Fund for Our Economic Future Approves Grants to Support Two Workforce Development Pilots

CLEVELAND--June 3, 2015--Members of the Fund for our Economic Future (the Fund), a philanthropic collaboration, have approved grants of up-to $700,000 to support two workforce development pilots designed to help Northeast Ohio residents get, keep and advance in jobs, and ensure the region's talent pool is a comparative advantage for companies. Specifically, the approved grants will go to Towards Employment, a Cleveland-based nonprofit whose mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment, in support of the WorkAdvance and TalentNEO pilot programs. These grants are in line with the Fund's greater goal of advancing economic growth that can be shared by all residents of Northeast Ohio.

WorkAdvance is a national pilot, entering its fifth and final year in Northeast Ohio, that seeks to demonstrate how an integrated delivery of workforce services tied to in-demand jobs with advancement potential can result in improved outcomes for individuals and employers, at the same or lower cost to taxpayers as the existing workforce "system." Towards Employment will receive up-to $400,000 for WorkAdvance's core operations in its final year. 

Since 2011, the Fund has partnered with the Center for Economic Opportunity and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City on WorkAdvance, providing the local match for the program, which leverages federal Social Innovation Fund and other national philanthropic dollars. Other funders, including the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, have since supported the program in Northeast Ohio. WorkAdvance is being piloted in the manufacturing and health care sectors in Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley; other pilot sites include New York City and Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to the direct service delivery to participants, funding for WorkAdvance supports a rigorous random assignment evaluation and strategies targeting local, state and national workforce policies and practices. To see how two participants have benefited from the program, and how WorkAdvance is helping to advance both increased growth and opportunity in Northeast Ohio, watch this short video.

"Programmatic success is about getting and supporting low-income individuals on a career pathway, while meeting businesses' needs. But it's also about the degree to which lessons from the demonstration project inform job preparation execution and policies across the region, the state and the country," said Jill Rizika, executive director of Towards Employment. "We are already seeing the far-reaching effects of WorkAdvance, which helped bring the TalentNEO pilot to Northeast Ohio." 

TalentNEO builds on an intervention introduced and piloted in New Mexico by Innovate + Educate, which found that when employers used "skills scores" as part of their hiring process they increased their applicant pool, reduced costs, and increased employee retention over time. The program also increased access to employment for individuals who had the required skills, but lacked the educational credentials traditionally used to screen candidates. In partnership with The Joyce Foundation of Chicago, Innovate + Educate identified Northeast Ohio as the next test market for a skills-based approach to hiring in large part due to the strong partnerships that already exist in the region among training and social service providers, education institutions, workforce investment boards, nonprofits, businesses, business associations, and others. 

Fund members approved a two-year grant of up-to $300,000 to support the implementation of TalentNEO. Twelve businesses in the IT and manufacturing sectors and 15 service providers in Summit and Cuyahoga Counties have already committed to participating in the program. Through this pilot, the Fund seeks to understand whether the use of skills scores can more effectively match Northeast Ohio job seekers to employment; provide benefits to employers such as decreased time-to-hire and increased retention; and increase access to opportunity for residents who lack traditional credentials.

"In our Fund's work to forward a growing, opportunity-rich economy, we recognize the critical issue of job preparation," said Fund Chair Brian Frederick, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Lorain County. "Our Fund believes it can play an essential role in advancing systems improvements, particularly in ways that have the potential to increase opportunities for low-income residents."

The grant awards were approved by Fund members on Tuesday at a quarterly board meeting at Cuyahoga Community College's Advanced Technology Training Center in Cleveland. Also present at the meeting were representatives from national foundations. Whitney Smith, senior program director at The Joyce Foundation, Allison Gerber, senior associate at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Courtney Hodapp, vice president, global philanthropy, Ohio at JPMorgan Chase & Co., spoke on their experiences supporting workforce development efforts across the country. Click on the following links for more information on the WorkAdvance and TalentNEO pilots.
About the Fund for Our Economic Future

The Fund for Our Economic Future is a collaboration of funders, including private, community and corporate foundations, higher education institutions, health care systems, corporations, and individuals, dedicated to advancing economic growth and equitable access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio through research, convening and grantmaking. Since its founding in 2004, the Fund has raised more than $100 million for improving regional economic competitiveness. The Fund's efforts have helped retain and create more than 16,700 jobs, generate nearly $650 million in payroll, and attract nearly $3.5 billion in capital to Northeast Ohio. 

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