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									                                                                                      November 2008




Experience and Evidence

The National Fund for Workforce                        An important seed for the National Fund was
Solutions is a five-year, $30 million effort to        planted in 1995 with The Annie E. Casey
strengthen and expand high-impact workforce            Foundation’s Jobs Initiative. The Casey
development initiatives around the country.            Foundation invested in workforce
The National Fund is a joint investment by             intermediary organizations in six communities
leading national foundations, corporations,            to help disadvantaged adults work their way
and the U.S. Department of Labor.                      out of poverty. Workforce intermediaries are
                                                       new, sector-based operational partnerships
Four major principles—based on a decade of
                                                       engaging employers and other key
research and program experiences—drive the
                                                       stakeholders to support the career-
National Fund and the work of its
                                                       advancement needs of lower-skilled workers
partnerships:
                                                       and the workforce skill needs of employers.
   Building regional funding                          The Jobs Initiative helped thousands of adults
    collaboratives that align vision, strategies,      start creating better lives for themselves and
    and resources toward regional prosperity;          their families. From a handful of workforce
                                                       intermediaries in the early 1990s, this
   Organizing efforts around key industry             approach has been used by more than 200
    sectors using a dual-customer approach             organizations in 39 states as of just a few years
    that serves the needs of both employers            ago (Giloth 2004).
    and workers through workforce
    partnerships;                                      The 1998 Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
                                                       also moved in this direction by emphasizing
   Building career pathways that provide              stronger employer involvement in workforce
    career advancement opportunities for               development and an increased focus on
    lower-skilled workers and job seekers              collaboration through workforce investment
    through workforce partnerships; and                boards. However, the workforce partnership
   Facilitating alignment across programs             or intermediary approach goes beyond both
    and systems involved in workforce                  the Jobs Initiative and WIA, differing from
    development in the region.                         the traditional approach to workforce
                                                       development in a number of substantial ways,
                                                       as summarized in the table below:

            Traditional Approach To
                                                         Workforce Partnership/Intermediary
            Workforce Development
Focus on increasing worker skills and job placement   Focus on solving problems faced by workers and
                                                      businesses
Transactional                                         Relational
Works within existing funding systems and business    Works to change funding systems and business
practices                                             practices
Sharp boundaries around fixed organizational roles    Flexible partnerships to solve problems and
and practices                                         enhance value
Short-term focus                                      Long-term orientation
Experience and Evidence                                       National Fund for Workforce Solutions




The National Fund model is also shaped by             continue to grow and gain momentum, and
an innovative approach to workforce                   many more communities have expressed
development for the urban poor that also              interest in the National Fund approach.
emerged in the early 1990s: the sector
                                                      Evidence
strategies model. With funding from the Ford
and Charles Stewart Mott foundations, the             The strategies of the National Fund for
Aspen Institute and Mt. Auburn Associates             Workforce Solutions derive from strong
assessed the potential of sector strategies,          evidence that workforce partnerships or
associated with economic development, as a            intermediaries and sectoral approaches work.
tool for helping the urban poor participate in        For example, the Jobs Initiative produced
a competitive economy and alleviating urban           impressive results during its 10 years of
poverty (Siegal and Kwass 1995). These                operation. Between 1995 and 2005, it enrolled
strategies have spread from a handful of              more than 17,000 people and helped them to
organizations adopting it in the 1990s to more        participate effectively in their local workforce.
than 200 organizations targeting                      Forty percent were single parents, and almost
approximately 20 industries in a survey last          20 percent did not speak English as their
year (Conway 2007).                                   primary language. The median annual income
                                                      of those with any work history was just $6,000
In the early part of this decade, The Boston
                                                      at the time of enrollment, and close to half
Foundation led a new effort based upon the
                                                      received public assistance.
Jobs Initiative’s approach to workforce
partnerships or intermediaries, deepening the         Despite the many challenges the target
sectoral focus and adding another piece to the        populations faced, the Jobs Initiative placed
model: the regional funding collaborative. In         8,090 individuals in jobs, with a mean
2002, The Boston Foundation convened                  placement wage of $9.13 per hour and a mean
several local funders to examine local                retention wage of $9.84. For participants
workforce challenges and innovative                   placed through the initiative, employer-
solutions. When the funders realized that their       provided health insurance coverage rose from
investments in the Boston workforce                   50 percent to 93 percent. Participants who
development system exceeded those of the              gained jobs increased the number of hours
federal government, they felt empowered to            worked per week and the number of weeks
try bold solutions. In 2003, they launched            employed per year. In addition, most were still
SkillWorks, a five-year initiative to invest in       working 18 months after enrollment
sector-based workforce intermediaries.                (Fleischer 2003). The key lessons learned
SkillWorks was led by a collaborative of              from the Jobs Initiative summarized here
public and private funders, including the             point directly to the principles underlying the
Ford, Annie E. Casey, Rockefeller, and other          National Fund:
local foundations, as well as the City of
                                                         Communities must enlist key stakeholders
Boston and State of Massachusetts.
                                                          with the commitment and power to make
In the following years, five other regional               changes—public officials, philanthropists,
funding collaboratives formed Investing in                union officials, educators, workforce
Workforce Intermediaries, a six-site pilot that           development, business and community
led directly to the National Fund for                     leaders.
Workforce Solutions in 2007. The National
Fund aims to expand the SkillWorks model to              Key funders or other mission-oriented
30 communities nationwide. Individual                     organizations must be active leaders and
workforce intermediaries and sectoral models              articulate a set of principles, such as the


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Experience and Evidence                                       National Fund for Workforce Solutions


    commitment to advance low-wage                   vacation time, paid sick leave, and pension
    workers to economic self-sufficiency.            plans also rose.
   Funders must invest in workforce                 Perhaps of most importance, participants
    intermediaries that have strong                  were more optimistic about their job
    connections to the community,                    prospects and had more confidence in
    community organizations, and                     themselves to achieve their education and
    employers—and workforce intermediaries           career goals due to the program. This growth
    must identify and organize employers with        set them on a path to future prosperity
    good jobs for the target population.             beyond the program. (The participants in the
                                                     sectoral programs were similarly disadvantaged to those
   Workforce intermediaries should design           in the Jobs Initiative. Although most had some work
    effective models for career advancement          experience and a high school diploma or GED, they
    that are targeted and customized for             had low hourly earnings and income, and had
    entry-level workers, and these models            experienced multiple periods of employment.)
    must include a comprehensive set of
    income enhancements, financial literacy,         Participating businesses also benefited in the
    asset building services, career management       sectoral programs, especially in their ability to
    assistance, and social and work supports.        find and retain qualified workers, and in the
                                                     quality of their existing workforces. The
   Cultural competence is critical—having a         Aspen Institute study found that improved
    deep understanding of employers,                 retention saved one participating hospital
    workforce providers, and workers.                $40,000. Another sector program outside the
   The strategy must be data-driven.                Aspen study also has documented employer
                                                     benefits: in the Extended Care Career Ladder
   Programs, policies, and strategies must be       Initiative (ECCLI) in Massachusetts,
    linked to economic development dollars           participating employers experienced decreases
    and opportunities (Giloth 2004).                 in persistent job vacancies from 11.4 percent
Similarly, sectoral strategies have provided         in 2001 to 1.4 percent in 2003, a 33-percent
evidence of success. Two studies of large            lower rate than for the non-ECCLI employer
sectoral programs—one by Aspen Institute             comparison group at a time of high demand
and one by Public/Private Ventures—                  for long-term care workers. ECCLI employers
document successful outcomes for workers             also reported cost savings of about $47,000
and their employers two years after training         per year per facility as a result of the decrease
(Conway 2007). Participants earned higher            in turnover (Commonwealth Corp., 2008).
incomes—from an annual median of $8,580              The SkillWorks model of a regional funding
to $17,732 in the Aspen Institute study, and         collaborative supporting sector-based
from $10,486 to $18,875 in the P/PV study.           workforce partnerships or intermediaries is
Participants worked more consistently—year-          also showing promise, along with similar
round employment jumped from 23 percent              efforts in other cities. In the first four years of
to 66 percent in the Aspen Institute study,          the initiative, the six workforce partnerships
and 22 percent to 61 percent in the P/PV             supported by the SkillWorks funder
study. Participants also gained higher-quality       collaborative served 2,819 participants—both
jobs. For example, access to employer-               unemployed and incumbent workers. Eighty-
provided health insurance jumped from                eight percent of the unemployed participants
approximately 50 percent to just under 80            graduated from pre-employment training
percent two years after training in both             programs, and 76 percent were placed in jobs.
studies. Access to benefits such as paid             Employed participants earned an average of


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Experience and Evidence                                                       National Fund for Workforce Solutions


almost $4 per hour more than pre-enrollment                         joint labor-management training fund to
wages.                                                              support future education and training
                                                                    opportunities for workers, based on the
SkillWorks has also helped many participants
                                                                    success of the SkillWorks-funded workforce
make progress along a career or education
                                                                    partnership model. Service providers
pathway: 24 have graduated from college; 133
                                                                    benefitted as well, improving their overall
have received industry-recognized credentials;
                                                                    awareness of workforce issues and employer
and 80 have completed sector-specific
                                                                    needs, and learning how to link adult
training. According to the evaluation report,
                                                                    education more intentionally with workforce
“[F]or each of these participants, new
                                                                    development (Griffen 2008).
opportunities have been created because of
their accomplishments and the work                                  Continuous Learning
facilitated by SkillWorks” (Minzner, et al
                                                                    The funders in the National Fund for
2008).
                                                                    Workforce Solutions have sought to bring an
Finally, SkillWorks has made important                              idea that has evolved and shown promise to
changes in employer and the workforce                               national scale. The funders are investing in a
development systems. Some participating                             long-term evaluation of their own effort in
employers have refined their internal                               order to test its effectiveness, learn from
approach to training and staff development,                         experience, improve upon the model, and
adopting release-time policies for training and                     share lessons with the field. Especially in these
improving connections to external training                          trying economic times, we need new
resources for entry-level workers. A major                          approaches to workforce and economic
health care employer incorporated many of                           development. We believe that workers,
the service models developed through the                            employers, and regions that adopt the
SkillWorks-funded workforce partnership into                        National Fund approach are more likely to
its corporate human resources budget. In                            prosper.
another partnership, the union secured a new




Bibliography
Commonwealth Corporation. 2008. http://www.commcorp.org/eccli/outcomes.html.
Conway, Maureen. 2007. Sector Strategies in Brief. Washington. D.C.: Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute.
November.
Fleischer, Wendy. 2003. Education Policy and the AECF Jobs Initiative. Jobs Initiative Policy Brief #3. Baltimore, MD: Annie
E. Casey Foundation.
Giloth, Robert P., ed. 2004. Workforce Intermediaries for the Twenty-First Century. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Giloth, Robert P. 2004a. “Workforce Development for Working Families: A Solution in Search of Civic Commitment.”
NFG Reports. Issue Three, Volume Eleven: Summer.
Griffen, Sarah. Forthcoming. “Sustaining the Promise: Realizing the Potential of Workforce Intermediaries and Sector
Projects.” Boston, MA: National Fund for Workforce Solutions and Boston Health Care Research and Training
Institute.
Minzner, Amy, Beth Siegel, Devon Winey, Gen Schneider, and Josh Cox. 2008. SkillWorks Initiative, Evaluation Report—
Year 4. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates with Mt. Auburn Associates. June.
Siegel, Beth and Peter Kwall. 1995. Jobs and the Urban Poor: Publicly Initiated Sectoral Strategies. Cambridge, MA: Mt. Auburn
Associates. November.

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