Workforce Development

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Preparing Residents for Family-Sustaining Employment

The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is committed to ensuring equity, access and opportunity for all residents of our region. We pursue this long-term goal by investing in quality education, workforce development and safety net programs. In the workforce area, our goal is to:

Improve workers' career prospects and earnings by increasing the
number of adults in our region who acquire a post-secondary credential.

Why? Because we know that our region’s economy increasingly demands high levels of skills and knowledge from its workers. With low-skilled positions on the decline, thousands in our region are not only unemployed, under-employed, or stuck in low-wage employment, they also lack the necessary tools to find and keep a job that can lead to economic security. We know that employers value credentials, so we are working to link adult education and training to the on-the-ground needs of employers.

The outcome? Workers armed with credentials that employers value and families on the path to a stable, higher quality of life.


The Community Foundation is pursuing its workforce development goal by leveraging our resources to drive more philanthropic, business, and public investments in people, programs, and policies:

  • People: Connect low-income workers to high-quality career coaching, education, training, college readiness, and supportive services that enhance their skills and career prospects.
  • Programs: Provide capacity building supports, peer networking opportunities, and technical assistance to help providers strengthen the effectiveness of their services, scale their efforts, work more successfully with employers, and achieve collective impact.
  • Policies: Support advocacy and research efforts that promote responsible stewardship of federal, state, and local workforce development resources.

A key component of this approach is the Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative. The Collaborative is a coalition of philanthropic and business investors who pool their resources to build a stronger workforce development system for the Washington metropolitan region. Read more about the Collaborative and its work here.

The Greater Washington region has experienced extraordinary economic growth and demographic change over the past 15 years. We have become one of the wealthiest, most diverse communities in the nation. The presence of the federal government, Congress, embassies, and the many entities that support their efforts, has drawn a workforce renowned for its knowledge. The promise of economic opportunity has also drawn immigrant families who have helped to grow and diversity the region’s pool of skilled labor.

Despite the recent economic downturn, the greater Washington metropolitan region continued to have one of the strongest economies in the nation. Nevertheless, there is a continued need to enhance the skills of our region’s workers and create more pathways to economic opportunity for our residents. Community Foundation donors can help to address this need by making informed investments in high quality workforce development programs.

Why workforce development?

Thousands of local workers are still struggling to find work. As show in the table above, our region has not yet fully recovered from increased unemployment caused by the recent recession. Research consistently finds that the least-skilled workers are most likely to be unemployed. Increasing or updating the skills of local workers may help to reduce their chances of becoming unemployed and, if they are laid off, allow them to get back to work more quickly.

Many working adults in our region are employed full-time but struggle to make ends meet. According to research by Wider Opportunities for Women (see Basic Economic Security Tables at right), a single adult worker with no dependents would need to earn a minimum of $31,656 a year to achieve economic security in our region. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 more than 345,000 workers in metropolitan Washington worked in occupations where the average annual earnings for full-time workers fell below this level. Moreover, many of these workers are not single adults, but parents and caregivers with additional family financial obligations. The cost of economic security is significantly higher for these workers.

In order to achieve family economic security, many low-income workers need to increase their skills and credentials. Nearly half of today’s jobs are “middle-skill” occupations requiring more than high school but less than a four-year college degree. Another third require a four-year degree. As a result, nearly 8 in 10 jobs are beyond the reach of workers who lack a post-secondary credential.

Where can I learn more?

The Community Foundation’s Workforce Initiatives staff has extensive experience in workforce development and stands ready to help donors explore a variety of charitable investment options. Please don’t hesitate to contact us – we look forward to hearing from you!

Sarah Looney Oldmixon
Director, Workforce Initiatives