Boston’s Largest Workforce Development Effort Launched

September 10, 2003

Boston –The Boston Workforce Development Initiative, the single largest public/private investment in workforce development in Boston’s history, is already being hailed as a model for workforce development systems across the country.  At today’s launch of the Initiative, it was announced that $10.1 million dollars has already been raised, with a goal of $14.3 million for the five-year project.  The Initiative is an innovative job-growth plan that moves entry-level workers up the skills ladder, gives employers the trained staff they need, and offers thousands of low-income workers family-supporting wages.

The Initiative was launched at a press conference held at the Boston Foundation today with remarks by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino; Jane Edmonds, Director of the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development; Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller Foundation; Beth Smith, Executive Director of the Hyams Foundation; Gary Gottlieb, President of Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Donna Cupelo, President of Verizon Massachusetts and Rhode Island; George Russell, Executive Vice President, Community Affairs, State Street Corporation; Paul Guzzi, President of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and Paul S. Grogan, President of the Boston Foundation.  Representatives of the corporate and foundation funding partners, business and academic sectors, organized labor, public officials, and community advocates also participated in the launch.

Tonight the Boston Workforce Development Initiative is receiving the 2003 Trailblazer Award for public/private partnership by the National Network of Sector Partners, a national advisory committee of workforce development partners, national organizations, and business and labor leaders.   The award, which will be presented at their national conference at the Westin Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston this evening, cites the Initiative’s “very significant investment in improving the workforce development system for both low income residents and industries in the Boston area.”

"In the current economic climate, Boston cannot afford to pass by motivated people who want to contribute to the common wealth.  So I am proud  to join this unprecedented gathering of the public and private sector as we pioneer a new way of investing in Boston's most important asset – our workforce” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.   “Reinvesting city linkage funds in our citizens gives me great satisfaction.  Not only will more Bostonians to have the tools to climb the career ladder, but also because it is now possible for Boston to have one of the best-trained workforces in the nation."

“This is a major step towards bridging the chasm that has existed for too long between the actual needs of the private workplace and the available job training programs. We cannot tolerate the co-existence of high numbers of unemployed and underemployed workers looking for positions, and employers with jobs that need to be filled in our region,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation.   “To solve this problem, we need to build strategic partnerships across the public and private sectors that offer clear stepping stones to employees who want to learn new skills, get advanced certification, take on greater work responsibilities, and eventually secure good jobs with good salaries.  We see this as a way to give employers the workers they need to make Boston’s regional economy grow, which is absolutely critical in today’s precarious economic climate.”

The Boston Workforce Development Initiative is bringing together an unprecedented range of stakeholders, including state and city officials, organized labor, employers and low-income workers, national and local funders, academic institutions and community advocates, to work together in an active partnership to develop effective job training and job promotion opportunities in the Greater Boston area.

All of this is taking place at a time when the country and Boston’s economies are under assault.  The national unemployment level has reached its highest level in nine years, and America is suffering its worst period of job decline since the end of World War II.  Locally, the Commonwealth is facing stiff competition from other leading technology states for venture capital, research dollars, highly-skilled workers, manufacturing jobs and business headquarters.  In addition, young skilled professionals are leaving the region; to the extent that Boston’s labor force is growing, it’s because of an influx of new immigrants.

In this context, the region’s failure to develop effective job training and job promotion opportunities is putting workers and employers in a double bind.  Despite the sluggish economy, manufacturing, health care and financial services companies cannot find good mid-level workers.  And low-income workers are stuck in entry-level positions that pay $6 an hour.  This means that the industries with the power to rally the local economy cannot expand operations, and workers who could invest in inner city revival by buying homes and raising families are struggling to make ends meet.

To confront this challenge, the Boston Workforce Development Initiative will bring together major new investments of $14.3 million from a coalition of funders that includes the Boston Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Jobs and Community Services, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation, Fleet Charitable Trusts, the Hyams Foundation, the State Street Foundation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay.  The funders group has contracted with Jobs for the Future, The Boston Private Industry Council, Management Consulting Services, and The Commonwealth Corporation to help implement the Initiative.

There is a great deal of interest in the potential of this model to spur economic growth. "As a foundation that is investing in improving job prospects in cities across the country, we think that what's happening here in Boston is truly exciting," said Gordon Conway, President of the Rockefeller Foundation.  "The right partners are at the table, especially

those community groups working every day in neighborhoods to help people better their lives.  We are pleased to support this important partnership."

The Initiative anticipates spending $8.7 million for direct workforce training activities, which are expected to serve some 3,000 low-skilled, low-income individuals over the next 5 years.  In addition to the direct workforce training activities, the Initiative is also investing in strengthening the nonprofit groups that are active in this field, and in addressing the public policies impacting these issues.  In the spring of 2002, the Initiative made its first grants to six organizations working in this field, including the Asian American Civic Association, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, La Alianza Hispana, Oficina Hispana, Project Place and Vietnamese American Civic Association.  Additional applications are currently being reviewed, and grants will be announced in mid-October.

* * *

List of Funding Partners*



Strengthening Capacity

Workforce Partnerships & Public Policy Advocacy


The Boston Foundation



$2.45 million (over five years)


The City of Boston

$1.5 million (over 3 years)


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

$250,000 (for first year)


The Annie E. Casey Foundation



$250,000 (for first year)


Fleet Charitable Trusts



$600,000 (over three years)


Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation



$200,000 (first year)


The Hyams Foundation



$625,000 (over five years)


The State Street Foundation


$300,000 (over three years)


The Rockefeller Foundation


$300,000 (over two years)


United Way of Massachusetts Bay

$150,000 (over three years)


*A number of funders do not make multi-year commitments and have pledged further support of the Initiative.  Pledges total $1.8 million.

* * *

The Boston Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, has an endowment of more than $500 million and made grants of  $53.7 million to nonprofit organizations last year. The Boston Foundation is made up of 750 separate charitable funds, which have been established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a civic leader, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to build community. For more information about the Boston Foundation and its grant making, visit , or call 617-338-1700.