Catalyst Endowment Fund June 20 Meeting Summary

Members continue discussion of 2017 theme: "Family Economic Security"


More than 100 members and guests attended the second meeting of the 2017 Catalyst Endowment Fund at the Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford to have a continued discussion around this year's theme, "Family Economic Security: Career Pathways."

Kathleen Costello, chair of the Catalyst Endowment Fund steering committee, welcomed members and guests to the event and introduced Martha Rennie and Kim Townsend from The Bridge Family Center who offered some brief remarks on Charter Oak's Family Resource Center which offers a wide variety of programs for the school's students and their families including early morning playgroups, English language classes, before and after school programs, parent leadership classes, summer programs and grandparent groups, among others.

Costello also provided guests with additional information about the Catalyst Endowment Fund and the process members engage in each year. Members learn about a chosen topic by holding two informational programs with content experts, review and consider requests for proposals related to the issue from area nonprofits, and hold a grantmaking meeting in the fall where members discuss the proposals and vote to award up to $50,000 in grants.

Costello introduced the Hartford Foundation's Director of Programs and Community Investments, Judy McBride, who discussed the Foundation's Career Pathways Initiative. A three-year, $4.3 million project, the Career Pathways Initiative supports nine collaborative projects that are helping residents with limited literacy and employment skills, including low-income mothers, immigrants, residents who are homeless, former offenders and others who need a broad range of coordinated services to be successful. McBride discussed how Catalyst's focus on Family Economic Security reflects one of the Foundation's strategic goals to improve access to job training and employment across the Greater Hartford region. She discussed the fact that the Foundation is focusing on a population of workers who are generally neglected when job training programs are developed. These workers are considered low-skilled and have low levels of literacy; they not only require job training and employment, but a wide variety of other needs including intense case management to succeed. These supports can include access to childcare, transportation and stipends to allow them to support themselves as they receive training. The Career Pathways Initiative provides instruction for jobs in a wide variety of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, and hospitality in communities throughout the region.

Following McBride's presentation, Costello introduced a panel discussion featuring Oz Griebel, president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, and Dr. Alice Pritchard, chief of staff to the president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system (CSCU).

Griebel focused his remarks on the importance of the demand side of the job equation. He discussed the MetroHartford Alliance's role as the leading business and economic development organization in the region to drive economic growth after years of stagnant job creation. These efforts include trying to attract and retain young professionals through HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs) which seeks to help young professionals become better engaged in community life, expand professional and social opportunities and become ambassadors for the Hartford Region.

The Alliance also seeks to promote Hartford as a dynamic urban core and Griebel emphasized the fact that the future of the region depends on the health of its core city. Griebel also discussed his organization's efforts to attract new businesses to the region, and retain private sector companies and help them grow. He emphasized the importance of using the region's assets in a more collaborative and interchangeable way to assist companies that are already here or are looking here to expand. Griebel discussed the need to build off of the region's insurance and financial sector and the burgeoning health sector, and how residents should do more to support these businesses.

Finally, he discussed the need to bridge the gap between the region's education and talent pipelines so that educators and employers work collaboratively to ensure that people receive the training that the region's employers need for the future. Griebel encouraged Catalyst members to be involved in the public policy arena, asking them to think about what they want Connecticut and their communities to look like for themselves, their children and future generations.

CSCU's Alice Pritchard provided an update on the college/university system programs and also discussed the importance of education and industry coming together. The CSCU system includes four state universities, twelve community colleges and one online institution, serving over 85,000 students. This scale allows CSCU to address some of the issues that state employers face. In addition, approximately 30,000 students enter the system for skill-training and credentialing. CSCU offers a wide range of programs from a general liberal arts degree to associate degrees in nursing and manufacturing. According to Pritchard, there is no industry in the state that that should be saying there is no program to meet its workforce needs.

Pritchard discussed efforts to bridge the gap between higher education and workforce and industry focusing on reaching out to employers to match training to actual jobs available. She discussed the need to better address the barriers of success including language issues, developmental issues, educational issues, and other demands on students' time. Pritchard said that time is the thing that people need the most - either time to take a break from their work or time to make the progress that is going to take to get them to that job. She said that providing people with more time allows for people who are struggling to still get back on track to succeed.

Following the panel's presentations, Catalyst members asked a wide variety of questions including how Catalyst members could expand their roles by becoming mentors and volunteers to people struggling to find a job. Another question dealt with how Catalyst's $50,000 could be used to make the greatest impact, possibly by identifying barriers that could be bridged or supporting activities currently underway that could be more successful with additional resources and supports. One question pertained to the need to better promote the programs and services that are already available to ensure that people who need them know where and how to access them.

Staff from the Hartford Foundation will be working with Catalyst steering committee members to develop the Request for Proposals that will be sent out to area nonprofits this summer. The Catalyst Endowment Fund grantmaking meeting will be held on October 17, 2017 where all members will have the opportunity to hear short presentations from each agency and then discuss the proposals and vote on the grant. Please contact Betty Ann Grady at or 860-548-1888 with any questions about this program.