Social Innovation Fund Grantee Connects Low-Skill Workers with High-Wage Jobs

By Keisha Kersey

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speaking to a man at a meeting between the Secretary and the grantee.

Program helps job seekers gain valuable on-the-job skills and assists employers in obtaining a skilled workforce. 

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS) is a national network of regional funder collaboratives dedicated to enabling workers and job seekers to advance in family-sustaining careers while assisting employers to obtain skilled workers they need to compete. The National Fund believes that developing employer-led industry partnerships yield significantly better career outcomes for low-skill, low-wage workers than traditional workforce development efforts.

Industry sector specific partnerships provide critical intelligence about in-demand skills, competencies and technology, thereby enabling education and training providers to deliver better qualified applicants. In this way incumbent workers and job-seekers are better prepared to take advantage of career pathways that support family sustaining employment.

The National Fund was organized in 2007 by a group of national foundations and is based at Jobs for the Future, its implementation partner. Through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), the Corporation for National and Community Service is expanding the reach and impact of the National Fund, benefiting both workers and employers. 

Innovation

The National Fund – a dynamic partnership of communities, employers, workers, and philanthropies – has gained national recognition in its efforts to develop a pipeline of skilled workers to meet the needs of key businesses by setting a foundation in which both jobseekers and employers equally benefit. A win-win situation is established when employers lead and participate in the creation of demand-driven training and credentialing programs to meet their hiring needs.  Low-wage workers acquire the education, training, and credentials needed to secure access to family-supporting careers.

By helping employers address skill gaps and gain a competitive edge while promoting improvements to business practices and public policies, the National Fund is creating better career opportunities for our nation’s workers and job seekers and generating positive impact in the 30 communities it serves across the country.

Evidence

The National Fund has been building evidence to support the idea that by better understanding the needs of businesses, job seekers can tailor their education and training towards meeting the requirements of potential employers and achieve better results.

The National Fund evaluation is based on a quasi-experimental design to demonstrate that job-seekers engaged with fund-affiliated industry partnerships have better employment and earnings outcomes than those using other approaches

Scale

Through 21 partnerships with local healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and other key businesses, the Jobs for the Future / National Fund SIF initiative is scaling what works by selecting regional collaboratives based upon their ability to expand.  In addition, the SIF grant enables JFF/National Fund to support the establishment of regional collaboratives in new locations.

To date, NFWS has 14 “scale-up” sites and seven “start-up” sites, in which it intends to advance the careers of at least 30,000 workers while also addressing the critical skill needs of more than 1,000 employers. NFWS is in the process of adding another three sites.

Transforming Lives and Strengthening Communities

BTI Program Lab Associates getting tuition free training in basic lab skills.

Candace Ingram is one example of the transforming impact of this program. Candace attended the Bio-Technical Institute (BTI) Laboratory Associates Program. The program provides tuition-free training in basic laboratory skills to job seekers in Maryland. Candace received specialized education and training in the science field which prepared her for a career in the biotechnology, construction, and healthcare industry. 

When Candace initially applied to the BTI program, she first had to advance her math skills, reading proficiency, and knowledge of the bioscience sector through a 12-week bridge training program. After completing the training program, Candace excelled in her daily classroom instruction and hands-on training as a lab technician. Today, Candace is a full-time Lab Technician at The John Hopkins School of Medicine. Her salary alone is 63 percent greater than her highest past wage. 

For Candace and thousands like her, the Social Innovation Fund had made a powerful difference - helping her gain skills and training to get a job that can sustain her family.  

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