The Commonwealth Corporation: Strengthening the Massachusetts EconomySeptember 8, 2021 12:31 pm
For the past year and a half, we have been experiencing unprecedented times with hardship as a major theme. Covid has exposed some of the great inequities that have existed in communities of color, low wage populations, and for women in the workforce. The Commonwealth Corporation is uniquely positioned to provide grants, service, and support across the entire workforce development spectrum.
In a recent North Shore Conversations radio broadcast on 104.9FM, we had the opportunity to talk to Christine Abrams, President & CEO of the Commonwealth Corporation. She spent some time telling us about the programs and impacts that this organization has had on businesses, employees, and our state economic health as a whole.
Ms. Abrams may be new to the position of CEO at CommCorp, but she has decades of experience in the business world in positions of leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sector.
As a leader at General Mills for two decades, Abrams learned the value of investing in talent and how to manage a diverse workforce. In her years in a nonprofit position helping end domestic violence she focused on giving back and finding her passion.
It wasn’t until two weeks before the pandemic shut us all down that she took on the role at CommCorp that she tapped into her own passion for leadership and expanding and strengthening our economy.
What Is the Commonwealth Corporation?
This quasi-public workforce development agency is tasked with the mission of strengthening the skills of Massachusetts youth and adults by investing in innovative partnerships with industry, education and workforce organizations.
Abrams explained in the interview that the mantra of the organization could be, “We build bridges for economic equity and success for all.”
3 Main Areas of Focus
Preparing youth and unemployed workers for the current in-demand jobs that lead to higher rates of employment and upskilling the underemployed are the foundations that drive this organization.
The idea behind assisting youth, unemployed, and underemployed populations is that it will strengthen our local and regional economy by encouraging job retention, an increase in wage gains, and the creation of pathways for underserved populations.
Demand Driven Workforce Grants
One area of focus at CommCorp are the programs that include: the Workforce Training Fund (WTF), the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund (WCTF), Learn to Earn (LTE), and the newest program allied the Career Tech Institute.
The outcomes from this grant program have been phenomenal. Abrams reports that over the last year, “$20 million in grants have been given. Businesses that accessed the grant saw a 5.8% increase in job growth compared to the -13% in Massachusetts and -7.9% nationally.”
This is truly remarkable given that this was during the peak of the coronavirus surge and companies still saw an increase in job growth.
The number of people and businesses accessing these grants is pretty astonishing as well. According to Abrams numbers, “157 general grants were awarded last year. This involved 193 businesses and eleven thousand workers that gained access to training.”
Youth Based Programs
The youth based programs are the second focus of CommCorp. These programs include YouthWorks and a partnership with the Department of Youth Services.
The youth programs were just being organized in March 2020 when the lockdown forced the team to pivot quickly from an in-person learning and training program to one that was hybrid or virtual. The organizers did an amazing job of keeping the program going strong and were able to accommodate 30 communities in the training as well as positively impact over four thousand youth who were looking for skills and experiences to bring with them into their higher education and career aspirations.
Social Justice Programs
The Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) is a youth and young adult violence prevention and intervention initiative that operates in cities with the highest juvenile crime rates.
As a result of these programs Abrams reports that, “There were 815 fewer violent crime victims, ages 14 to 24, (in SSYI cities), resulting in annual cost savings of $38,243,359, against program expenditures of $7,549,079. For every $1 cities invested in SSYI, they saved $5.10 in victimization costs.”
For more information on the programs, grants, and services at Commonwealth Corporation check out their website and how to apply for grants/partnerships.