What's this National Collaborative Doing to Enhance Workforce Development?

Since the Great Recession, a slew of new workforce development efforts have launched all across the country, but how much do the different programs know about each other, and how can proven strategies be effectively replicated?

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is on the case. This Boston-based fund is a group with a long list of big-name foundations working to improve career advancement for low-wage workers. By engaging employers in more than 30 communities across the U.S., the National Fund develops employer-led industry partnerships that guide educational and training investments. This is the kind of employer-employee matching that makes for strong, long-term employment prospects, and a more stable economy for the region.

Since 2007, the National Fund has been an organizing hub for workforce development, and it couldn't have come along at a better time. With the economic downturn of 2008, employment became not just a concern but a national crisis, and the National Fund was well-positioned to help "lower-skill, low-wage workers to acquire demand-driven training, industry credentials, and family-supporting employment." The National Fund also invests in regional funder collaboratives with grants to support workforce development.

That's a strategy we see a lot of, by the way: Big funders at the 30,000-foot level turning to local intermediaries who are closer to action on the ground and know where money can make a difference. 

The National Fund recently made three awards to smaller regional collaboratives with grants of $100,000 each. The grantees were: Central Six Development Council in Birmingham, Alabama, Greater Newark Workforce Funders Collaborative in Newark, New Jersey; and Work Train Collaborative in Syracuse, New York.

To be on the receiving end of one of these $100,000 grants, each of these organizations needed to show that it had brought together local funders around a shared plan for workforce development. It also needed to demonstrate its commitment to supporting career advancement for low-wage, low-skill workers. As well, it had to show a commitment to building capacity and that they could advocate for sustained and effective industry partnerships.

The fund puts out an informative monthly newsletter, with updates on opportunities and programs across the country in workforce development. If you are grantseeking for workforce development, this is one newsletter you definitely want to subscribe to.