Quality Jobs: Small businesses leading the way

In 2021, we kicked off work on our new strategic plan, “Shaping a Collective Future: Plans for 2021 through 2023” where we outlined a goal of developing a quality job initiative geared at partnering with small businesses to create and sustain quality jobs across our region. Our key objectives for tackling this work are:  

  • To identify and recognize quality job creators in our region as contributors to a diverse regional economy. These are often the unsung heroes of our region and economy.  
  • To create meaningful impact by supporting the creation of more quality jobs and fostering a system that allows people to move from low wage/low quality to high wage/high quality jobs, ultimately fostering the continued growth of a diverse regional economy.  
  • To prioritize how we invest our resources into opportunities that have the potential to create and grow more quality jobs in our region.  
  • To scale our impact through collaboration and sharing insights regionally and nationally on how small businesses can contribute to the creation of quality jobs and ways to support their efforts. 

The timing and focus of this work could not have come any sooner as employers of all sizes, but small businesses in particular, have been hit hard by labor shortages at all levels. Supporting the creation of quality jobs is a key strategy in addressing these workforce issues. To move this work along we have made great progress this past year in building the foundation for this initiative including:  

  • Defining & measuring a quality job. Working with national peers we adapted a definition and measurement framework for quality jobs to fit our region and needs while keeping aligned with national impact measurement standards. Get a sneak preview here
  • Collecting & analyzing data. We initiated the first “Employee & Quality Jobs Survey” to collect data from EF clients on the jobs they currently have and gain insights into their needs for addressing employee issues.   
  • Crafting our initial program strategy. After researching, gleaning insights from peer organizations, and reviewing our data on job creation & support, we developed our initial strategy for tackling this work. 
  • Raising initial funding for implementation. In 2021, we were fortunate to secure initial funding from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Small Business Partnership Grant and a grant through the Otto Bremer Trust to support the initial rollout of our Quality Jobs work in 2022.  

Where We’re Headed

As we wrap up 2021 and look to 2022, we are excited to embark on the next phases of this important work. We will be looking for our partners and clients to continually evolve and grow this important work. A highlight for our work to come in 2022:  

  • Creating conversations around job quality. We will be releasing a series of white papers & driving conversations around the important connections between job quality and small businesses. Topics will include:  
    • What is a “good job”? Defining and measuring the quality of a job. 
    • Aligning Small Business Workforce Needs & Quality Jobs: How we can support small businesses in creating and sustaining good jobs.  
    • Driving a Diverse Regional Economy: Small businesses as creators of high-quality Jobs 
  • Rolling out targeted programming. In 2022, we will be growing our capacity for training and one on one advising work to support small businesses in improving the quality of their jobs in manageable and impactful ways.  
  • Sharing data & insights. Knowledge is power and we want to equip our small businesses and partners with data on the types of jobs small businesses are creating in our region across different industries.  

As we look forward to this coming year, we are positioned and ready to partner with entrepreneurs and regional partners to make a profound impact on job quality and economic opportunity across Minnesota and Wisconsin.  

Our partners at Pacific Community Ventures said it best, “CDFIs are uniquely positioned to address the troubling trend of rising wealth and income inequality in the United States by focusing on the creation of higher quality jobs. To move toward a reality where quality jobs are the standard— not the exception.” 

Pacific Community Ventures