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Good Jobs for Frontline Essential Workers – The Job Quality Initiatives

Between 2017 and 2019, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, with its network of regional workforce funder collaboratives, launched 11 job quality initiatives to test how employers can introduce, change, and leverage business practices to make jobs better and foster positive outcomes for both frontline workers and their employers. In concert with these initiatives, the National Fund facilitated a job quality community of practice, in which the 11 participating collaboratives shared their experiences and insights with each other and any other funder collaborative that chose to participate in this learning circle. The community of practice continues to this day.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of the U.S. economy, our nation faces tremendous economic uncertainty. But the crisis has also revealed how precarious our economy already was for those who work on the frontlines of healthcare, retail, food service, and many other sectors of the economy. Many of the workers recognized as “essential” during weeks of stay-at-home orders, expected to report for work despite threats to their health and safety, are those who have failed to benefit from a decade of economic growth and an increasingly tight labor market.

The coronavirus is now shining a spotlight on a trend that the National Fund for Workforce Solutions recognized years ago: the recovery from the Great Recession created jobs, but these jobs did not enable frontline workers to develop, prosper, or feel a sense of pride at work. For non-college educated workers, available jobs were mostly characterized by poor wages, a lack of benefits, and increasingly erratic “on-demand” scheduling that resulted in uncertain paychecks.

The poor quality of frontline jobs has not only hurt workers. It has been evident for some time that failing to invest in frontline workers causes unnecessary pain for employers as well. In an increasingly tight labor market, retention had become a serious problem, as workers who saw little opportunity for career growth either left the workforce altogether or moved from job to job in search of even the slightest uptick in wages and benefits.

In 2014, as employers struggled to recruit and retain talent and a national conversation focused on job quality emerged, the National Fund saw an opportunity to serve employers and frontline workers through a different kind of workforce development strategy, one focused on improving the quality of frontline jobs and the career opportunities available to the workers in those jobs. It began partnerships with 11 of its regional workforce funder collaboratives to support them in learning how to implement good jobs strategies by engaging employers and working with them to support and advance frontline workers as a competitive business strategy.

The community of practice has provided a rich environment for workforce development funders and professionals to discuss challenges, strategize and develop tools to further the field, and celebrate successes. Out
of these conversations, three themes emerged, which are explored in three additional papers in this series. Following this introduction to the job quality initiatives, the series includes the following reports:

>Co-Investment: Strategies for Resourcing Job Quality Initiatives, which explores the capacity of funder collaboratives to lead similar initiatives, and what kind of co-investment strategies could make this resource- intense work more sustainable.
>Practitioner Competencies: It Takes a Team, which details the range of knowledge and skills that make workforce development organizations successful in engaging employers, speaking to their business needs, and improving jobs for frontline workers.
>Employer Readiness: What Makes a Good Partner, which offers insights into how to identify good employee partners, i.e., those who are ready to tackle complex retention, talent development, and company culture issues, including racial equity and inclusion,
to improve frontline jobs.

 

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ MAKING JOBS BETTER: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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