MWA Awarded Grant through SkillWorks Fellowship Program

This article was originally published in the Boston Business Journal, by Beth Treffeisen, on 6/17/22, under the headline “SkillWorks, Boston Foundation award $1M to nine nonprofits.” If you’d like to read the original article, click here.

SkillWorks and The Boston Foundation on Thursday announced the winners of more than $1 million in workforce innovation solutions grants.

Lee Pelton, president of The Boston Foundation, made the announcement during a webinar discussion on building equity into a changing workforce for job seekers and employees.

“This is a decolonizing of philanthropy in a way that it becomes a trust and co-creation process as opposed to the top-down process that philanthropy has been, shall I say, addicted to, for many, many years,” Pelton said. “I want to congratulate you for this wonderfully innovative, creative and equity-centered approach.”

Thursday morning’s virtual event launched the SkillWorks Fellowship Program. Nine nonprofits will share $1,050,000 in grants to design and implement solutions to elevating and solving the systemic barriers to economic opportunity and advancement for workers.

The nonprofits chosen were awarded the grants after pitching ideas to redesign the workforce through scalable systems change.

The nonprofit organizations Jewish Vocational Service Boston, New England Culinary Arts Training and Hack.DiversitySolutions were each awarded $250,000 over two years in ready-to-go projects.

Meanwhile, the following organizations will receive $50,000 in grants:

International Institute of New England
Massachusetts Workforce Association
Just A Start
Center for Community Health Education Research and Service

SkillWorks Fellowship emerged from the learnings and insights of the Catapult Papers and Catapult Learning Lab in 2019. The program aims to alleviate the systemic barriers to economic opportunity and advancement.

“We realized we need to change the rules,” Andre Green, SkillWorks executive director, said during Thursday’s webinar.

Green said that by creating opportunities that are more than just job training, the fellows are the next to break down barriers to accessing the job market.

“We believe the SkillWorks fellowships… is the first, not the last step,” Green said.

Rosalin Acosta, secretary of the Executive Office of Labor & Workforce for Massachusetts, said during the webinar that the Future of Work report released by the Baker-Polito administration last year highlighted the inequalities in the Covid-19 pandemic recovery.

The report predicted it would take women 18 months longer to recover than men, and 24 months longer for those in the Black and Latino communities, Acosta said. The unemployment rate in the state is 4.5% for whites, 8% for Latinos and 6.5% for Blacks, she said.

Acosta said that for the first time, the workforce budget in the state is $240 million due to the extra federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, and that money should be spend on creating more workplace equity. “If we don’t get this right now, I’m not sure we will have another opportunity like the one we have right now,” Acosta said.

Lee said that the racial wealth gaps has cost the U.S. economy $16 trillion over the last 20 years. In Massachusetts alone, closing those gaps between Black and white communities could create $25 billion in GDP growth over the next five years.

“The impact on the greater society is 100 times the investment we’re making in the individual,” said Segun Idowu, chief of economic opportunity and inclusion for Boston. “Because what we’ve seen happen is, by restricting access to wealth, building opportunities doesn’t just impact the communities of color. It impacts every single community.”

Beth Treffeisen is an ACBJ reporting intern

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