SPRINGFIELD — Since 2016, the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC), through its Springfield WORKS initiative, has brought together employers, educators, community leaders, the city, and residents to address how to meet the economic needs of both Springfield residents and local businesses. As a result of this collaboration, it became clear that there was a need to increase employer engagement to hire locally and invest in upskilling for worker advancement.
To that end, a partnership developed between the EDC and Baystate Medical Center (BMC), the largest employer in the region, to bring such strategies to fruition in Springfield. The BMC/EDC team was awarded $125,000 from the Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community for a project that seeks to engage more employers in identifying and addressing institutional practices and policies that will support their growth and development of low-wage, entry-level employees and better access to career pathways, and simultaneously provide ready access to employment for residents from surrounding limited-opportunity neighborhoods.
The funding will support Baystate Health’s ‘anchor institution mission’ to support and revitalize low-income communities though inclusive local hiring through deliberate action and meaningful collaboration with community workforce-development and training organizations affiliated with Springfield WORKS. ‘Anchor institutions’ have traditionally been nonprofit, place-based entities, such as universities and hospitals, that are able to leverage their resources for the benefit of the local community in hiring, investment, purchasing, and more.
What is unique about what is happening in Springfield is that a traditional anchor, Baystate Medical Center, is joining with the EDC’s Springfield WORKS and Parent Villages, a community-based parent organization, to establish a network of organizations that move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. Springfield’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community initiative is an innovative, two-generation approach focusing on employees, their families, and children together with a gender- and racial-equity lens.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we needed innovative economic-development models to meet the needs of employers and job seekers in our region. That is even more true today,” said Rick Sullivan, thre EDC’s president and CEO. “This anchor strategy is an effort to more strategically and effectively harness the power of local institutions to become the social and economic engines of our communities.”
Springfield’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community initiative will engage all employers in committing to develop and set measurable goals around local hiring, internal workforce advancement and pathways to living-wage jobs, and diversity and inclusion.
“Baystate’s participation in the Aspen Institute’s Ascend Family Prosperity Innovation Community is a strategic investment that promotes economic dignity for low- and moderate-income workers and equitably strengthens their families,” said Frank Robinson, vice president of Public Health at Baystate Health. “Simply put, economic dignity means changing how we support workers to have a financially stable family life that brings with it fair access to opportunities and makes it easy for their children to live healthy lives.”