Year-End Message from Amanda Cage

‘Tis the season for reflection. This is my second year-end message as CEO of the National Fund, and I am again struck by what a strange time it has been to take the helm of a national organization. My first day on the job was March 3, 2020, on the eve of an unprecedented global shutdown in response to the pandemic. While I know that many of us are feeling tired and overwhelmed, and wrestling with the uncertainty of a new COVID variant and another surge, I am grateful to have had the opportunity recently to go on a site visit to our partner in Wichita, PACES. I came away feeling inspired, energized, and recommitted to our mission and the important work that we are doing.

We recently published our 2021 highlights. In a year of challenges and changes, I am similarly inspired and proud of the ways in which we are meeting the moment and leading the conversation around creating good jobs, engaging workers, and building an inclusive economy. When I think about this, I think about how we started and ended the year, and how that points the way toward where we are going.

In January we released our Advancing Workforce Equity reports. Rich in data and ideas for how to move forward, these blueprints have been the foundation for important conversations about centering racial equity in workforce development. The blueprints also illustrate why it’s so important to deeply disaggregate labor market data. What is true for the Asian American and Pacific Islander population in Seattle is not what is true for the Latinx population in Dallas or the Black population in Boston. When we default to “people of color” we erase these differences and limit opportunities to reduce racial disparities.

Addressing workforce equity means tackling big, complex problems—and that requires a systems thinking mindset. In October we launched a new toolbox to equip practitioners and other community stakeholders with the foundational principles, tools, and resources to cultivate this mindset and achieve greater impact.

As the year came to an end, we have seen additional ways that racial equity and inclusion guides our work. The National Fund’s Job Design Framework, the cornerstone of our approach to job quality, has been updated to include a frame of racial equity. You can’t design a quality job without considering equity at the start. We also added a fourth pillar of job design — worker voice — in combination with releasing our definition of worker voice. Workers thrive in jobs where they are empowered, engaged, and have agency. Equity and voice must be part of the job quality strategy.

I am excited about this trajectory and where this work will take us in 2022 and beyond. Across our network, we have seen action in the face of uncertainty, innovation in response to changing conditions, and agile shifting between crisis response and long-term systems thinking. Thank you for meeting us in this moment and coming along for the ride.

Finally, I want to send you and yours my very best wishes for a safe and restful holiday.

Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions