Employment and Jobs

Economic Opportunities Program Newsletter, January 2022

January 31, 2022  • Economic Opportunities Program

At the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, and for our many colleagues and partners, the ongoing and intertwined health, economic, and racial justice crises bring new urgency to our work to improve access to quality jobs, options to participate in business ownership, and the freedom to pursue economic opportunity. Below we share our monthly newsletter with highlights of recent work. As always, we welcome your feedback, thoughts, and partnership in advancing inclusive opportunity and an economy in which we all can thrive. Click here to subscribe.

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News and Updates

"New Year, New Twitter Handle. Say hello to @AspenJobQuality." Photo of a smartphone with the Twitter logo on screen. Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash.

New Year, New Twitter Handle

We are pleased to announce an exciting and important update to our social media identity. Our Twitter handle @AspenWorkforce is now @AspenJobQuality! This change is overdue, and it captures our long-running focus on the goal of promoting quality jobs. At its birth a decade ago, @AspenWorkforce gave voice to the Workforce Strategies Initiative, one of two initiatives in EOP at the time. Today we play host to multiple initiatives, Fellowships, event series, and projects. As EOP grew, @AspenWorkforce spoke to this increasingly diverse body of work, well beyond the scope of WSI alone. Through it all, however, we retained, reupped, and doubled down on our belief that quality jobs are the key issue facing workers and families today.

What better way to help us christen the new moniker than spreading the word about the importance of #jobquality? Check out the Action Page for our Job Quality Center of Excellence for highlights on the state of job quality in America and outreach tools for sharing with your network. Visit now.

Tweet: Progress toward improving #jobquality is long overdue. Join us and @AspenJobQuality’s Job Quality Center of Excellence to get the word out about the urgency around improving work.

Photo of the Phoenix skyline with the following text: “Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy, Class of 2021-22. Hosted by the Center for the Future of Arizona and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program.”

Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy Fellows Prepare for 2022 Stakeholder Presentations

The Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy Fellows held their closing retreat in January over Zoom. Four teams presented a draft of their systems change recommendations, including better collaboration among workforce stakeholders, clearer navigation for younger job candidates, and strategies to influence employers to enhance racial equity and job quality practices. Based on cross-group feedback, recommendations will be finalized and presented to local influencers in February. Fellows at the retreat also heard from EOP Executive Director Maureen Conway, who led a captivating discussion on the future of workforce development and the role of systems leaders in making change happen.

Despite being 100% virtual for the duration of the Fellowship, the Phoenix Academy—and others before it—have been exemplars of action in this paralyzing time. Recognizing this moment as a golden opportunity for systems change, Fellows built connection even when they couldn’t meet face-to-face. And the work they achieved collectively is poised to confront the intertwined challenges of job quality and racial equity. In the words of one Fellow, “I received quite a few things from the Academy over the months, but my number one [takeaway has] been the contacts and relationships that were developed. They will be invaluable.”

And it’s not over yet – stay tuned for updates on stakeholder presentations next month!


The Fruits of CDFI Collaboration

For the past three years, the Business Ownership Initiative and its Microfinance Impact Collaborative (MIC) have been working to support the development of the Entrepreneur Backed Assets (EBA) Fund, which is working to create a secondary market for CDFI microloans for MIC members and other CDFIs. EBA Fund launched in 2020 and received its certification as a CDFI this month. Through December 2021, EBA Fund has completed 17 transactions across the six MIC members. These purchases encompass 860 loans totaling more than $8.6 million. Some of these transactions were made to provide needed liquidity to MIC members; others because EBA Fund had identified purchasers. Of the loans acquired from MIC members, 337 loans totaling $3.5 million have been sold to bank purchasers; to date the premiums obtained on these purchases have resulted in donations of $575,000 to the MIC members.

Yoorie Chang

Building a Workplace for Every Employee

On January 25, Research Associate Yoorie Chang took part in a webinar on “Building a Workplace for EVERY Employee ~ A New Approach,” hosted by PHILLIPS Programs, the Aspen Institute, and Source America. The conversation explored what high-quality jobs are and why a new approach is needed. Chang spoke alongside Shane Kanady (Vice President of Workforce Development, Source America), Lindsay Harris (Director of Career Partners, PHILLIPS Programs), and moderator RoseAnn Renteria (Director of Research & Evaluation, PHILLIPS Programs). We will share a video of the event soon. Click here for more info.

Photo of Natalie Foster

Building Community Wealth: How Can We Meet the Moment

Future of Work Initiative Senior Fellow Natalie Foster spoke at a virtual event on “Building Community Wealth: How Can We Meet the Moment.” The discussion—part of the Milken Institute’s Public Finance Forum 2022—explored how “ innovators, investors, and issuers in public finance [can] scale up equitable and innovative solutions in the decade ahead while managing future risks and economic disruption.” Foster spoke alongside Shawn Wooden (Treasurer, State of Connecticut) and moderator Margot Brandenburg (Senior Program Officer, Mission Investments, Ford Foundation). Click here to watch.

Foreground: "Digital Skills Discussion Guide by Amanda Fins, The Aspen Institute." Background: Photo of two women restaurant employees standing at the bar while looking at a tablet.

Updates from UpSkill America

On December 16, the Employer Network Advancing Digital Skills & Equity—led by Digital US and World Education in partnership with UpSkill America—hosted a Twitter chat on efforts to advance digital resilience and equity. Today we are pleased to share a brief recap of the discussion, which uplifted a range of insights to support people on their digital skills journey. Read more.

Last month, we also released our new Digital Skills Discussion Guide, which can help workforce providers learn how employer partners are integrating technology and upskilling workers. By beginning this learning process, the Guide can facilitate supporting workers adapting to new ways of interacting with their work environments during this digital transformation. Download the Guide.

In January, both Kohl’s and Hilton announced new education benefits for employees, including debt-free access to degrees and credentials. We are pleased to see these companies, and others, remain committed to the upskilling movement during what continues to be an uncertain time in our economy and society. Learn more:

Upcoming Events

EOP will continue to host virtual events and webinars this season. Join our mailing list and follow us on social media to learn when new opportunities are available.

Join the conversation

Follow EOP on social media to join the conversation!

We are pleased to announce an exciting and important update to our social media identity. Our Twitter handle @AspenWorkforce is now @AspenJobQuality! This change is overdue, and it captures our long-running focus on the goal of promoting quality jobs.

-Job quality updates from EOP @AspenJobQuality

How can we help community development financial institutions (#CDFIs) accelerate lending to #smallbiz in underserved communities? @EBAFund is working to do that.

-Business Ownership Initiative @Aspen_BOI

As the workplace becomes increasingly digital, the new #DigitalSkills Discussion Guide by @upskillamerica can help #wkdev providers make sense of this transformation and support workers who are adapting to these changes.

-UpSkill America @upskillamerica

This partnership by @theworkerslab and @AspenFutureWork aims to: understand gig workers’ needs and challenges; build a community of leaders to amplify findings; and establish a research framework that puts knowledge production in the hands of workers.

-Future of Work Initiative @AspenFutureWork

About EOP

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice. For over 25 years, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. For more information, visit as.pn/eop.

EOP has several initiatives, including the Business Ownership Initiative, Workforce Strategies Initiative, UpSkill America, Good Companies/Good Jobs, and the Future of Work Initiative. In addition, across these approaches EOP hosts the Economic Opportunity Fellows Network and the Opportunity in America event series.

Thank you to our many partners and funders for supporting our efforts.

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