Last month in Dallas, we gathered about 375 workforce professionals, funders, employers, and workers for our biennial convening, The Time is Now: Building An Economy that Works for Everyone.
We chose our convening’s theme because, despite 10 years of economic recovery and record low unemployment, America’s economy is not working for everyone.
As many as 50 million American households don’t have the necessary income to support a family. A disproportionate number of these households are headed by people of color. At the same time, economists talk about yearly wage gains of 3% as “substantial progress.” If you make $12 an hour, a 3% wage increase comes out to 36 cents more per hour. Is that substantial? And a recent study pointed out that no one making minimum wage can afford rental housing in any community in the United States.
This is not an economy that works for everyone.
Yet across the National Fund’s more than 30 communities, jobs openings are plentiful and employers bemoan a lack of skilled workers to fill them. But too many jobs are not good jobs. And for those looking for a good job or hoping to gain new skills and move up to a better job, there are too many barriers: insufficient public transportation, no affordable child care, too few opportunities for skills and training, too few apprenticeships, too much discrimination.
Now is the time to remove these barriers.
With jobs plentiful, we have an opportunity to bring new workers into this economy. To invest in people and help the current workforce become more skilled and more productive. To pay a decent wage, provide a safe place to work, and foster a culture where workers’ contributions matter, because a good job is a competitive advantage.
With this great economic recovery, with business profits strong, with inflation in check, now is the time to build an economy that works for everyone.
These are the conditions that demand a new set of strategic priorities for this country and for this organization. We have spent the last year developing a new direction for the National Fund. A new set of strategic priorities that leverages our 12 years of experience, impact, and learning.
Our vision guides us. An equitable future where workers, employers, and communities are thriving and prosperous.
Our mission is clear. To collaborate with workers, employers, and communities to advance a skilled workforce, promote good jobs, and invest in equitable outcomes.
Our core values drive us.
- Collaboration and partnership
- The power of the network
- Racial equity and Inclusion
- Systems thinking
- Innovation and continuous learning
Our strategic priorities are straight forward and aggressive.
Strengthen Network Capacity to Drive Impact, Locally and Nationally.
Why? Because we believe in the power of this network to improve local systems and outcomes, and we commit to investing in it.
Support Worker Success and Facilitate Increased Worker Engagement.
Why? Because we believe in developing workers with skills that are needed now and adaptable to the future, and that workers are an essential partner in creating value.
Cultivate More Employers of Choice and Promote Good Jobs.
Why? Because employers are our partners in making jobs better, and those who do set an example for others.
Promote Racial Equity and Inclusion in Workforce Outcomes
Why? Because inequities destroy individual spirit and harm families and communities. We must address the root cause of these disparities and end them once and for all.
Build a Rigorous Evaluation and Continuous Learning Culture.
Why? Because in order to achieve our mission, we must measure the impact of our solutions so we are always learning and improving.
These form the foundation of our new direction. We are in the process of building on that foundation into a full five-year plan with specific objectives, timelines, and measures.
We cannot advance these priorities without the support and investment of everyone in our network:
- Local and national funders
- Local workforce investment boards
- Community colleges
- Training providers
- Community-based organizations
- Economic development organizations
- City, county, and state government
All of these partners are working together to move these strategic priorities ahead.
Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.