“This North Star is bold,” says Maria Flynn, president and CEO, Jobs for the Future (JFF). The 40-year-old nonprofit recently revealed its new national goal – 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement working in quality jobs in the next 10 years.

“It’s obviously bigger than JFF, right? It’s something that we hope the larger field will rally around,” says Flynn. “For JFF, for the first time, we’re really taking the step to say that at the end of the day, all of our work – whether it focuses on the education system, the workforce system, corporate players, entrepreneurs – we’re about getting people into quality jobs.”

Maria Flynn, president and CEO, Jobs for the Future (JFF)

Having a job doesn’t always mean it’s a good job, notes Flynn – referencing JFF’s framework for quality jobs.

“We outline how we believe that quality jobs are ones that provide advancement opportunity, that they provide autonomy, flexibility, and stability. Pay and wage is obviously great, but it’s not everything.”

In announcing its latest North Star initiative, JFF notes only 38 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement in the U.S. currently work in a quality job.

Flynn cites the need to acknowledge the variety of pathways to get to a quality job.

“College degrees do matter, but what we need to create is an equitable and transparent system where workers and learners – whether that be young people who are in high school, whether it be adults who are looking to reskill – have the information they need to really see what jobs are in demand, the quality of those jobs, the quality credentials that are going to help them access those jobs.”

She adds, “How do we continue to build something that has a lot of great momentum now – this idea of a skills-first ecosystem? How do we start to piece these different conversations and efforts together into truly helping folks get the information that they need to make good choices about their future?”

Knocking Down Barriers

In addition to often requiring a college degree for employment, Flynn adds, “There are fundamental issues around childcare, transportation – having those fundamental needs met. [There are] issues around how to translate skills. I think in any of this – even around non-degree pathways – financing is an issue.”

She says, “I think there are a lot of different barriers that need to be examined.”

Alignment Strategies to Move Forward

JFF is aligning its current work around its North Star goal, including in these key areas:

  • Creating learner and worker opportunity – JFF will transform education, employment, and talent advancement systems to address systemic and structural barriers to equitable economic opportunity. This includes particular focus on Black learners and workers.
  • Strengthening education and career navigation – JFF will clarify the work and learning ecosystem and empower people with data and guidance to find, finance, and flourish in career pathways.
  • Ensuring program quality and efficacy – JFF will organize and vet the dynamic marketplace, making trusted information about what works widely available to stakeholders.
  • Integrating learning and work – JFF will meet labor and education market disruptions with new integrated lifelong learning models that prioritize real-world work experience.
  • Building strong regional economies – JFF will apply innovative and proven national practices at the local level to grow agile, resilient, inclusive, and globally competitive regional economies—and scale effective local programs at the national level.
Getting Stakeholders on the Same Page

“We really want to utilize the networks that we have across communities and institutions to help drive that alignment and coordination, help folks play to their strengths, help amplify and bring voice to some of the great work that’s being done at the community level,” says Flynn. “And then help other national initiatives and conversations that are happening to inspire folks to really get behind a unifying vision.”

She says, “We want to help bring the conversation together and drive it forward.”

Learn more about JFF’s North Star in this video.