Q & A with morning speakers
Q & A with late-morning speakers
Q & A with afternoon speakers
The Philanthropy Roundtable hosted more than 60 funders in Dallas on May 8-9 to examine how private philanthropy can better the economic outlook for Americans in under-resourced communities. The Better Skills, Better Jobs conference principally focused on equipping and growing the workforce at a time of rapid technological advancements.
As technology reshapes the labor market, changing the nature of work, jobs, and skills, private philanthropy is leading the way in implementing innovative strategies to help scores of Americans improve their economic standing.
“The Philanthropy Roundtable showcased those strategies at today’s gathering in Dallas,” said Jo Kwong, director of economic opportunity programs at The Philanthropy Roundtable.
Nearly half of all small businesses reported in the first quarter of 2017 that they were unable to find qualified applicants to fill middle-skills job openings, or jobs that require more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree. With advances in automation and artificial intelligence also changing the nature of work, middle-skills training is an increasing priority for both employers and job-seekers.
The event opened with a reception on May 8 at Café Momentum, a post-release internship program for young men and women coming out of juvenile facilities. Through the preparation and serving of fresh, locally sourced, American cuisine, the youth gain the skills, hope, confidence, and motivation to transform their lives.
“From our very first pop-up dinner in June 2011 to date, we’ve worked with just over 500 kids. Of those 500 kids, statistically speaking 48.3 percent of them should have gone back to jail within 12 months at a taxpayer cost here in Texas of $127,000,” said Chad Houser, founder, CEO and executive chef of Café Momentum. “We’re very proud that our recidivism rate is 15.2 percent.”
With the U.S. facing its largest labor gap in two decades, the opening panel the following morning offered strategies and solutions to pipeline a sustainable labor force through technical training and skills building.
“You must have a partnership with industry where you work with them in addressing the needs of workforce development. When I think of the future of work, I think about the need to be really close to industry,” said Fred Dedrick, president and CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.
“People tend to think that employers don’t want to talk to each other, but because of our tight labor market, employers now more than ever are willing to come to the table to share not only their challenges but their successes. They are hungry for new ideas and resources to strengthen their workforce,” said Andrea Glispie, director of Pathways to Work at United Way of Metro Dallas.
Nonprofit leaders then offered a series of “TED-like” talks, which comprised a majority of the programming throughout the rest of the day. Many of the presentations were from local organizations, providing attendees the opportunity to examine lessons from Dallas, a city that ranks among the best performing cities for job creation and sustainability. Beyond the local focus, presenters described current and future challenges, as well as strategies that donors can support to help workers, employers, and economies thrive, grow, and prosper.
“One of the things that we believe as an organization is that people need good jobs. And in order for them to get these good jobs, they need skills that will help them get and maintain those good jobs,” said Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.
“If you look at Dallas County today, 65 percent of all jobs require some type of post-secondary credential. That’s the reality of today. The other reality is that only 27 percent of high school graduates are earning any type of post-secondary credential ever in Dallas County,” said Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.
“The reality is that tens of thousands of kids are growing up in every major city in America…and [they] come to their senior year in high school and are confronted with this fork in the road. They can take the familiar path, which most often leads to a dead-end job. The other path, which leads to professional opportunities, is filled with seemingly insurmountable barriers,” said Rafael Alvarez, founder and CEO of Genesys Works in Houston. “Can we do something to break down those barriers to put them on a path to a hopeful career?”
Several of the presentations are available here.
Private Philanthropy Must Lead the Way
Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, offered valuable insight as the luncheon keynote speaker. He expressed concern over sluggish productivity growth, citing 46 million workers who have a high school education or less, with many of those same workers seeing technology causing their jobs to be restructured or possibly eliminated.
“Worker mobility is historically slow. We simply aren’t retraining people fast enough,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan believes that in order for the gross domestic product to grow, there are two requirements: growth in the workforce and growth in productivity. He emphasized the need for the country to invest in human capital by increasing skills training options to a workforce that is both under-skilled and aging – and he believes private philanthropy is the sector best suited to fill that role.
“Problems that used to be addressed by the government and business 25 years ago, they’re probably going to have to be solved by those of you in this room. That’s a trend and it’s critical,” Kaplan said. “If you don’t get involved and step into these things, they’re probably not going to get solved, and we’ll have a less prosperous economy.”