In a Nutshell: The National Fund for Workforce Solutions works to facilitate a better workforce for employees and employers. The organization works closely with more than 30 communities as well as employers across the country to help companies get the talent they need. In the process, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions also seeks to create better jobs for the American worker, whether it’s through higher pay, better benefits, or more opportunities for growth. Its Job Design Framework is a valuable tool employers can use to ensure the jobs they are creating are high quality and will attract the level of talent their companies need to succeed.
Less than 100 years ago, working conditions in the United States could be extremely dangerous, and pay could be next to nothing. Not to mention the fact that children under the age of 14 often worked in perilous, labor-intensive positions rather than attending school.
The U.S. labor force has come a long way since those difficult times.
Thanks to modern labor laws, U.S. workers can expect safe, sanitary conditions and a federally mandated minimum wage. And children are no longer being sent into dangerous coal mines or working in taxing factory jobs.
Yet, as with so many things — there is still plenty of room for innovation, better pay, and improved policies within today’s workforce in the U.S.
That’s why the National Fund for Workforce Solutions facilitates a network of communities that strive to improve opportunities for workers and ensure employers have access to a talent pool that will lead them to success.
The organization was founded in 2007 with a vision of an “equitable future where workers, employers, and communities are thriving and prosperous,” according to the fund’s website.
National Fund for Workforce Solutions Vice President Kelly Aiken said the founders of the organization observed the changing nature of the economy at the time and wanted to focus on helping both employees and employers.
“It was the idea that more co-investment was required to do the work of ensuring employers had the qualified staff they needed but also that people had the opportunity to access those jobs,” Aiken said, who also serves as the Director of the organization’s CareerSTAT Initiative.
Collaborating with More Than 30 Communities and Diverse Partners Across the Country
“The National Fund for Workforce Solutions invests in a dynamic national network of 30-plus communities taking a demand-driven, evidence-based approach to workforce development,” according to the fund website.
The company’s partner organizations help workers succeed and help employers get the talent they need by contributing resources and test ideas, collecting data, and improving public policies and business practices.
“We leverage the expertise of our local leaders to share learning across the network and identify trends, opportunities, and best practices,” according to the website. “Together, we are changing the conversation around workforce development to promote equity and drive greater impact.”
Aiken said the people in those 30-plus locations around the country are the ones with their boots on the ground doing the work every day.
“We don’t prescribe what happens in our sites, but we know that there are five ingredients for doing this work and getting the outcomes that we all want, which is more people in good jobs,” she said.
Aiken is referring to the Fund’s five solutions: activate employers to invest in the workforce, equip workers for success, make jobs better, change systems, and co-invest for impact.
“And that is to really activate employers so that they know that they have the ability to make their jobs better,” she said. “So, giving them the skills they need and providing the support they need — cultivating and making those jobs better.”
As Director of the CareerSTAT Initiative, Aiken is directly involved in the organization’s efforts specifically in the healthcare workforce.
“CareerSTAT is a network of over 300 healthcare and workforce leaders,” according to the website. “Together, they are promoting investment in the skills and careers of frontline healthcare workers by supporting healthcare organizations in using workforce development programs to increase business impact, improve health outcomes, and provide quality jobs.”
Working with Employers to Improve Existing Jobs
In addition to its strong network of communities across the country, one of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions’ main strategies for improving the state of today’s workforce is to work directly with employers.
“Employers have always been at the core of our work,” Aiken said. “They are fundamentally the largest investors in cultivating worker skills. They are determining who to hire, who to retain, and the quality of the jobs.”
Today, the organization counts more than 2,000 employers in its national network. And some of the nation’s most notable employers provide funding to the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Walmart, and Boeing.
“Thousands of American companies are leveraging the skills and talents of their employees by offering a quality job; however, too many businesses are missing out on the extra value their employees could provide if offered more support or engagement,” according to the company website.
To this end, the National Fund researches and promotes hiring, training, and workforce practices that improve competitiveness and job quality. The organization’s specific initiatives include partnering with Walmart to enhance opportunities in the retail space and expanding apprenticeships in non-traditional industries such as financial services, IT, and hospitality.
“We are looking at the impact that employers have in making their jobs better, and seeing that workers have the ability to train for, obtain, and stay in jobs,” Aiken said. “And ensuring that we ultimately see thriving communities.”
The organization has researched and documented dozens of companies across a variety of industries to help bring about understanding of how companies can strengthen their operations by investing in their employees, according to the website.
Providing Guidance Through the Job Design Framework
Aiken said the National Fund for Workforce Solutions partners with employers to increase their willingness to adopt new products and services on behalf of their low- and moderate-income employees.
“That’s really exciting, and it’s directly tied to our Job Design Framework,” she said. “The framework really outlines the three main pillars of a good job, which are the foundational components like wages and benefits; supportive elements like training and good supervision; and third, opportunities for advancement.”
The Job Design Framework essentially strives to outline the components of a good job. And not only does it provide structure in the form of those three main pillars, but it illustrates subsections within each pillar that employers can adapt for their own uses and ensure they are providing quality jobs for employees.
“Numerous factors — wages, supervision, benefits, culture — contribute to a good job and each worker or company might value a different set of items; however, the National Fund seeks to isolate specific practices that improve the conditions of workers and the performance of companies,” according to the website.
The organization posits that it is vital for employers to understand what makes up the elements of the Job Design Framework.
“Think of it as a menu rather than a mandate. Employers should discuss job design with frontline workers to identify the most impactful changes,” according to the company. “A good job for one worker may not be a good job for another. But the better the job, the more likely an employer will attract and retain the best workers in a tight labor market.”
Like the advocates fighting for better conditions and practices in the early 1900s, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions envisions a future where workers will have access to quality jobs and see even more opportunities to thrive personally and professionally.