Deaconess Foundation helps people in need build careers that sustain them and their families.
Where we started
Deaconess Foundation launched its employment mission in 2014 and was guided by a Learning Plan that helped the foundation focus on specific areas within the broad employment space – job preparation, barrier removal, and longer-term supports. Each of these areas positioned DF to leverage its established relationships with and understanding of the human services sector. This led to a concentration of DF’s funding in efforts that focused on entry into the workforce, rather than advancement within it. We have begun to call these “employment entry programs.” These programs are client-driven and typically include services such as barrier removal, soft skills training, job search assistance, job placement into an entry level job, and minimal job retention support. “Success” is placement into an entry level job. They are are directed and implemented by people with great sensitivity towards their clients myriad needs, and can be easily accessed by clients living in poverty. They are supported by public funding sources that emphasize immediate placements, and can be quite successful in moving clients quickly into jobs.
As DF reflected on its first few years of employment grantmaking, we took note of the following learnings about employment entry work:
LEARNING 1: Employment entry programs do not necessarily help people affect the positive changes in their lives that DF envisions because they do not address labor market realities as we understand them.
LEARNING 2: Employment entry programs are insufficiently integrated with the training, education and public workforce systems. We have come to understand that the most productive workforce development efforts take place within an ecosystem of interrelated stakeholders. For a visual display of the ecosystem parties with whom DF is currently engaged, click here.
LEARNING 3: Employment entry programs struggle to develop strong relationships with employers.
LEARNING 4: Employment entry programs and system change efforts look very different in terms of impact.
LEARNING 5: Alternatives to employment entry programs hold great promise.
As our learning evolved, it became clear that we could increase our impact by explicitly stating our recognition that employment entry programs are necessary but not sufficient, and that the real potential for change exists as individuals move beyond entry level work. We concluded that a Career Pathways approach, supporting individuals along an established, progressive route to stable employment offering family-sustaining wages, is necessary to achieve the promise of our mission, vision, and values.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
In the fall of 2016, we adopted Career Pathways as our strategic framework. Career Pathways is an employer-driven approach, grounded in timely and accurate labor market data, and supports individuals along an established, progressive route to stable employment offering family sustaining wages. Key services under a career pathways approach are career navigation assistance, work experience, employer supports and credential training/education. A Career Pathways approach requires a longer timeframe than an employment entry approach because “success” is the attainment of family sustaining wage, which is not always a direct, linear path, and can take years to unfold.
Click on the infographic below to see a graphic representation of DF’s Career Pathways strategic framework: