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“A tight labor market is a terrible thing to waste” was the title of a Boston Globe op-ed written by Boston Foundation President and CEO Paul S. Grogan over a year ago. But on March 7, at a forum held at the Boston Foundation, it was referred to so many times that it became a kind of clarion call for a radical change to workforce development practices. If not now, when? If not in Boston, with one of the tightest labor markets in America, where?
Enter The Catapult Papers. This series of four essays set out to build an airtight case for the kinds of organizations—which the authors dub “Next Gen Workforce Development”—that are needed to expand opportunity for low-income individuals while simultaneously creating competitive advantages for businesses in need of workers.
“When employers invest in people, employees feel a sense of ownership,” said Janice Urbanik, senior director for innovation and strategy at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “It becomes a virtuous circle.” She went on to imagine what Boston might look like in the future if it became the first city in America to achieve the new vision for workforce development. “Think about the ripple effect to neighborhoods and communities. It would drive economic stability, better neighborhoods, better schools, access to healthy food and healthy families. Ultimately, it could lead to true inclusive prosperity.”
Marybeth Campbell, Executive Director of SkillWorks, led a lively and substantive panel discussion with employers and workforce development experts. “When Jerry Rubin approached us about The Catapult Papers,” she said, “his ideas aligned perfectly with what the Foundation and SkillWorks had been thinking.”
“We know—and the Foundation knows—that right now we have an economy that is booming in Boston while, at the same time, inequality is getting worse and worse.”
-Jerry Rubin, JVS Boston
The discussion evolved to a focus on the importance of wraparound services, such as counseling and health care referrals, a theme that continued when audience members were invited to asked questions. “We have to find ways of rewarding organizations that are aligning their approach to workforce development with the issues we’ve discussed here today,” said Advoqt Technology Group’s Reinier Moquete.
That was the perfect segue to news Campbell shared at the end of the panel discussion: She announced the official launch of a new initiative called “Project Catapult,” which will invest in the exponential growth of Greater Boston’s most effective, market-driven training and education organizations. “Project Catapult will provide leadership for the sector by serving as a learning lab and creating a network of organizations working in partnership with businesses,” she explained. “The goal will be to leverage our region’s potential for building and sustaining the workforce system we need.”
“Catapult is coming at the right time,” said Abby Marquand, Vice President of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. who closed the forum. “I agree with Jerry Rubin when he says that it’s time to ‘be bold and go big!’