In the wake of the health and economic crisis, supporting and upskilling jobseekers is more crucial than ever
As a country, we have witnessed many shockwaves stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic ripple through communities and sectors. Continued disruptions in employment are among the most prominent of these impacts. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates neared historic lows this April, yet labor force participation dipped to 62 percent. As evidenced, a tight labor market means employers need skilled workers, yet millions of Americans still cannot obtain a living-wage job. This long-standing problem, which was exacerbated by the pandemic, reveals three needs: for employers to consider untapped labor markets, for workforce development programs that support skill-building, and for the removal of unnecessary barriers. Blue Meridian is committed to investing to meet these needs as all are required to support a truly equitable recovery.
From the start, Blue Meridian has invested in promising solutions that focus on skill building and job training for low-income individuals and those with the greatest barriers to employment. For instance, since 2016, we have supported the growth and execution of Year Up, which trains young talent for in-demand jobs and has demonstrated sustained growth in wages. More recently, Blue Meridian has also invested in unique approaches to close the gap between available jobs and qualified workers. The nonprofit Social Finance, for example, developed the Career Impact Bond, an innovative funding model that helps workers upskill for jobs in fields like IT and healthcare. Participants in The Studio @ Blue Meridian, Per Scholas provides education for adults underrepresented in technology fields, particularly Black, Latinx, and low-income individuals, and Merit America offers a flexible, part-time program for low-wage workers looking to make a career transition.
But we are not alone in this work. Sharing our long-term focus on employment, other funders like the Shultz Family Foundation and Echoing Green have made their own important investments in this area. New funders have also joined this endeavor, including recent support from Google to several Blue Meridian investees. Through upfront investments of significant growth capital, we believe strategies such as these can scale to meet the problem and create national impact.
We work to extend employment access to every individual, including those involved with the justice system. In our last newsletter, we highlighted our Justice and Mobility investments which increase employment for this community from a variety of angles. One such approach is providing resources and support to employers through investments, such as Jobs for the Future whose Center for Justice and Economic Advancement will serve as a hub for companies looking to adopt Fair Chance Hiring practices. Additionally, we support justice-impacted jobseekers through investments like Clean Slate Initiative, which works to clear criminal records for tens of millions of eligible applicants, and Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). A long-time investee, CEO provides critical immediate paid employment and job training upon reentry leading to full-time placement, and its novel efforts to provide direct cash assistance during the pandemic has received well-deserved attention as it’s scaled across cities and states.
Across our five portfolios, we have committed approximately $275M to date in strategies working to boost employment. Though we acknowledge the vast scale of this problem and will build on our efforts in this area, this substantial investment underscores our belief that supporting the eligibility and upskilling of jobseekers enables them to obtain meaningful, sustained employment, ultimately transforming the life trajectories of millions. As we look towards the future, we remain encouraged by our visionary investee leaders who adapted, met the moment, and work daily to create an inclusive economy and an equitable America.
“We provide the necessary tech training to ensure diverse, resilient people of color can get access to digital careers and take advantage of thriving wage opportunities.”
– Plinio Ayala, President & CEO
Per Scholas provides bootcamp-style adult learning for jobseekers who are significantly underrepresented in the technology field – Black or Latinx individuals and those from low-income communities.
“The Career Impact Bond addresses declining economic mobility and the growing skills gap. Since the pandemic, learners face even more barriers to the training that leads to good jobs. De-risking learning, student-friendly financing, and supportive services are all critical.”
– Tracy Palandjian, CEO & Co-Founder
Social Finance’s Career Impact Bond is a holistic financing model for workforce training that has the potential to prepare millions of workers for recession-resistant jobs with advancement potential.
“With the right intention and leadership, we can create a new economic reality that expands access to the middle class, while fueling businesses with the diverse talent they need.”
– Gerald Chertavian, Founder & CEO
Year Up‘s intensive training program offers hands-on skills development, coursework eligible for college credits, and corporate internships and has been shown to help opportunity youth maintain higher-paying jobs.
“Passing laws that automatically expunge people’s records after a certain amount of time would ensure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue employment, seek education, and provide for themselves and their families.”
– Sheena Meade, Executive Director
Clean Slate Initiative advances policies to automate record clearance for eligible criminal records – a major barrier to employment – and expands the range of eligible records, increasing economic and social opportunity for millions.