Employment and Jobs

Promoting Equity and Living-Wage Jobs To Revitalize Newark

July 21, 2022  • Economic Opportunities Program & Della Walker Jr.

Della Walker Jr., Chief Operating Officer & EVP of Programs, Newark Alliance

Photo of Della Walker

“Job quality means creating positions for all workers that offer living wages, benefits, wraparound services, flexible work options within corporations that value the worker’s voice, and creating working environments that are safe and supportive,” says Della Walker Jr., Chief Operating Officer and EVP of Programs at Newark Alliance. Newark Alliance was founded in 1999 to create and lead an economic development agenda to revitalize Newark and ensure the success of local residents and businesses in that revitalization.

The organization’s vision is to revolutionize the city into an in-demand place to work, live, learn, play and do business. Organizational leaders believe marrying economic development and workforce development efforts is key to doing so. “Economic Development is at the core of the organization’s work. The Hire Newark Initiative is the nexus of its workforce engagement work. We collaborate with employers and the public workforce system to identify and prepare a high-quality, high-demand labor force,” says Della. The initiative’s mission is to create local equity by connecting Newark residents to meaningful, living wage, full-time employment opportunities within local corporations and anchor institutions.

Strategies to Promote Inclusive Economic Development

The Newark 2020 Initiative and Newark Anchor Collaborative, initiatives of the Newark Alliance, bring together private and public organizations committed to creating a fair and just approach to economic development. Members include colleges and universities, energy and airlines, museums and arts institutions, health care facilities, and insurance firms. The collective work is self-described as “action-oriented and transformative,” developing and leading initiatives to promote equitable and inclusive growth.

Newark Alliance has developed strategies and efforts to hire local, buy local, and live local through the Hire Buy Live Newark framework. The hiring component focuses largely on Hire Newark and the local funders’ collaborative work to prepare the local workforce for in-demand jobs within local corporations. The buy local strategy matches small businesses’ supplies and services to the purchasing needs of small and large companies in the collaborative. The live local strategy provides workers with financial incentives to rent or renovate their homes within designated areas within Newark that are seen as critical to the region’s growth.

The Newark Alliance has also put racial equity at the center of its work. Members of the Newark Anchor Collaborative developed a Signature Initiative on Racial Equity. The initiative is designed to enhance racial equity policies and practices within member corporations and externally across the region.

Hire Newark helps provide a qualified and ready workforce to local business and employer partners. Before joining the Newark Alliance, Della worked in the Mayor’s Office of Employment, so she is an experienced workforce professional. The Hire Newark program initiative has a talent pool of workers who receive professional development and coaching services. Businesses in Newark’s health care, manufacturing, arts, transportation, distribution, and logistics industries rely on the talent pool for recruitment. Della also manages and facilitates the Alliance’s Human Resources Roundtable, where she drives discussions and strategies about equitable hiring with local business partners; job quality arises in those conversations too. “For the past five years, I have focused on moving entry wage positions to living wage salaries with opportunities for career growth,” says Della.

Della convenes the Greater Newark Workforce Funders Collaborative and CareerWorks, another Newark Alliance initiative. CareerWorks focuses on building partnerships between companies and training, educational, and workforce organizations to ensure workers have the skills to meet the needs of businesses. According to Della, “The Alliance has designed innovative solutions that encourage more residents to pursue and persist through career pathways leading to promising employment opportunities. We work with employers to create pathways to living and high-wage careers, address workforce problems across five respective industries, and advance racial equity and inclusion within the corporation.”

Through all of this combined work, the initiative placed over 3,000 residents in living-wage jobs between 2017 and 2020. Della has a passion for ensuring the workforce of the corporations and businesses in Newark reflects the communities they serve. According to Della, “The initiative also opened the door for many residents to find quality and sustaining roles within large corporations in the city, which was once not imaginable for many Newark residents.”

Job quality issues have come to the forefront during the pandemic. Della says, “The importance of job quality was heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline workers were the first to be laid off and the last to be provided with the support needed to protect them and their families.” As the initiative looks to the short-term and long-term future, they hope to improve job quality in hospitality, hospitals, and long-term care facilities by raising wages and diversifying the workforce in union jobs at the ports and in construction. She believes collaboration will be important. “Successful private-public partnerships are critical to the success of job quality programs,” Della stated.


Promoting Equity and Living-Wage Jobs To Revitalize Newark: A Profile of #JobQuality Fellow @DellaWalkerJr, COO & EVP of Programs @NewarkAlliance_.

The mission of @NewarkAlliance_’s Hire Newark Initiative (led by #JobQuality Fellow @DellaWalkerJr) is to connect residents to meaningful, living-wage, full-time employment in local corporations and anchor institutions.

As COO and EVP of Programs at @NewarkAlliance_, #JobQuality Fellow @DellaWalkerJr marries economic and workforce development, connecting residents and employers to build a thriving community. Read more in this profile by @AspenJobQuality.

“#JobQuality means… living wages, benefits, wraparound services, flexible work options within corporations that value the worker’s voice, and creating working environments that are safe and supportive.” -@DellaWalkerJr @NewarkAlliance_

“Frontline workers were the first to be laid off and the last to be provided with the support needed to protect them and their families,” says @DellaWalkerJr. Now @NewarkAlliance_ is working to improve #jobquality in hospitality and healthcare.

Learn more

Della Walker Jr. is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Job Quality Fellowship, Class of 2022-23. The Job Quality Fellowship is convened by the Economic Opportunities Program.

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.

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