Job Quality and Career Pathways

In too many communities, low quality jobs and the lack of career pathways limit the ability of workers to achieve financial stability and upward economic mobility.  However, some businesses and organizations are already proving that providing employees with fair wages, benefits, and career training can have positive impacts on their bottom line, employees’ economic well-being, and a community’s prosperity.  At the same time, government, the private sector, organized labor, worker centers, community-based organizations, and other sectors are collaborating more than ever before. The Strong Local Economies Program aims to capitalize on this collaboration to improve the quality of jobs in the lower wage sectors of our economy while at the same time creating access to career pathways to good jobs in emerging industries (e.g., advanced manufacturing, clean tech, biotech).

What we fund:

We seek funding opportunities that:

  • Transform industries and improve the quality of jobs in low wage growth sectors through organizing, policy advocacy, and research.  We will prioritize efforts that help improve conditions for workers in an industry and also improve or create career mobility opportunities.  We support activities that directly engage employers to improve job quality as a means to benefit both employer and employees.
  • Improve existing career pathways in growth sectors that lead to upward economic mobility for workers and positive outcomes for businesses. Specifically, we will support organizations that develop new training opportunities, Federal, State or Local career-pathway policies and programs, and partnerships with the private sector that help workers navigate established career pathways.
  • Increase access to career pathways in emerging sectors of the economy (e.g., advanced manufacturing, clean tech, biomedical, etc.) such that these higher wage jobs are more accessible to low income workers, and people of color. We seek policy reform and development, as well as innovative demonstration projects.
  • Promote the concept that companies who commit to improved job quality and opportunities for career advancement can positively impact their bottom line. We seek research opportunities that make this case, but also case studies of policy change efforts that include both a strong business and worker perspective.

We give preference to the following types of efforts:

  • National, state, and local advocacy and organizing campaigns that support policies  (e.g., paid sick days and increased minimum wage) that will improve low wage jobs across sectors;
  • The development of training curricula or models that offer higher quality jobs in partnership with a major corporation, community college, worker center, industry trade association, or other appropriate institution, aimed at creating new opportunities for Surdna’s priority communities to access jobs in emerging industries;
  • Organizations that work with local businesses to promote “high road” business practices such as paying family sustaining wages, providing paid sick days, etc.;
  • Partnerships with industry trade associations that create new career pathways or strategies for employee mobility.

How to apply:

If you are interested in applying for a Surdna Foundation grant, please submit a letter of inquiry by clicking here. Please note: We can only support organizations that meet our guidelines listed under "What we fund."

Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

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