Workforce Development: Ideas for Funders
Author: Sarah Oldmixon
Last week, I was pleased to be invited to participate in an invigorating conversation among Community Foundation donors, grantmakers, and local leaders who are committed to confronting this crisis head on. The March Funders’ Roundtable of Montgomery County was organized around the topic “New strategies in workforce development for hard-to-serve populations hit hardest by the economic downturn” and provided more than 30 participants with an opportunity to learn about the unemployment situation in Montgomery County as well as strategies to help individuals get back to work.
- Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland kicked off the conversation by sharing some stories about the increased demand for services CASA has seen. Despite the growing demand for job placement assistance, they’ve experienced a 30% decline in requests for workers.
- Next, Martha Ross, Deputy Director at Greater Washington Research at Brookings joined me in a context-setting overview. Martha shared some very interesting demographic data on Montgomery County, including the statistic that there are roughly 30,000 individuals in Montgomery County who report that they have limited English skills and would benefit from English as a Second Language instruction. I used my time to discuss smart strategies for workforce development investors during an economic downturn. A copy of my presentation can be found HERE.
- Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative grantees Donna Kinerney, Ph.D., Instructional Dean of Adult ESOL & Literacy Programs, Montgomery College and Annie Nguyen, Montgomery County Branch Manager, Boat People SOS described their efforts to help immigrant workers prepare for careers in health care – one of the few industries that has continued to grow despite the economic downturn.
- Finally, Marga C. Fripp, President of Empowered Women International, closed out the panel with a compelling presentation about her own experiences as an immigrant in Montgomery County and how she’s tapped into those experiences to create a nonprofit that provides other newcomers with training in entrepreneurship. If you haven’t seen the beautiful products created by Empower Women’s artists, you’ll want to visit their online store.
Like many meeting participants, I left the meeting with a heightened awareness of Montgomery County’s need for workforce programming in general and for immigrants in particular. I was encouraged by the level of interest in and energy around growing the availability of contextualized literacy programs. I’m already looking forward to further conversations about how to make this vision a reality, both in Montgomery County and throughout the region. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that we will be organizing a special convening later this spring focused on this topic. The Literacy for Work forum will provide an opportunity for contextualized literacy providers throughout the region to come together to share lessons learned, discuss common challenges, and explore ideas for growing this important area of workforce development. Please email me if you’re interested in learning more.
The Funders’ Roundtable of Montgomery County is co-sponsored by The Community Foundation for Montgomery County, Mead Family Foundation, Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth and Families, Jim and Carol Trawick Foundation, and The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.