Foundation supports emerging workforce development coalition
In recent years, Virginia has reached its lowest unemployment rate in over a decade. Still, one out of every four Richmond residents lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The unemployment rate is not going to tell you about the 30-year-old who’s been working at or near minimum wage for a decade, stuck in a cycle of low-paying jobs. If we could break that cycle, it would have tremendous economic development implications,” said Elizabeth Creamer, Vice President of Workforce Development & Credential Attainment with the Community College Workforce Alliance.
Currently, workers for entry and mid-skill level jobs are in high demand, especially in trades and technical fields that pay a living wage. To help residents access those opportunities quickly and efficiently, leading workforce development agencies have begun creating a network of wrap-around services referred to as a Workforce System of Care.
This effort is led by Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, the Office of Community Wealth Building, the Capital Region Workforce Partnership, Community College Workforce Alliance, ChamberRVA and a growing number of partner agencies. By coordinating their efforts and resources into one network, these organizations ensure that that job-seekers have easy access to what they need — from adult learning and credentialing to childcare services and transportation.
From the business side, a coordinated system means that employers have access to the skilled workers they need, as well as one centralized entity to contact when they have employment opportunities.
“What we’re trying to do is remove those barriers to employment that are holding back our most vulnerable citizens and preventing the support systems for our local economy to thrive,” said John Dougherty, Vice President of Community Workforce with Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia. “No one organization has all the resources, the tools or the capacity to do this alone.”
To assist in organizing the goals, timelines and governance of this emerging network, the Community Foundation provided lead funding, with additional support from the Bob and Anna Lou Schaberg Fund, for consulting support to bolster this coalition and their work. The consultant is resident at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, one of the Community Foundation’s partners in nonprofit capacity building. With collaborative relationships now established between partner agencies, the next step for the Workforce System of Care is building the necessary infrastructure to sustain the network into the future.
The Community Foundation has identified workforce development as a high impact area, consisting of partners and projects that have the greatest potential to create opportunity for low-income residents. In the coming months, we will provide updates on the progress of the Workforce System of Care, as well as innovative approaches and success stories from its partner organizations.