Employment and Jobs

Mandy Townsend, Job Quality Fellow

December 12, 2019  • Economic Opportunities Program

Vice President of Employer Engagement, JVS

Jewish Vocational Service in Boston (JVS Boston), a workforce development organization, is a pioneer in moving from a philanthropic, grant-funded approach to workforce development to partnering directly with businesses and charging fees for its services. This partnership approach puts JVS in a position to more directly influence the work of businesses and get workers in higher quality jobs.

“Our greatest strength is our deep relationships with employers,” says Mandy Townsend, who leads JVS Boston’s efforts to develop and expand relationships with business partners. Townsend oversees initiatives that focus on two goals: identifying and engaging business partners that can offer high-quality employment opportunities for program participants and working with these partners to improve job quality.

JVS Boston is one of the oldest and largest providers of adult education and workforce services in Greater Boston, serving nearly 17,000 individuals in 2018. JVS Boston provides training, education, career coaching, and other services directly to job seekers, and partners with businesses to develop training programs, create career ladders, and assess their job quality to help them attract and retain workers.

Townsend’s team identified five job quality pillars to help JVS Boston evaluate employers. JVS Boston staff created flexible job quality measures that can be applied to different industries and adapted based on workers’ priorities. Drawing on comprehensive survey input from its own employees, job seekers, and business clients, JVS Boston’s definition comprises the following five job pillars: salary, stable scheduling, benefits, supportive management/work environment, and career advancement opportunities. The organization is using these pillars to develop a benchmarking tool to accomplish three goals: 1) Route job seekers to high-quality employers that match their criteria for what makes a good job 2) Prioritize employer partners for workforce services, such as job fairs and talent pipelines, to hire and retain talent in hard-to-fill positions, and 3) Advise employer partners on their sector’s job quality practices to help them gain a competitive edge and become an employer of choice. This tool also takes into account employers’ diversity and inclusion practices.

JVS Boston Employer Engagement Guide

Workforce organizations are better positioned to influence businesses’ job quality policies when they have long-standing relationships with employers. At JVS Boston, Townsend’s team has developed an Employer Engagement Guide, and accompanying Partnering for Impact philosophy, that supports staff to establish and strengthen relationships with businesses over time. The guide outlines four phases of employer engagement – making contact, building trust and credibility, solidifying relationships, and continuous partner engagement – and offers strategies for working with employers at each of these phases. JVS Boston plans to use the Employer Engagement Guide alongside its job quality benchmarking tool to help staff determine which employers to more deeply engage, based on their level of commitment to their partnership with JVS Boston and the quality of the jobs they offer. JVS is also using this tool and its underpinning philosophy to provide training to other workforce development organizations around the country.

Townsend’s team also works closely with employer partners to develop new hiring and retention strategies that can improve workers’ job quality. “In a tight labor market, employers are recognizing workforce shortages and are keen to partner with JVS to upgrade entry-level jobs in order to remain competitive,” says Townsend.

One of these partners is Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, part of Boston’s extensive Partners HealthCare system. JVS Boston partnered with Spaulding to design a talent pipeline to help the organization address challenges finding and retaining qualified certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Using benchmarking data, Townsend and her staff made several recommendations to Spaulding for improving job quality. In response, Spaulding began combining part-time positions into full-time hours with more predictable schedules, resulting in an improved comprehensive benefits package available to CNA applicants recruited and trained by JVS Boston. Spaulding has also revised the job requirements for the position, leading to a more diverse applicant pool that includes some candidates who might otherwise not have gotten their foot in the door. This work has resulted in a 50% increase in retention at 18 months, and job seekers have seen a 25% increase in their annual earnings.

Seizing the moment, JVS has expanded the talent pipeline model to other hospitals and programs, including its pharmacy technician training program. JVS curates and trains individuals specifically for hospitals who invest in training and recruitment for new pharmacy technicians and CNAs. Trainees are guaranteed full-time jobs with benefits upon successful completion and employers are guaranteed mission-aligned employees. In just one year, JVS has partnered with six hospitals and the model has increased participant earnings by 52%.

“The tight labor market is creating an opportunity for us to address both skills shortages and income inequality, while creating long-term changes to job quality at the businesses we work with,” say Townsend. “At JVS, we’re excited to seize this critical moment and encourage a new approach to workforce development in Boston.”



As VP of employer engagement for @JVSBoston, #JobQuality Fellow Mandy Townsend works with business partners to create quality jobs and employment opportunities.

As one of Boston’s largest providers of adult education and workforce services, @JVSBoston (including #JobQuality Fellow Mandy Townsend) serves thousands of people a year through training, education, career coaching, and more.

Through @JVSBoston, #JobQuality Fellow Mandy Townsend partners with businesses to develop training programs, create career ladders, and assess job quality to attract and retain workers.

“The tight labor market is creating an opportunity for us to address both skills shortages & income inequality, while creating long-term changes to job quality at the businesses we work with.” #JobQuality Fellow Mandy Townsend (@JVSBoston)

Our economy needs more quality jobs. Learn how leaders like Mandy Townsend of @JVSBoston are innovating to boost opportunity in communities across the country.


Learn more

Mandy Townsend is a member of the Job Quality Fellowship, Class of 2018-19. The Job Quality Fellowship is a project of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program.

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