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The National Fund for Workforce Solutions

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Fred Dedrick,  Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. You can listen to a podcast of our discussion here:  Fred Dedrick Interview 7.28.10.

This Boston-based organization, involving nearly 200 foundations and 500 employers, is focused on finding effective new ways to prepare low wage workers for careers that can support them and their families.  Per the latest US jobs data, unemployment continues to hover around 9.5% and workers without current skills and certifications are more heavily represented among the unemployed.

Our conversation centered on the different strategies through which the NFWS pursues its mission to help workers at the lower end of the wage scale acquire skills both to enter the workforce and to move up once they get there.  This approach clearly requires the participation of employers, and I asked Fred what benefits the employer organizations feel they get out of their participation in NFWS programs.  According to Fred, these employers have found that trained workers result in higher productivity, less waste, and better employee retention.  The employers also get access to information about Recovery Act funds, grants, and other sources of funding they can pursue for worker development.

You can learn more about the National Fund’s results in their annual report.  Some of the highlights of their results in the last year include:

  • 18,036 jobseekers and incumbent workers received training and career support, an increase of 286 percent from the year before;
  • 9,735 participants received degrees or credentials, compared to 679 in 2008;
  • 4,058 jobseekers secured jobs as a result of their participation, up from 893 in 2008;
  • Of those who got jobs, 81 percent are working more than 35 hours per week.

Shortly before I spoke with Fred, he’d learned that the NFWS had been awarded  two-year $7.7 million dollar grant from the Corporation for National and Community Services under its Social Innovation Fund in Washington, DC.  These funds will help the NFWS expand its existing 22 programs and add another 6-8 in the coming year.  Please contact the NFWS directly if you’d like to learn more about how to get involved in their expanding efforts.

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  1. You mention asking Fred about the benefits to employers of participating in National Fund programs, and his answer dovetails closely with what our organization, the National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP), an initiative of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, recently found in interviews with nearly five dozen American healthcare and manufacturing employers. Our summary of the findings from those interviews, “From Hidden Costs to High Returns: Unlocking the Potential of the Lower-Wage Workforce,” can be found at www.insightcced.org/uploads/publications/wd/HiddenCosts-HighReturns.pdf.

    Employer after employer interviewed in our study described deliberate efforts to train lower-wage workers to develop skills, build loyalty and quality-consciousness, and create opportunity for wage increases. Without exception, these companies recommended similar efforts to other employers, often citing measurable business benefits and bottom-line returns, such as reduced turnover and a competitive advantage based on quality.

    Many of these employers participate in sector initiatives – regional, industry-focused workforce development partnerships – such as those supported by the National Fund’s network of grantees. These approaches have recently been demonstrated as highly effective through a rigorous random-assignment study. For more information about sector initiatives or any of the reports I’ve mentioned here, feel free to get in touch through our website, www.nnsp.org.

    August 31, 2010

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