History

Founded in 1983, JFF began as a nonprofit helping half a dozen states assess and bridge their workforce skill gaps. Initially incorporating as Jobs for Connecticut’s Future, we advised employers on how to deepen their pools of qualified employees and workers on how to land higher-wage jobs.

As these projects continued into the 1990s, JFF became a key player in the School-to-Work movement, helping young people access family-supporting careers by forging partnerships among school districts, local employers, and other community resources. This work helped us identify and develop the practices and policies that best enable secondary students to prepare for college and career success.

Our secondary school work led directly to the 2002 launch of our Early College High School Initiative, a network of 246 innovative schools that motivate students—mostly minority, low-income, and first-generation college goers—to take college courses and earn free college credit in high school. Propelled by a philosophy of “acceleration, not remediation,” support services, and collaborative group teaching methods, 93 percent of early college students graduate—significantly higher than the national average. More than half leave with two or more years of free college credit or an Associate’s degree already in hand and an excellent chance of entering a family-supporting career or further education.

This initiative, based heavily on partnerships with hundreds of colleges, naturally led to JFF expanding our work with the postsecondary sector in the 2000s. In particular, we increased our focus on the supports that college students—especially populations underrepresented in higher education—need to progress toward a high-value credential. Our programs and services range from helping accelerate students through developmental education, combining Adult Basic Education and job-skill training to help low-skilled adults gain credentials faster, applying real-time labor market information to help colleges build structured career pathways for students, and developing state policy that strengthens and expands these programs.

Today, our program and policy experts tend to all sections of the education-to-career pipeline, helping reengage and advance those who have fallen through its cracks, or may fall, at any point: those struggling in or dropping out of high school, floundering in pre-college developmental education programs, or underemployed with skills too low to obtain a career-advancing credential.

JFF Milestones

1983 – JFF incorporates as Jobs for Connecticut’s Future, helping the state identify and meet its workforce needs.

1984 – JFF helps shape and support the emerging school-to-career movement, with essential contributions to the School to Work Opportunities Act.

1987 – JFF and our partners, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, launch Workforce Innovation Networks. Over 10 years, working in 21 communities and three states, WIN demonstrates how workforce intermediaries can serve disadvantaged jobseekers and the employers who hire them.

2000From the Margins to the Mainstream, a four-year JFF initiative, highlights effective but isolated strategies for helping traditionally underserved youth succeed, and brings those models and practices to communities nationwide.

2002 – JFF launches the Early College High School Initiative, giving underrepresented, low-income students the chance to earn two years of college credits or an Associate’s degree while in high school, tuition free.

2004 – JFF creates the Institute for Student Success in partnership with Clark University and the University Park Campus School in Worcester, MA. The Institute trains small-school developers, leaders, and teachers to implement the leadership strategies and instructional techniques pioneered by UPCS, where virtually all students—mostly minority and low-income—graduate and attend college.

2005The Youth Transitions Funders Group, a national network of grantmakers, engages JFF to help cities develop systemic approaches to dropout prevention and recovery, and to increase the number of young people who earn postsecondary credentials and enter family-supporting careers by age 26.

2005 – JFF collaborates with the National Council for Workforce Education to launch Breaking Through, a national community college initiative helping low-literacy adults succeed in occupational and technical degree programs.

2006 – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other funders engage JFF to manage Jobs to Careers, a national initiative to help frontline health care workers gain the training they need to advance in their careers and improve the quality of care.

2007 – JFF helps a collaborative of funders create the National Fund for Workforce Solutions with a pool of $130 million to seed and strengthen local and regional workforce partnerships.

2009 – Six states participating in Achieving the Dream form the Developmental Education Initiative to focus on policies that can support dramatic improvements for students whose assessment scores indicate the need for remediation. JFF leads DEI policy efforts.

2010 – The Credentials That Work initiative, using innovative strategies to narrow our nation’s skills gap, starts to harness the power of “real-time” labor market information to help employers and community colleges invest in education and training programs that match the specific job needs of regional industries.

2011 – JFF launches Early College Design Services to spread the remarkable successes of the Early College High School Initiative—which serves low-income and minority students and graduates most with significant college credits—by working directly with school districts to build programs tailored to local needs.

2012 – JFF partners with the Harvard Graduate School of Education and six states to create the Pathways to Prosperity Network, which builds state systems of career pathways for grades 9 to 14 using the principles of early college designs. Combining high school and community college courses, the network is helping to ensure that many more youth complete high school, enter college, and attain a postsecondary credential with high value in the labor market.

2013 – JFF releases Anytime, Anywhere: Student-Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers (Harvard Education Press), a book that synthesizes research and practices in the emerging field of student-centered approaches to learning and includes profiles of schools that have embraced this approach. The research was gathered by Students at the Center, a JFF initiative focused on strengthening educators’ and policymakers’ abilities to engage each student in acquiring the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed for college and career success.

2014  – JFF commences work with JPMorgan Chase's New Skills at Work initiative, aligning K12 through postsecondary education and workforce efforts in 9 cities across the United States.