Our Mission

Springfield WORKS is a trailblazer.

Together, we are building a resilient, inclusive, and equitable economy in the Greater Springfield Region.

Our Mission is to remove systemic and racial barriers to economic mobility and well-being.

We're developing multifaceted strategies to ensure equitable economic growth—combining

innovative strategies   -   systems change   -   and partnership building

to increase access to economic opportunity for marginalized members of the community. We bring together over 40 organizations to develop new frameworks, strategies, and practices that meaningfully improve our workforce ecosystem, anchored around the belief in equitable access to economic opportunity, resilience, and growth.

Our Challenge: A Changing Landscape

The economic landscape has changed a great deal over the last 20 years, and Springfield WORKS is helping employers, residents, and support systems navigate this new economic landscape. New pathways to economic mobility are required, as well as updates to existing pathways.

The Visible Problems

Support Systems

There is a lack of alignment among educational, training, and support programs.

A lack of common measures and tools make it difficult to drive continuous improvement and best practices.

Residents

Residents experience barriers to training and full participation in the labor force.

Residents struggle to identify supports when they are not well coordinated and do not align with family realities or job needs.

Employers

Employers struggle to find and retain workers with current strategies.

Often Training Programs are disconnected from job opportunities, and employers may not know how to invest in worker wellbeing.

Labor force participation in Springfield is trending downward.  The city's labor force participation rate is significantly lower than Massachusetts and the Springfield Metropolitan Area (MSA).

 

The figure to the right is for the population aged 16+, see US Census Table DP03.

Check out more data on our Data Page!

Wages do not match up with the cost of basic necessities.

The difference between the minimum wage, average wage, and living wage for a family in Springfield is significant. Even someone working two full-time minimum wage jobs would not make enough to make ends meet.

wages chart

Data sources (2023):

And wages have decreased in recent decades:

The average hourly wage in 1998 was $17/hour. Given inflation, that would equal about $32/hour today, using the BLS Inflation Calculator.

That means wages have declined in the past 20 years, while the cost of goods and services have increased, making it harder for working families to make ends meet.

Springfield, and communities of color, have unique challenges as a result of strategic disinvestment.

Springfield has a lower median income than the rest of the state, and the median income for Hispanic households is about half that of White households.

Image_MedianIncome

Data source (2023):

Springfield has lower educational attainment than the rest of the state, and the broader region. The city reflects very low levels of college degrees.

Image_EducationAttainment

Data source (2023):

These statistics have real, human consequences.

Poor Population Health

Hampden is the lowest rated county in Massachusetts for population health, and reflects worse health markers than both Massachusetts and the U.S. overall:

  • A higher percentage of people in poor or fair health
  • Higher unemployment
  • More children in single-parent households
  • More children in poverty
Children in Poverty
%

Percentage of households that are rent burdened

Rent Burden is when a household spends more than 30% of their income on housing, often preventing them from affording other necessities like food, healthcare, and education. Even middle income renters are burdened, demonstrating the difficulty of affording basic necessities today.

Extremely Low Income Renters
%
Very Low Income Renters
%
Low Income Renters
%
Middle Income Renters
%

Despite these challenges, we see opportunities to lift up our communities.

Major demographic changes present an incredible path forward, and data on single parents, childhood poverty, and low wages for communities of color show us where we need to direct our efforts. We need accessible, supportive career pathways for parents and families with family-sustaining wages and benefits.

This requires collaboration and commitment from a wide variety of stakeholders, and we are dedicated to facilitating those efforts. Together we can bring new models to employers and service providers and revolutionize career pathways to meet the needs of our communities.

The City of Springfield has an aging white population. 50% of the white population in Springfield is over the age of 45.

Image_WhitePopulation

We have a growing Hispanic population! 61% of the Hispanic or Latino population in Springfield is BELOW the age of 34.

Image_HispanicPopulation

Our region will be in a better position for long-term economic resilience if we

build on our young workforce,

 and potentially guard against any negative impact of the “silver tsunami," the retiring older white population.

Our Solution is Collaboration

Springfield WORKS is bringing people together to address pressing problems in workforce and community development.

Before Springfield WORKS, we identified 43 organizations working separately on workforce development—we brought many of them together to develop new frameworks, strategies, and practices that meaningfully improve our workforce ecosystem as a whole. Together we target the right resources to address inequities resulting from historic patterns of divestment and bias on the lines of geography, race and ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. We believe that addressing the root causes of these problems requires collective impact through coordinated action. That's exactly what we aim to do through our innovative collaborations.

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Our Strategies

We work to remove the obstacles that prevent employers from finding the workers they need, and job seekers from finding their way to secure employment with wages that pay. Our strategies encompass three categories: Community Empowerment, Economic Mobility, and Policy Improvements.

Community Empowerment

Improve the effectiveness of community resources.

Springfield is rich in programs, but poor in systems. Cross-sector resources can be well coordinated to identify gaps, leverage resources, increase communication, find opportunities to benefit the most marginalized in our community, and integrate community voices.

Economic Mobility

Influence employer hiring and worker advancement practices. 

Navigating the workforce ecosystem to find a better job or gain practical skills can be challenging. We work with our network partners to build inclusive pathways to sustainable careers through paid training, job matching, workforce reentry coaching tools, and wrap-around services.

Policy Improvement

Creating the conditions for economic mobility and success.

Economic mobility is not just an individual problem. Through legislative and policy advocacy, we aim to create the conditions for economic mobility. We advocate for policies that remove systemic barriers, and ensure policies are set up and implemented for success.

Our Key Measures of Success

We measure our success through three critical pillars, Direct Impact, Capacity Building, and Systems Change. This framework both identifies the most effective strategies for making our regional economy function better for workers, families, and employers, and captures the multifaceted approaches needed to achieve our vision.

Direct Impact

Springfield WORKS provides the missing link of dedicated coordination among primary stakeholders, service providers, employers, and residents. This enhances community initiatives while directly improving the lives of program participants and providers.

Capacity Building

We leverage and build resources for a shared vision of economic prosperity, identifying and addressing resident and employer workforce needs. We are building networks, tools, and resources that empower the community and remove barriers to prosperity.

Systems Change

Our work is shifting mindsets in how we build a strong economy. Through policy advocacy and innovative programming addressing root causes, we are changing systems to better support the inclusive growth of our local economy and to address historical patterns of inequitable access to opportunity.