Tammy Edwards: Welcome to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Economic Development podcast series. I'm Tammy Edwards with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Workforce development issues tend to be locally distinct, and thus require community-focused and cross-sector solutions. This point was reinforced for us during recent workforce development roundtable meetings held across the country as part of the Federal Reserve's Chronic Unemployment and Workforce Development initiative. Indeed, collaborative local and regional efforts focused on addressing workforce development challenges are gaining momentum, and community-based funders are becoming more engaged. One such initiative is the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a coalition of local and national funders that supports 30 regional funding collaboratives focused on advancing careers of low-wage workers through long-term employer engagement and job and career training for workers. In this session, we explore the importance of public, private, and philanthropic partnerships in addressing local and regional workforce challenges and the early results from some of these collaborations.
Today I'm speaking with Damian Thorman, national program director at the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation and chair of the Investor Committee for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.
Damian, thank you for speaking with us today.
Damian Thorman: Thank you, Tammy. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. The National Fund is honored to join you for this conversation.
Edwards: Tell us more about the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. What is your goal and what is your approach for helping create scalable solutions to local workforce development challenges?
Thorman: We are a fund of 12 national funders, and I'm proud to say a blend of both traditional philanthropy and corporate philanthropy. I mention that because it's at the heart of what we are trying to accomplish, which is to bring business and workforce development programs together so that, at the local level, we can have robust partnerships that deliver training and support that results in more individuals getting placed in jobs. The way we do that is really to put the employer at the center of a lot of our work. We are trying to create regional funding collaboratives or organize these workforce partnerships, develop strategies for specific industry sectors such as transportation or health—health is our largest—and then we want to build career pathways for those that we are training. So, not only are we training individuals for new jobs, but we're also working with employees within the system to try to make sure that they can move forward and move up the career ladder. And then, of course, we coordinate the local workforce programs that actually deliver the services in each of the local communities.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.