Starting with this blog post, SkillWorks is beginning a feature called the Funders’ Corner. This month we have asked the Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation to share a few thoughts:
Our mission has always been focused on one societal problem – wealth inequality, but the specifics of our projects have evolved as we have learned more and as the environment has changed.
During the great recession we were primarily interested in short-term vocational training programs designed to get adults back to work, but over time we have become concerned that short training programs may not have a lasting effect in propelling low-income people toward substantial careers. It takes longer and requires more resources to fundamentally change someone’s life/work trajectory than we originally believed or hoped. Because of this concern, we have shifted toward multi-year career oriented youth programs, and additionally toward programs that help low-income college students get internships, persist to get their degree, and then secure a valuable career.
Another shift in our thinking relates to employers. Not long ago we realized that all of our interactions had been with needy people and with educators and coaches … but careers are totally in the hands of employers. This is a fairly intuitive realization, but it is not easy for a modest sized foundation to effectively network with employers. This realization increased the value of belonging to a funder collaborative like SkillWorks.
Our foundation joined SkillWorks in 2013 because we wanted to meet other organizations who were actively working to improve careers for low-income people. We continue to value the networking and shared learning that SkillWorks provides, but we have come to realize that the consortium also allows us to participate in advocacy and system-change projects which would normally be beyond the donation budget of a mid-sized foundation.
Perhaps it is meaningful to note that our foundation had never used the term “workforce development” before joining SkillWorks. Our only vision was to help a good number of individuals overcome barriers so that they might have access to good paying, fulfilling careers. We felt that our modest size precluded us from making any appreciable improvement in the overall employment environment. Now, with our membership in SkillWorks, part of our resources may contribute to a more fundamental improvement for the career prospects of more low income people.
So, in summary, we are big fans of SkillWorks, and we look forward to finding new ways to create value by working and learning together.
The Herb and Maxine Jacobs Foundation has been supporting SkillWorks since 2013, represented by Carl Whittaker, Jill Jacobs and Deborah Kay. SkillWorks deeply appreciates their generous financial support and thoughtful engagement in our funder collaborative. We also thank Carl, Jill and Deborah for their willingness and enthusiasm to participate in this first post of our ‘Funder’s Corner’ blog series.