Joyce Program Employment

Economic opportunity is a core American value.

However, recent economic trends raise serious concerns, including the widening income gap and rise of involuntary part-time and contingent work, coupled with the evidence of weak economic mobility. The economy is changing rapidly and many Americans—especially disadvantaged workers with few skills—may face even more trouble accessing good job opportunities in the future. The Joyce Foundation seeks to expand economic opportunities for those individuals and promote competitiveness and economic vitality in the Great Lakes region.

Because research shows that skills and credentials are linked to positive life outcomes for individuals and families, we focus on two key issues:

  • Building foundational skills necessary for underprepared adults to succeed in post-secondary education, training and work.
  • Supporting employer investment in training, through internal career pathways such as apprenticeships, along with partnerships between industry and education and workforce development entities. In this way, we can help unlock economic opportunity by helping ensure that training and education are relevant to the local labor market.

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Foundational Skills

Foundational literacy and math skills are increasingly necessary to earn a family-sustaining wage or to succeed in post-secondary education and training. Yet at least 36 million adults in the US don’t meet this standard. New digital instructional tools provide an opportunity to address this problem by improving the effectiveness of adult basic education programs, and reaching the more than 30 million Americans who are not currently being served by them. Joyce works to improve the availability and effective adoption of digital learning tools for adult learners.


Provide underprepared adults in the region with the foundational skills needed to be successful in 21st century work and technical training.


Produce and distribute evidence about the effectiveness of digital learning tools to help adults acquire essential basic skills.

Stimulate interest in digital tools for adult learning among key stakeholder groups such as software developers, educational institutions and instructors, philanthropic or private capital funders, and policy makers.

Build the capacity of educational institutions and instructors to select and purchase learning technologies and effectively incorporate them into courses and programs.

Industry Workforce Partnerships

Economic opportunity requires access to training and education that build skills employers value. When employers invest and participate in occupational education and training programs, their quality and relevance improves, increasing the likelihood of a positive employment outcome for the worker. Joyce supports efforts to get more businesses investing in these approaches, both within their companies and by partnering with others to expand quality programs.  Areas of interest include: 1) expanding partnerships between industry groups and educational organizations; 2) promoting integration of work-based learning into education and training programs, and expanding apprenticeship programs; 3) researching the value of employer investments in employee skill development, particularly among entry-level and low-wage workers; and 4) reforming federal and state policy around enabling such strategies and providing incentives to grow them.


To increase businesses' role in occupational education and training for underprepared adults.


Invest in targeted research that adds to understanding of what makes for an effective industry workforce partnership.

Support networks of business executives to advocate among peers for investing in and managing effective skill development programs.

Create a national research and communications platform for industries to more regularly and clearly articulate the knowledge, skills, abilities, and credentials needed for jobs.

Build evidence that businesses profit from policies that promote skill development among low-skill employees.

Enhance the capacity of state and regional apprenticeships systems.

Cross-Cutting Data and Policy

Public policy at the federal, state and local levels shape the training, education and employment opportunities available to low-skill adults. The Joyce Foundation invests in a few core projects that involve research, analysis, and advocacy to ensure those policies help adults build foundational skills, and support industry workforce partnerships.  


Support development of public policy at all levels of government that promotes expansion of best practices in workforce development, leading to improved employment outcomes for underprepared adults in the Great Lakes region.


Improve collection and use of workforce and education data to improve program and investment decisions by state policy makers, community college leaders, and other stakeholders.

Ensure more effective federal and state advocacy campaigns by supporting sophisticated and timely data collection, analysis, and use of data.

Support federal and state level policy reform and implementation to ensure that strategies guiding workforce development programs and systems are driven by demand.

Joint Fund

Learn more about our Joint Fund for Education and Employment here.

What We Fund

We focus on initiatives that make an impact on the Great Lakes region.

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How To Apply

Learn about our submission process for applying for a grant.

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Our Research & Reports

Explore our research reports on Employment.

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