What 2020 Taught Us

If there is one lesson that we learned in 2020, it is that we need one another. We depend on essential workers who pick, process, and sell our food, who treat our illnesses, who provide public transportation and safety. We depend on our families and friends for comfort and human interaction — a need made all the more palpable when we can’t be with them in the usual ways. And we depend on strangers in all aspects of our lives. The simple act of wearing a mask has become a powerful symbol of how much we rely on each other.

About this time last year, I was a candidate to lead the National Fund for Workforce Solutions — and increasingly eager for the opportunity. Joining this network, even in a year like 2020, has been a true joy and privilege. I knew this even in my very first weeks on the job, which just happened to coincide with the start of the pandemic. I saw firsthand (virtually, of course) how this network of smart, experienced, passionate leaders and practitioners leapt into action and came together to share and learn and problem solve in a crisis.

Our staff members have been impacted directly and indirectly by the coronavirus—illness, loss, isolation, and challenging remote working environments. They’ve dealt with hurricanes and wildfires and life milestones celebrated in lockdown. Through it all, they’ve shown grace and compassion and humor.

Yet even so, as we look back on the crazy year that was 2020, the National Fund has accomplished so much.

We gave funding to more than a third of our partner communities; we documented our network’s diverse approach to co-investment; and, we launched the second CareerSTAT healthcare workforce development academy (at first in person, and now online).

We released a host of tools and resources for practitioners and employers to make jobs better, from learning reports to a competency model to an incredibly popular financial wellness guide. And just last month we leveraged our many years of experience with sector strategies to launch a toolkit for those looking to start and grow industry partnerships.

Among the work I am most proud of is the progress we have made to put racial equity and inclusion at the center of our work. The cracks in our pre-COVID economy were real, and they impacted people of color the most. We explore them in our latest report, Race and the Work of the Future: Advancing Workforce Equity in the United States.

We must redesign our future around equity, around good, family-supporting jobs, and around a true commitment to the well-being and inherent dignity of all workers.

We have a tough road ahead, but we are finding ways to support each other and to support workers, businesses, and communities in 2021 and beyond. We are leveraging the knowledge and creativity of our network to make things better for people who are hurting. If we lean on one another, I believe we will get through this stronger and more resilient.

Have a wonderful holiday and see you next year!



Our 2020 Highlight Reel


Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions