Minnesota Philanthropists Focus On Putting People to Work

Several foundations are putting their dollars and political clout together to develop job training programs.

Several foundations are putting their dollars and political clout together to develop job training programs. Photo: Shutterstock

Many charities serving low-income or homeless people operate in crisis mode: they operate soup kitchens to relieve hunger, provide shelters for people to sleep at night, or provide emergency financial assistance, for example.

But things are changing in Minnesota.

There, philanthropic organizations have realized that these emergency programs are stabilizing people and families in crisis, they’re not doing anything to help move these people out of poverty. Thus, they decided to put their time, money, and political influence into lobbying for and funding efforts aimed at getting jobs for the state’s low-income and homeless population.

The partnership, dubbed MSP Win (Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Workforce Innovation Network), is a group of Minnesota-based foundations, has become active in state and local politics, hoping to influence legislators to put more time and money into workforce development and job training initiatives. The ultimate goal of the program is to get the state’s neediest residents into well-paying jobs, according to Philanthropy News Digest.

The partnership includes the McKnight and St. Paul foundations, the Otto Bremer Trust, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Those organizations changed their funding focus from crisis management to job training due to research that shows a looming worker shortage, persistent skills gaps in critical areas, and a deep income disparity between whites and people of color. They came together to urge state lawmakers to create an annual “report card” that revealed outcomes of state-funded training programs.

MSP Win is also analyzing job openings by industry so they can better understand market demands. In doing so, it’s bringing together unions, trainers, and employees to get information about how to build successful careers in those industries.

“We are really focused on the economic well-being of families to be self-sufficient,” said Eric Muschler, a program officer for the regions and communities program at the McKnight Foundation.

Naturally, some organizations were resistant. The were concerned that publicizing their statistics would lead to a loss of funding if results didn’t measure up to their goals.

Training that leads to employment “is the best cure for many of society’s challenges,” Brian Lipschultz, co-CEO of the Otto Bremer Trust, told the Star Tribune.

“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.

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