Framing the Issue
Matching Job Seekers to High-Demand Industries
The Richmond region currently faces a mismatch between available, living wage jobs and the number of individuals prepared and qualified to fill them. Certain high demand sectors including healthcare, construction/trades, IT, and manufacturing/logistics have open positions that are not being readily filled. Conversely, the region also has many individuals who are unemployed or underemployed, but who need additional preparation and credentials to be eligible to fill these available living wage positions.
The Community Foundation is focused on solutions that link employers to employment-ready employees, as well as programs that support individuals becoming employment ready by removing their specific barriers to employment such as childcare, transportation, or the cost to acquire credentials or attend training programs. This work requires collaboration among private employers, public agencies, educational and credentialing providers, and nonprofits, so our participation in the Greater Richmond Workforce Coalition as a convener and funder is key.
Supporting Local Small Businesses
We also believe it is critical to support existing small businesses and innovative start-ups as they drive much of the local economy and offer pathways toward economic prosperity for their owners and those they employ. In the Richmond region, small businesses that employ fewer than 250 people account for 99% of all businesses and 65% of overall employment, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. These businesses suffered disproportionately during the pandemic because many were under-resourced and unprepared for the challenges they faced. Finding ways to bolster these small business owners and up-and-coming founders, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, is another way to create opportunity for all.
An Equitable Richmond Region
These workforce development efforts have an immediate benefit to the region, but they are also critical to addressing the economic opportunity gap that has long been present. Systemic inequities in education and employment systems have created disadvantages for marginalized populations. For example, the median hourly wage for Black workers in our regions is $6 less per hour than that of White people and Black unemployment rates in our region are twice as high as that of White people. Finding ways to enhance career opportunities and financial stability for all of our region’s residents will lead to a better workforce and a stronger community.
Key Areas for Investment
The Greater Richmond Workforce Coalition
- Supported by the Community Foundation, this coalition involves public agencies, private employers, educational institutions, and nonprofits. Its goal is to foster workforce development partnerships that increase access to quality jobs for all local residents and reduce the gap between industry demand and the supply of skilled workers.
- The coalition has designed and recently implemented Network2Work, an online tool that connects employers to job seekers who have the skills and resources needed to fill open, living wage jobs. This tool also enables job seekers to connect with training/certification providers, as well as organizations that provide services that reduce barriers to employment so that they can be employment-ready and able to succeed.
Direct services from organizations supporting job readiness
- There are many local nonprofits, neighborhood-based resource centers and Financial Opportunity Centers offering services that reduce barriers to employment, such as those that provide affordable childcare, address transportation challenges, offer financial support during skills or training attainment, or deliver one-on-one coaching and counseling related to personal financial skills.
- By supporting programs that expose youth to various post-secondary opportunities—community college, four-year college, entrepreneurship, or earning credentials that allow them to pursue a family sustaining career—we hope to reduce the number of high school graduates who become unemployed or underemployed.
Supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs
- The Community Foundation has created the Fund for Entrepreneurial Growth, which will award annual grants to nonprofit organizations that provide growth and operational support to entrepreneurs and small business owners (with a focus on women or minority founders), provide entrepreneurial programming for students, and strengthen and diversify the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.
Closing Local Workforce Gaps with New Approaches and Innovative Technology
Building on the promise of Richmond’s small business community
Goals of the Workforce Development Coalition
Facilitating change in workforce development
Foundation supports emerging workforce development coalition