Onwuka in The Center Square: How Philanthropy is Funding a Working Force for Everyone

In an op-ed published in The Center Square, Philanthropy Roundtable Adjunct Senior Fellow Patrice Onwuka writes that addressing our current workforce challenges requires a partnership between employers, communities and philanthropy. She says this type of collaboration should begin at the local level, and if done successfully, can break down barriers to economic mobility and provide opportunity for all. 

Below are excerpts from the article entitled “How Philanthropy is Funding a Working Force for Everyone”: 

“[The] staggering misalignment of skills and open jobs in every state has sidelined millions of workers from pathways for economic mobility. Americans want to create a better life for themselves, however, less than one out of five adults possess the credentials to obtain jobs that would support a family. Millions of middle-skilled jobs in sectors as varied as IT, health care and skilled trades go unfilled. Additionally, millions of middle-skilled jobs also now require a four-year degree despite not needing a diploma prior. The job licenses, training, certifications and education required to work today can be hurdles for sidelined workers and future workers. 

Philanthropy is making a way to bridge the gap. 

For example, in the early 1990s, a group of construction CEOs foresaw the need to promote the trades in a positive way. They founded the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), now Construction Ready, to provide training programs for entry-level construction jobs in their state. The program does not require a college degree, yet after completing a rigorous 20-day training program, graduates leave with the credentials for employment and 97% of them land a job. In 2000, Construction Ready formalized its relationship with Georgia to bring its programs into K-12 schools. By creating talent pipelines from the public schools, young people are exposed to the construction industry at early ages while employers can build relationships with future workers. 

Donors and foundations play pivotal roles in expanding and refining programs like these. For example, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation funded a Construction Ready pilot in Westside Atlanta for some of the city’s disadvantaged residents. Following the success in the Westside, Construction Ready spread to other areas of the city. This program is spurring a cultural shift to embrace the trades again. 

National workforce development programs can also take a local approach. For over 40 years, Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) has helped the nation’s most vulnerable young people stay in school, graduate and acquire the pro­fes­sion­al skills and cre­den­tials to gain employ­ment or enter post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion. The program builds collaboration across government, business and community leadership to better align education with employment.” 

To read the complete article, please visit The Center Square.   

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