The Year That Trauma Became Universal

Sweeping technological change. Demographic shifts. Deeply entrenched inequality. These are the social conditions we highlighted in Race and the Work of the Future, published back in November, as requiring a new social contract for workers.

Photo by Mayan Sachan on Unsplash

Today, I would add to that list an epidemic of individual and collective trauma.

An invisible virus, police violence and a racial reckoning, a highly divisive national election and its aftermath. We’ve all experienced a year or more of trauma. We can’t say that trauma is an experience of someone else less fortunate. Bottom line: the last 14 months have made trauma universal.

Even the idea returning to “normal” can provoke feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. The fact is, the effects of all this trauma show up in the workplace. In order for workers to succeed, the essential workers who have been showing up throughout the pandemic and the white collar workers who have been working (and may continue to work) from home, and those returning to an office, we need to address trauma.

In some of our partner communities, employers and community organizations—including workforce entities—are beginning to bring trauma-informed approaches to workforce development. We have captured some of their work, along with an introduction to trauma concepts and approaches, in our newest guide. This is exciting and critical work for us. There is much to do and much to understand, and I know we will learn from each other as we advance this important area of practice.

Our director of worker success, Janell Thomas, is leading this work. She has already been asked to present to employers and collaboratives in our network, and over the coming months we’ll be shining a light on this issue and exploring what’s in the guide across our network.


Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions