Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.

Shifting Gears

Shifting Gears

An initiative to bolster efforts in six Midwest states to help working-age adults who need to expand their skills.

Skills For Chicagoland's Future

Skills For Chicagoland's Future

New City Of Chicago And Cook County Program To Put Chicagoans Back To Work

Employment Program

Employment Program

Creating Economic Opportunity



Economic opportunity is a core American value. However, recent economic trends, including the widening income gap and the rise of involuntary part-time and contingent work, coupled with the evidence of weak economic mobility, raise serious concerns. The economy is changing rapidly and disadvantaged adult workers with few skills may face even more trouble accessing good job opportunities in the future. We seek to expand economic opportunities for disadvantaged individuals, and promote competitiveness and economic vitality in the Great Lakes region.
Research shows that skills and credentials are correlated with positive life outcomes for individuals and families. Therefore we focus on two key issues:
  • building foundational skills necessary for underprepared adults to succeed in college and other forms of training necessary to access good jobs;
  • supporting the creation of partnerships between industry and education and workforce development entities so they can respond to labor market changes with nimble and creative placement and training solutions.

Our Approach

Foundational Skills

To increase the number of underprepared adults in the region with the foundational math and literacy skills needed to be successful in 21st century work, the Foundation supports evaluation and scaling up of promising adult education efforts, with a particular focus on technology-based solutions. Learn More.

Industry Workforce Partnerships

To ensure that occupational training for underprepared adults meets the requirements of the labor market, the Foundation supports efforts to 1) expand partnerships between industry groups and educational organizations; 2) promote the integration of work-based learning into education and training programs; 3) research on the value of employer investments in employee skill development, particularly among entry-level and low-wage workers; and 4) reform federal and state policy around enabling and incentivizing such policies. Learn More.

Cross-Cutting Data and Policy

To improve policies that support the expansion of foundational skills and industry workforce partnerships, the Foundation supports a limited number of projects that aim to improve workforce data collection and use in the policymaking process and federal and state policy advocacy. Learn More.

Joint Fund for Education and Employment

In order to support more children, youth, and adults in becoming college and career ready, the Joint Fund focuses on: 1) creating clear paths within and between secondary and postsecondary institutions that incorporate academics and real world learning applications; 2) building personal success skills necessary for academic, work, and life success; and 3) promoting strategies to increase student engagement in learning. More information can be found here. 

The program does not accept proposals to support direct-service programs.


Latest News From The Employment Program

9/28/2015 4:54:00 PM

2015 Shifting Gears Report Released

New workforce development strategies in 3 Midwestern states chart path for low-skilled adult workers to gain foothold in changing economy.


Joyce Foundation Approves 45 Grants

On April 21, 2015 the Joyce Foundation Board of Directors approved 45 grants spanning 7 programmatic priorities.

3/31/2015 10:43:00 AM

Research Shows Technology Has the Potential to Reshape Adult Education

Landmark national survey of adult educators shows tremendous opportunity for instructional technology to dramatically improve and expand adult basic education...


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