The 2016 election led many of us to consider the challenges facing working class people in America, and the ways that they are being left behind in a growing economy. Aiming to find answers to some of these difficult questions, Opportunity America, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution convened a bipartisan working group of scholars and policy experts.
Researchers, policy thinkers, and former White House and congressional staff from across the political spectrum came together to spend a year researching solutions. The final report, Work, skills, community: Restoring opportunity for the working class, was released in October 2018 with a slate of proposals designed to create jobs, help workers obtain jobs, narrow the skills gap, and strengthen families and communities.
Following the release, the working group planned a listening tour through Northeast Ohio and Western Michigan to discuss the report with local officials, employers and regional media and get feedback from the people living in working-class communities. Talent 2025, a coalition of CEOs and civic leaders, was selected to host the group’s two-day tour of West Michigan.
Talent 2025 invited WorkLab Founding Member The SOURCE to share the success of their employee support model with the visiting researchers. They hoped to impress on the group the value of workforce development that relies on employer investment in the workforce, and how partnerships between employers, nonprofit organizations like The SOURCE, and the community can offer employees a stronger support system.
While the Sustainable Workforce Model has been successfully practiced in some communities for years, the model is new to many people outside of those communities. Hearing directly from employers who have benefited from The SOURCE’s services for years, the visiting researchers learned why employers in Grand Rapids are such loyal partners for The SOURCE.
For many employers, providing their employees with comprehensive, personalized support is key to being seen as an employer of choice in their community. They see their employees as consumers of their workplace, and aim to provide a great employee experience in the same way that they create an positive customer experience. Whether it’s about the business impact of attracting and retaining the best employees or just part of their culture’s DNA, they all spoke to the value of standing out as great places to work.
The group also discussed how pursuing inclusion as an employer can bring more people into the workforce. Many people who who struggle to find employment eventually give up and opt out of the workforce altogether. Employers in Grand Rapids have found that open hiring practices like not requiring a criminal background check or a GED widens their pool of candidates, helping them find new talent and avoid worker shortages, even in a historically tight labor market. And by contributing to a stable, active workforce, these practices strengthen the local economy as well, helping to ensure the long-term success of their business.
A heavy-hitting research group convened by @opp_america @AEI and @BrookingsInst was invited to The SOURCE to hear their #employers' perspectives on how great #workplace supports bolster their community and make them the #bestplacestowork in #grandrapids