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Jobs for the Future Announces New North Star Goal: In 10 Years, 75 Million People Facing Systemic Barriers to Advancement Will Work in Quality Jobs

June 7, 2023

At a Glance

Less than half of employed workers in the U.S. are in quality jobs; JFF aims to improve the number with support from a coalition of public, private, and nonprofit sector changemakers.

BOSTON, June 7, 2023—Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that drives transformation of the U.S. education and workforce systems, today announced a new 10-year North Star goal, rallying education, workforce, and employment changemakers to help 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement work in quality jobs. The announcement comes as JFF celebrates its 40th anniversary and redoubles its commitment to achieving equitable economic advancement for all.

“At a time of record-low unemployment, it’s important to remember that our current systems define success by the number of job placements rather than the hiring of workers into quality jobs,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “Today, too few workers in this country have quality jobs—jobs that allow people to support their families and to build skills, advance, and know their well-being is prioritized. We must do better.”

Despite consistent demand for skilled labor, only 38 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement in the United States currently work in a quality job. JFF’s North Star aims to nearly double that number in 10 years. Central to its commitment to equity, JFF will focus on people who face systemic barriers and are directly affected by the organization’s work, which includes people without a four-year college degree, people of color and women of all backgrounds whose highest level of education is a four-year degree, and people with criminal records.

JFF defines a quality job as providing not only a living wage and benefits but also stability, flexibility at work, autonomy, and opportunity for economic advancement. In practice, this includes things like fair scheduling, paid family and sick leave, transparent advancement pathways, opportunities for workers’ input, and an equitable workplace.

“Far too many people are shut out of quality jobs because our education and workforce systems are inequitable, disconnected, and hard to navigate. And far too many jobs that employers could make into quality jobs are staying stagnant,” said Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, vice president of workforce and regional economies at JFF. “We need to work together to transform these systems so every person, regardless of background, can advance economically.”

Critical to achieving this North Star goal will be examining the future nature of work and how jobs must evolve to reflect changing economic realities and evolving worker expectations. As part of its Employer Mobilization practice, JFF will deepen existing engagement with Fortune 500 companies that will be central to designing solutions that both support worker economic advancement and achieve business goals. In addition to partnering with leading public, private, and nonprofit sector changemakers to scale best practices, influence policy and action, and invest in innovations, JFF aims to align all of its current work around its North Star goal, including in these five key areas:

  • Creating learner and worker opportunity: JFF 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: JFF 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: JFF 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: JFF 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: JFF 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.

“This ambitious goal is an opportunity to harness the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements in the education-workforce field,” said Rusty Greiff, JFF’s chief strategy and growth officer. “Reaching our North Star will benefit millions of hard-working people and create stronger communities and a healthier economy overall.” JFF’s announcement comes at a time of significant growth for the organization. Over the past year, JFF has launched two new centers—the Center for Racial Economic Equity and the Center for Justice & Economic Advancement—and a new Employer Mobilization practice to help employers support the economic advancement of their workers while meeting business goals.

Through its innovation arm, JFFLabs, JFF has recently announced two new incubated lines of practice focused on Climate Innovation and Lifelong Learning and the launch of JFFVentures, an impact investment fund supporting innovative products and services aiding economic advancement for learners and workers. In 2022, the organization acquired Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation’s second chance hiring program to help increase employment opportunities for the nearly 70 million people in the United States with criminal records. Also in 2022, JFFLabs acquired Educational Quality Outcomes Standards (EQOS) and recently received a major grant from GitLab Foundation to partner with the Burning Glass Institute to expand the EQOS framework.

“We live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet too many people who have the desire, experience, and talent to play a meaningful role in the workforce are stagnating,” said Tod Loofbourrow, chairman of JFF’s board of directors. “We know that job quality is undeniably connected to quality of life, so it is essential that we all join in JFF’s mission to ensure that the future of work works for everyone.”

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