#FundWorkforceEquity: Advancing equity in the workforce development ecosystem

The tweets were fast and furious when funders and other workforce development stakeholders got together to chat

“I think philanthropy writ large has a diversity problem,” says Loh-Sze Leung, the co-director of Workforce Matters, a network of philanthropic organizations focused on funding  workforce development programs.

Earlier this year, Workforce Matters asked its own members to do some self-reflection on their priorities, practices, and structure, including looking at whether there were racial biases—albeit unintentional—built into the existing funding ecosystem.

The result: A Racial Equity Framework for Workforce Development Funders.

While the report is intended as a framework for funders—in their words—”to set goals and hold ourselves accountable,” they also realize the conversation would be incomplete without input from others in the workforce development community.

#FundWorkforceEquity: What’s Working? What Could Funders Do Better?

On Wednesday, May 26, WorkingNation helped facilitate that important conversation by co-hosting a Twitter chat with Workforce Matters with hundreds of stakeholders taking part—from grantees, field partners, service providers, worker centers, employers, organized labor, policymakers, and other funders.

The hour-long #FundWorkforceEquity event featured a rapid fire exchange of thoughtful, innovative ideas in a Q and A format.

There were so many observations, suggestions, and examples in the Tweet storm. We can’t share them all on this page, so we’re featuring a handful of the responses here to illustrate the scope of the ideas.

What the Workforce Development Community is Saying About Advancing Equity

Kristen Titus, executive director of Cognizant U.S. Foundation—which identifies workforce needs and develops actionable solutions to close the technical skills gap—says equity in the workforce requires more than access to a good job.

The workforce needs to eliminate barriers to inclusion, according to Burning Glass Technologies, an analytics software company.

Equity must include the immigrant workforce, notes the National Skills Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusive access to skills training.

Systemic change does not happen overnight, according to the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, which invests in workforce development programs in 30 communities around the country. Change requires time.

Alex Camardelle, Ph.D., is workforce policy director at Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an organization that works to improve the socioeconomic status and civic engagement of African Americans. He shares his thoughts on what’s working and what is not.

Ángel L. Vélez, a research associate with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, says funders need to ensure there is internal equity.

The use of artificial intelligence in hiring presents challenges, according to Maria Heidkamp, director of program development at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, and an Public Voices Fellow.

Danielle Vetter, senior program officer of rural postsecondary education and workforce training for Ascendium, says the process doesn’t end with training.

The Center for Workforce Inclusion, an organization that helps older, low-income people secure jobs, says this population is often overlooked when it comes to employment.

Advance CTE, a nonprofit that represents state CTE directors and state leaders of career and technical education, says the pandemic has created significant hardship on learners. The organization tweets funders, policymakers, and educators must address equity issues before launching programs.

Bishara Addison is director of job preparation for Fund Our Economic Future, a funding alliance focused on economic growth and equitable access in northeast Ohio. She notes collaboration with providers and attention to funders’ internal retention are important issues.

Monica Munn, managing director of philanthropy for WES Mariam Assefa Fund, takes the opportunity to invite participants to engage with the organization.

Social Finance, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes capital to drive social progress, is expanding a program for people who often face barriers getting into the workforce.

Results for America, an organization that utilizes evidence and data to help governments determine solutions, shares how consolidating data is streamlining workforce services.

New Profit is a venture philanthropy organization that supports social entrepreneurs who are advancing equity and opportunity. One of the organization’s initiatives, powered by XPRIZE, MIT Solve, and JFF, forging partnerships to implement solutions.

Just from this small sampling, you can see there’s plenty of innovative thinking to digest in this chat. And it’s not too late to chime in.

Go to Twitter using the hashtag #FundWorkforceEquity. Let’s keep the conversation going.