Minnesota Foundations Helping Homeless Find Stable Employment

Minnesota Foundations Helping Homeless Find Stable Employment

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Workforce Innovation Network (MSP Win) — a group of Minnesota-based foundations — has become more active in state and local politics, urging state officials to put additional time and money into efforts aimed at matching the state's neediest residents with well-paying jobs, the Star Tribune reports.

The group's interest reflects its members' belief that  the most effective way to address homelessness, poverty, and the effects of racial disparities is through job training and workforce development initiatives. But while job training programs in the state have long been a focus of philanthropic support, a looming worker shortage and a persistent skills gap in several critical areas, coupled with a troubling income disparity between whites and minorities, have added an element of urgency to the search for solutions.

The public-private partnership first came together in 2014, when members of MSP Win, including the McKnight and St. Paul foundations, the Otto Bremer Trust, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way, lobbied state lawmakers to create an annual report card that captured key outcomes of state-funded training programs. Maintained by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the report card measures things like the cost of programs, program completion rates, employment rates for program graduates, and wage increases.

There was initial skepticism, said Bryan Lindsley, executive director of MSP Win, because programs didn't want to do more reporting or risk funding if results didn't measure up. But the goal was "to strengthen the public workforce system and get better results for families." And it seems to be working, according to those involved, with MSP Win convincing the state to invest more in proven winners such as Pathways to Prosperity programs, which partners with community colleges, nonprofits, and on-the-job training programs to train people for specific jobs. In Hennepin County, for example, those who complete the training are guaranteed a job.

"As a region, our economic viability depends on us getting people educated, getting them employed and earning a livable wage where they can support their families," said Hennepin County administrator David Hough.

MSP Win also is analyzing job openings by industry to better understand market demand. And it's bringing together employers, unions, and trainers to map out successful career paths in those industries.

"I am out on job sites every day, and I see there is a need for more skilled labor out there," said Ryan Ponthan, a business representative for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. "That's the right approach. What does the industry need? What type of talent is the industry looking for and demanding?"

Shannon Prather. "Philanthropy’s New Focus in Minnesota: Putting People Into Jobs." Star Tribune 08/05/2017.