Investing in America's Workforce

The National Fund joins Federal Reserve Banks on Quality Jobs Initiative

On October 31, 2018, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston hosted “Raising the Floor: Strategies That Make Jobs Work for All,” an event to mark the release of a new book on investing in America’s workforce. The event, which was held in Providence, Rhode Island, welcomed more than 150 financiers, community development specialists, community college administrators, and workforce practitioners from across New England to release the national Federal Reserve’s new, three-volume work, Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers.

The Providence gathering was a signature event for the Boston Fed’s new, five-year “Quality Jobs Initiative.” This program is designed to improve the quality of jobs in the New England region through targeted research, policy analysis, and partnering directly with employers, investors, and public policymakers.

The second volume of the new book contains two articles from the National Fund. The first, “National Fund Employer Profiles of Job Quality,” I co-authored with Karen Kahn. In it, we shine a light on two exemplary employers in the National Fund’s network—Universal Woods of Louisville, Kentucky, and Optimax Systems of Ontario, New York—both of which are experiencing the business benefits of investing in their people with a strong quality jobs strategy. I also authored “Now or Never: Heeding the Call of Labor Market Demand.” In this chapter, I call for “next generation” workforce intermediaries to take full advantage of our economy’s historically tight labor market.

I had the pleasure of moderating the closing plenary, which showcased the work of two of these “next generation” workforce intermediaries: JVS Boston, a grantee of the National Fund’s Boston affiliate SkillWorks, and Civic Works, a grantee of the Fund’s affiliate, the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative.

In describing JVS-Boston and Civic Works as pioneering the “next generation” of workforce intermediaries, I note that these two organizations go beyond the traditional role of supporting jobseekers in their local communities to build strong business relations with local and regional employers. JVS Boston and Civic Works not only provide well-trained candidates from diverse labor pools, they also help employers re-design their jobs in ways that are good for workers and for business operations—more employee-focused scheduling, re-thinking supervisory roles, or increasing wage and benefit packages.

Every day, Jerry Rubin, president and CEO of JVS Boston, and Eli Allen, program director at Civic Works, are proving that they can fulfill their traditional mission to their jobseeker constituents, while simultaneously meeting the needs of their employer customers. They are in fact so effective in serving their customers that—unlike most other workforce intermediaries—they are able to charge their business partners a fee for their services, meaning, employers don’t just appreciate their services; they value those services.

The National Fund’s participation in the Providence event is just one of several ways in which the Fund is working closely with the Federal Reserve across the country to promote workforce development and job quality. In February 2018, National Fund’s president and CEO, Fred Dedrick, led a national Federal Reserve webinar on “How Employers Create Good Jobs to Maintain Their Competitive Advantage.” On November 9 in New York City, Fred represented the Fund at the official launch of the full three-volume book, Investing in America’s Workforce.

Working with employers to invest in job quality is an integral part of the National Fund’s strategy to help people succeed in good jobs and build more prosperous communities. Partnering with the Federal Reserve’s workforce initiatives across the country is an important means to further that work.

Steve Dawson

-- Senior Advisor, National Fund for Workforce Solutions