The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

SkillWorks
Boston, Massachusetts




"People had been frustrated with the fractured funding around workforce development for a long time," said SkillWorks Director Loh-Sze Leung. "In 2001, the foundation community [led by The Boston Foundation and then director of grantmaking Angel Bermudez] decided to see if they could help fill some of that gap." Enter SkillWorks (formerly The Boston Workforce Development Initiative), an collaboration between local and national foundations, the City of Boston, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SkillWorks is addressing an increasingly wide skill gap between unskilled and semi-skilled job seekers and workers and employers who need a skilled workforce. SkillWorks is a multiyear initiative helping low income individuals gain the skills they need to advance into family-supporting employment while at the same time helping businesses find skilled workers.

During the first five years, the program funded by SkillWorks trained almost 3,000 workers, the majority of whom had no post-secondary education. Twenty percent had no high school degree, and more than half spoke English as their second language. At the end of the first phase of the program, over 630 people had been placed in jobs, 60 percent of them in the health care industry. Approximately 200 participants had received promotions, and 120 individuals had completed college

Participating employers hired hundreds of workers, and also improved how they dealt with low-income adults, to the benefit of both employers and employees. One of the most important employer participants, Partners Health Care, began to fund their own training program based on the SkillWorks model, providing $1 million a year.

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