Catapult Revisited: What is Still Relevant for Next Generation Workforce Development Organizations in the COVID Recession?

In late 2019, SkillWorks and the Boston Foundation sought out some of the best workforce practitioners in the state who shared their thoughts on how we could capitalize on the region’s unprecedented growth and tight labor market by devising a workforce development system that benefited all workers as well as employers. Published as the Catapult Papers, they were a stake in the ground we entered 2020 rightly proud of. However, 2020 would quickly and drastically shift the ground we had so boldly claimed.

As the pandemic flipped our job market from among the hottest in the country to the coldest in the course of a COVID-stricken month, the vision of a scenario where employers in need of employees would work with us to make improvements changed into the reality of an economy where entire industries would be shut down for a year. The questions for our sector now, as we tread carefully out of full-on pandemic mode, are whether or how much the principles enumerated in the Catapult Papers still hold up in more challenging times, and how to incorporate areas that were not emphasized enough, such as racial equity. In acknowledgement of this moment, original Catapult author Jerry Rubin, Executive Director of Jewish Vocational Services, has begun the conversation anew, with a fifth essay in the Catapult Paper series:

Catapult Revisited: What is Still Relevant for Next Generation Workforce Development Organizations in the COVID Recession?

Read it today. Let us know what you think. At its inception, Catapult examined how we could leverage the tight labor market to change the way workforce development is done. We knew then, and feel even more acutely now, that moment was fleeting. Now, this work is an economic and moral imperative if we are to help shape an equitable recovery and future for all. We hope you’ll join us.

Andre Green
Executive Director, SkillWorks

The online version of this report, like the original Catapult Papers, will include a series of responses from leading employers and workforce development partners, who will react to the topics raised in Catapult Revisited and help us begin to chart a post-pandemic course. Responses will be released throughout summer 2021.

To submit a response and/or learn more about Project Catapult, please visit or contact: You can also Tweet us at @SkillWorks_MA and find us on LinkedIn.

Author: SkillWorks

SkillWorks is a nationally recognized workforce funder collaborative, launched by the Boston Foundation in 2003 to improve workforce development in Boston and across Massachusetts. SkillWorks brings together philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers to address the twin goals of: 1) Helping low-skill, low-income individuals attain family-supporting jobs; and 2) Helping employers find and retain skilled employees.

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