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GO! A Blog about Growth & Opportunity

This post originally appeared on the Deaconess Foundation blog on September 30, 2015.

At the inception of the Fund for Our Economic Future in 2004, our roughly 50 members made a collective vow to each other: We would focus on “what matters” and “what works” in restoring vibrancy to our economy. To determine what will make a difference, we reviewed available research by others and on multiple occasions commissioned our own. Our learning: Although there is no single silver bullet to creating a growing economy that offers opportunity to all of its citizens, adequate job preparation is a pretty good foundation on which to build. The importance of a well-prepared workforce is empirically proven, is intuitively obvious in this rapidly changing world, and is anecdotally substantiated in discussion after discussion with local employers who highlight their challenges in finding qualified workers.

But therein lies the rub. We know Northeast Ohio is home to thousands of unemployed and underemployed adults, many of whom have unconventional and often challenging backgrounds. Only about a third of Northeast Ohio’s adult population has the benefit of a post-secondary degree. Many were laid off before or during the Great Recession and have yet to find employment. Some are re-entering the workforce after military service. Others, through unfortunate circumstances and bad choices, fell into the cycle of incarceration and have trouble finding work upon re-entry to society. Still others have been out of the traditional work force and education system for some time, seemingly “lacking skills” that growing employers seek.

Before you read any further, I encourage you to watch this 30-second clip.

What if we could rewrite that scene? Or even better, what if we could rewrite that scene thousands of times? That is the promise of TalentNEO, a pilot project initially brought to Northeast Ohio by the Joyce Foundation of Chicago after success with a similar effort elsewhere in the county. Our Fund is wholeheartedly supporting this program side-by-side with others in the national and local philanthropic community, including the Deaconess Foundation. The program aims to connect workers to opportunities and employers to talent, and help the economy grow. And the nation will be watching our outcomes.

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