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Press Release
Jobs for the Future Announces New $3.4M Grant from Walmart to Advance Skills-First Practices Nationwide
Building on JFF’s work at the intersection of policy and practice, JFF will test, assess, and recommend strategies to build a more inclusive, skills-first learn-and-work ecosystem

October 26, 2023

At A Glance

Despite an increased focus on skills-based practices in hiring and talent management, widespread adoption of skills-first learning and employment models remains elusive and inconsistent. This initiative will set the stage to redefine and enhance the way an array of actors—including employers, policymakers, learning and education providers, philanthropy, and workforce development leaders—interpret and utilize information about workers’ skills and earned experience.

BOSTON (October 26, 2023) – Today, Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the U.S. education and workforce systems, unveils an ambitious 18-month initiative to combat systemic inequities within the country’s education, hiring, and advancement practices. Thanks to a generous $3.4 million grant from Walmart, JFF will be poised to lead a transformational effort to champion skills-first practices, reshaping how workers, employers, and educational institutions communicate and assess skills, experience, and knowledge. This initiative is integral to JFF’s overarching mission and its 10-year North Star goal of helping 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement work in quality jobs.

Despite an increased focus on skills-based practices in hiring and talent management, widespread adoption of skills-first learning and employment models remains elusive and inconsistent. This initiative will set the stage to redefine and enhance the way an array of actors—including employers, policymakers, learning and education providers, philanthropy, and workforce development leaders—interpret and utilize information about workers’ skills and earned experience.

This investment will allow JFF to help address key obstacles facing the skills-first movement, including the absence of a comprehensive approach to skills mobility and transferability. This includes developing the necessary technology infrastructure, increasing employer and worker awareness of skills in the talent acquisition process, and addressing inconsistent funding models for skills-centered education and training. It also encompasses the challenge of ensuring behavior changes among hiring managers, and the need to reimagine work practices and qualifications.

 “Current hiring and advancement practices in the United States are outdated and biased, perpetuating systemic inequities and structural barriers to economic advancement,” said Cat Ward, a JFF vice president. “Centering skills as the most valued currency for employers and talent is a critical step towards creating a more equitable and inclusive economy, where everyone can access opportunities based on their abilities. This initiative is not just about reimagining the future of work; it’s about putting that vision into action.”

Addressing the gap between aspirations for more accessible quality job opportunities and the current reality facing workers is a core focus of JFF’s mission.

 “A truly systems-level approach to changing our practices requires more than tools that allow skills to be the language used for hiring and advancement. It requires behavior change and a comprehensive examination of how work is structured, jobs are defined, and education is delivered,” said Meena Naik, a director at JFFLabs. “The lack of coordinated efforts across people and systems—including technology and policy—has been a barrier to realizing this vision. This grant provides us with a unique opportunity to connect isolated efforts and drive system-level transformation.”

The grant from Walmart will bolster JFF’s mission by facilitating the adoption of a comprehensive skills-first narrative and evaluation process. Key stakeholders, including employers and policymakers, will collaborate with JFF to develop and test innovative policies, practices, and tools. This includes evaluating how policies can support the growth of skills-based education, training, and hiring models, identifying promising technical solutions with credentials and learner and employment records, and exploring system-level opportunities to connect key stakeholders and expand the impact of skills-first practices.

“We aim to break down barriers and open new pathways for people to showcase their abilities and thrive in quality jobs, especially those from communities who have been systemically excluded from achieving economic advancement,” said Patti Constantakis, director at Walmart.org. “We envision a labor market where everyone has an equitable chance to succeed based on their skills and competencies—where multiple pathways to entry and advancement are normalized.”

JFF is thrilled to embark on this transformative journey to reshape the future of work in the United States, with the generous support of Walmart.

 

 

About Jobs for the Future: 
Jobs for the Future (JFF) drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all. www.jff.org

About Walmart.org

Walmart.org is committed to supporting initiatives that create new economic opportunities and improve the well-being of people in need. Through philanthropy and partnerships with other organizations, Walmart.org seeks to create systems that help all people become economically self-sufficient, enhance sustainability of food systems, and improve health and wellness for people across the globe. To learn more, please visit www.walmart.org.

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Jobs for the Future (JFF) is a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.