundation for lifelong success.
  • 2000s: The philosophy of integrated services takes hold across PPL, embracing that our best response is a holistic approach to help people achieve self-reliance. A 2008 merger transforms our youth education efforts, adding a preschool and two high schools.
  • 2010s: PPL grows again via mergers, bolstering services for people impacted by homelessness.

As PPL looks to the future, we see new challenges, but we also see possibilities that have the potential to be another transformative moment in PPL’s history.

Interest in Sector Work: PPL shares the concern and the recognition of the negative impact that the past years has had on low-income people seeking employment. We continue to witness the repercussions for those with the least work experience, lowest educational attainment, and greatest number of barriers to employment. These significant obstacles to employment and job sustainment have caused profound economic distress for many of the low-income individuals and families that we serve, jeopardizing housing and family stability, and their overall quality of life. In response we are active in modifying programs and services, leveraging partners and new funding opportunities, and maximizing the expertise of talented volunteers.

For nearly three decades, PPL has offered highly successful, widely recognized employment programs that have helped many low-income residents on the path toward self-sufficiency. Throughout this time, the organization has responded nimbly to changes in the community, the job market, and shifts in technology, and steadily increased the resources available to help participants achieve economic stability.

Today, the problem of unemployment among our participants is perhaps more severe than in any other point in the history of PPL. The current economic climate has significantly increased the number of persons seeking our services. It has also revealed an even greater chasm between job opportunities and disadvantaged populations. PPL seeks to improve economic stability for low-income jobseekers through:

  • Innovative living wage job training programs in high-growth employment sectors. Innovative living wage job training programs in high-growth employment sectors.
  • Programs designed to meet job-training needs of disadvantaged populations with significant barriers to employment.
  • Programs that result in a mobile credential, utilizing post-secondary instruction when possible.
  • Holistic wrap around services that address the structural causes behind economic inequity.

With the help of the Sector Skills Academy, May hopes to:

  1. Gain new ways of supporting workforce development in creating a systemic change to ensure that this is not a one-time process – Sustainability both in financing and longevity of sector trainings from a macro level.
  2. Learn from evaluations and analysis – Are sector trainings working and how does this change the future of partnerships between CBOs, employers and educational institutions?
  3. Learn from similar organizations that are focused on sector skills and trainings as well as sharing of best practices- specifically with business development of employer partners and creating a career ladder for incumbent employees who are underemployed

Learnings from the Sector Skills Academy will strengthen and help create new partnerships, deepen the shifting focus to meet the needs of new employment opportunities, and increase support services integration, all in an effort to help low-income individuals and families achieve economic stability and ultimately, eliminate the economic disparity that exists.