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SkillWorks and the Boston Foundation grant more than $1 million for workforce innovation

June 16, 2022

Boston - Building equity into a changing workforce for job seekers and employees was part of the theme of a conversation led by M. Lee Pelton, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, as part of the launch of the SkillWorks Fellowship Program. Nine nonprofits selected for the fellowships will share in $1,050,000 in grants to design and implement scalable solutions aimed at elevating and solving the systemic barriers to economic opportunity and advancement for workers.

Skillworks Logo

In a highly competitive process, the nonprofits were awarded the grants after pitching ideas to redesign the workforce through scalable systems change. Andre Green, Executive Director of SkillWorks, said, “Our SkillWorks Fellowship Review Committee had some incredibly difficult decisions to make with so many superb ideas that need funding.  The grantees’ solutions to address inequities and improve the system were the kind of ideas that we were looking for when the plan for the Fellowship was conceived. Now the challenge is to convert ideas to implementation – and then to impact.”

“The Skillworks Fellowships are an exciting new chapter that draws from the lessons we have learned from nearly 20 years of efforts in workforce development, most recently through Project Catapult,” said Orlando Watkins, Vice President and Chief Program Officer at the Boston Foundation, and chair of the SkillWorks Advisory Board. “These nonprofit partners are creating scalable workforce opportunities that go well beyond creating job opportunities to creating the necessary systems for workers to succeed and thrive.”

“If we are serious about equity in Greater Boston, we need to recognize and repair the harms done by decades of limiting the career opportunities of people of color in the region,” said M. Lee Pelton, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “By dismantling and rethinking a system that has filled jobs but failed to provide workers with the career opportunities they deserve, these SkillWorks Fellows are building a path toward greater equity for a new generation of workers and their families.”  

Solutions Fellows

The new SkillWorks Fellows fall into two categories. Solutions Fellows were awarded $250,000 each over two years. They include Jewish Vocational Service Boston (JVS), New England Culinary Arts Training (NECAT) and Hack.Diversity.

Jody Rose, President of grantee Hack.Diversity said, “The past five years of Hack.Diversity has taught us a lot about successes, blockers, and gaps in converting stated equity and inclusion values into belonging experienced by Black and Latinx professionals in tech. One tenet has consistently proven true — an inclusive innovation economy will not happen organically. It requires a coalition to do the work. When we were ideating on Hack.Hub, we kept this in mind.”

Mandy Townsend, Vice President of Employer Engagement of grantee JVS Boston, said, “We are thrilled to work with SkillWorks to improve entry-level jobs and dismantle structural inequality. JVS’s Job Quality Benchmarking Index leverages the market to raise the floor and partner with companies to make meaningful job redesigns, in some cases increasing annual earnings by up to $15,000 per year. Scaling this model will impact entry-level workers across the region and nationally.”

“We are honored and energized that our concept to redesign our relationship with NECAT graduates, employers, and support networks has been affirmed by this award,” said NECAT Executive Director Joey Cuzzi. “Helping our graduates accept jobs and stay employed is a complex challenge that requires change in the mindsets of NECAT career counselors, employers, and our students.  Our goal is to catalyze and align our resources to ensure NECAT alumni have an effective voice in their employment; they are valued for the role they play in our local economy and that their well-being is supported inside and outside the workplace.”

Design Fellows

Six other organizations, the Design Fellows, each receive $50,000 over one year. They include: International Institute of New England; Massachusetts Workforce Association; Just A Start; STRIVE Boston; The Neighborhood Developers/CONNECT; and the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service.