Press Release: 'Jobs to Careers' Initiative Shows How to Grow Your Own Skilled Workforce

Published oct. 11, 2011

BOSTON, MA (October 11, 2011) - Workers in entry-level, low-wage jobs are not typically considered a prime source of talent. Yet, results of a national initiative demonstrate that workers on the front lines of the health care sector can successfully advance to higher-level positions if offered opportunities to learn and practice new skills at their workplace. 

Launched in 2005 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Hitachi Foundation, Jobs to Careers, has supported 17 local projects across 15 states that have provided work-based learning to 750 frontline health workers employed in a range of low-wage support staff positions—from dietary and transportation aides to patient care technologists to medical records and laboratories assistants. By turning job tasks into learning opportunities, work-based learning enables workers to earn college credits and credentials faster and more affordably.

Health employers across the country have proved that investing in work-based learning for frontline employees pays dividends,” said Maria Flynn, vice president, Building Economic Opportunity, Jobs for the Future (JFF), which manages Jobs to Careers. “By growing their own, these employers have improved the quality and coordination of patient care and services, while cutting turnover and hiring costs and raising staff morale.

JFF has created a step-by-step guide for designing and implementing work-based learning and career advancement projects for frontline workers. While the examples originate from Jobs to Careers health care projects, the tools for work-based learning are adaptable to other work settings and occupations. A webinar to introduce the toolkit and explain the major elements of work-based learning will take place on October 18 and again on November 2. Employers in health care and other industry sectors are invited to register, as well as educators, workforce development and human resource professionals, researchers, private funders, and government  policymakers.

The success of Jobs to Careers has implications far beyond advancing the frontline health and health care workforce; this demonstration is a testimony to the impact of investing in people at all levels to improve the quality of care for everyone,” said Sallie George, RWJF program officer for the five-year Jobs to Careers program.  “It’s not easy to develop systems to support worker training—this toolkit makes it easier to tackle those tough challenges.

Jobs to Careers has spawned countless success stories for frontline workers as well as their employers and education providers.

• In Baltimore, Maryland, frontline hospital workers have taken their first steps toward careers as nurses by completing a work-based learning program to become state-certified nursing aides. Their success is documented in this video

• In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a frontline mental health worker has risen through the ranks to become a supervisor at a residential treatment facility. His story, described in this video, also made the local news.

• In Portland Oregon, managers of an assisted living facility explain in this video how formalizing training for frontline caregivers has improved care of elderly patients. 

• In Fall River, Massachusetts, the local community college describes in this video the benefits of higher enrollment and new sources for program instructors. 

Patient care is our top priority. We believe that training and retaining qualified frontline workers and health care professionals is the key to providing exceptional patient care,” said Sally Gillam, Chief Nursing Officer, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, one of the health facilities participating in the Austin, Texas project site. Learn more about the project’s work-based learning approach in this video.

Jobs to Careers is a $15.8 million initiative of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with The Hitachi Foundation and The U.S. Department of Labor. The initiative is managed by Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit seeking to strengthen America’s workforce through postsecondary education. For more information, go to

About Jobs for the Future


Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive adoption of education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy.
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