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Bringing Our Future Into Focus

January 20, 2022

At a Glance

It’s time to see beyond the systems of today and imagine a brighter, more equitable future for learners and workers.

Maria Flynn President & CEO 

As we close out the first month of 2022, I—like many of you—am looking to the year ahead with both high hopes and tempered expectations.

The past two years have been devastating for too many people, especially for those who have lost loved ones and for the millions of learners and workers whose jobs and educational opportunities have been disrupted or eliminated by the pandemic.

The needs of learners and workers have driven me throughout my 30 years of service to the field, and they have been core to JFF’s mission since its founding almost 40 years ago.

Even with all the new and legacy challenges we face, there are reasons to be optimistic. I am inspired by how JFF and our many partners have risen to meet the moment: from the rapid response to the pandemic and racial reckoning to the critical work to transform our education and workforce systems and create equitable economic advancement for all. The world of learning and work is changing faster than ever before, and we will continue to lead the way toward a future that works for everyone.

However, just as the world is changing, JFF must change.

The time has come for us to be a powerful catalyst for change by accelerating innovation to reimagine the future of work and learning.

While we have long been a conduit for change—connecting disparate systems, ideas, and stakeholders—the time has come for us to be a powerful catalyst for change by accelerating innovation to reimagine the future of work and learning.

The problems that our education and workforce systems are striving to tackle are more complex than ever before. But the same dynamics that drive these complexities (such as advancements in technology, shifting consumer expectations, and blurring of silos) also create possible solutions. JFF is embracing these complexities in our efforts to create equitable options in workforce and education, and we’re leveraging this perspective to refine JFF’s work around five focus areas that align all we do to transform the 21st-century education and workforce marketplace.

We believe these are the five key areas where we can be a leading engine to drive equitable impact:

Creating learner and worker opportunity: Despite our best efforts, economic inequity continues to plague our society, with widening access, outcomes, and wealth gaps affecting millions of people.

  • We will transform education, employment, and talent advancement systems to address systemic and structural barriers to equitable economic opportunity—including an intentional focus on Black learners and workers.

Strengthening education and career navigation: The vast array of education and training options is becoming increasingly difficult for learners to understand and navigate.

  • We will clarify the chaotic work and learning ecosystem and empower people with data and guidance to find, finance, and flourish in personalized, lifelong career pathways.

Ensuring program quality and efficacy: With myriad new education and training providers emerging, people lack the objective information they need to assess which programs will help them meet their goals.

  • We will organize and vet the dynamic marketplace, making trusted information about what works widely available to learners, workers, investors, policymakers, and partners and spurring providers to innovate and improve.

Integrating learning and work: Prevailing models are disconnected and ill-equipped to prepare workers for our rapidly changing economy and fulfill employer needs.

  • We will meet unprecedented, ever-evolving labor and education market disruptions with new integrated lifelong learning models that prioritize real-world work experience.

Building strong regional economies: Inadequate education and workforce systems, isolated from regional economic strategies and innovative national approaches, hamper regional growth and development.

  • We will apply innovative and proven national practices at the local level to grow agile, resilient, inclusive, and globally competitive regional economies—and scale effective local programs at the national level.

We chose these five areas after asking ourselves key questions about our mission and the market: Where do we want to lead? Where can we direct our energy, expertise, and relationships to have the greatest impact? And most important, what problems is JFF in a unique position to solve?

These are the five key areas where we can be a leading engine to drive equitable impact.

Our in-depth efforts across the learn and work ecosystem have revealed many more interconnected and evolving issues, ranging from the growing access, outcome, and wealth gaps based on race and identity to the rapidly expanding, yet confusing, marketplace of degrees and education and training credentials that all promise advancement yet yield inconsistent results.

Our goal at JFF is to connect the dots across the learn and work ecosystem and help partners, funders, intermediaries, business leaders, policymakers, investors, and others navigate a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape.

Today’s education and workforce systems often operate in silos, while sources of capital often end up scattered—all highly inefficient and ineffective. JFF has the know-how, the relationships, the imagination, the ambition, and the commitment to connect and transform these systems, and design, scale, and operationalize models to empower local and regional economies.

In the coming months and the year ahead, you’ll see how our latest innovations—through new products, platforms, advisory services, investments, research, and policy guidance—align to these five areas of focus.

The challenges of the past two years have been significant, and JFF’s vision of equitable economic advancement for all has never been more necessary. I am heading into 2022 inspired by the need for our work, and I look forward to continuing our ongoing collaboration and partnership as we move forward to meet the moment.