Your Community Is Worried About Job Training. Are You?

In Strategic Planning by lisavgray

Has your nonprofit considered offering a jobs-and-training program? Today is the day you should turn off your phone, shut the door, and think about this idea. I have been talking lately about aligning your nonprofit with community need (here, here, here, here). At a time when nonprofits – maybe your nonprofit – struggle to secure support, the surest path to relevance and fundraising success is to work on the problems that most concern your community.

And your community is worried about jobs and job training.

As of December 2020, the North Carolina Department of Commerce reports there were 310,675 unemployed North Carolinians (6.2% unemployment rate). That’s compared with the December 2019 figure of 3.6% unemployment in NC. To inspire your thinking about piloting or expanding a jobs-training program, I recommend reading a new survey conducted by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and pollster Gallup called Back to Work: Listening to Americans. Download the full report here.

The Carnegie Corporation's Back to Work: Listening to Americans

Carnegie offers this overview: “Three out of four Americans, including nearly identical numbers of Democrats and Republicans, say that the weak economy has become the most urgent concern in recent months. An overwhelming number from both political parties favor a national program that would provide paid work and training opportunities while addressing national and community needs.

Yes, economists expect the U.S. economy to “take off like a rocket” once we reach herd immunity on the vaccination front, but we all know there’s a large swath of that economy where expected sluggish recovery will “further exacerbate inequality.” The Carnegie Back to Work survey shows there is bipartisan support for public-private back-to-work and training programs to help more Americans recover and build skills for future employment.

Can Your Nonprofit Lead?

We’re not talking here about re-constituting your mission or programs. If you don’t already offer a paid-work program or a job-training program, ask yourself: can we partner with local creatives, a local community college, or small-business center to pilot a work-program for our stakeholders? One of my clients, FeedNC, launched its Culinary Jobs Program in 2018. They recruit 3-4 students for each 12-week training program and work with community partners to offer job-placement services and other support to successful graduates of the program. The Charlotte Observer reports that Historic West End Partners received a City of Charlotte CARES Act Grant to commission local artists to paint murals in its neighborhood. Opera Carolina received an Invest in Creatives grant to offer weekly IStream digital concerts starring regional musicians and singers. Know of other good examples? Send them along, please, and I’ll add them here!

But We’re Different

If you’re thinking your nonprofit isn’t built to address jobs-and-training challenges in our community, the Carnegie Back to Work survey has some suggestions for your consideration.

  • 98% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help deliver food, medical prescriptions, or care to the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
  • 97% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help build and repair infrastructure.
  • 94% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help address the impact of lost learning time (related to COVID) for K-12 students.
  • 94% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help prevent or address the consequences of natural disasters.
  • 92% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help expand access to quality childcare.
  • 89% of its respondents agreed that a medium-to-high priority program would help ensure clean air and water.

That list sounds like a Who’s Who of NC nonprofit causes! Can your nonprofit respond to our community’s need and design a jobs-and-training program that aligns with your mission? Can you help your neighbors find meaningful, gainful employment and build skills for future work? How can a program like this help you gain financial support from your current donors – and perhaps spur new folks to notice your leadership? If you’re not sure how to start planning a program like this, let me help!