Fund Joins Toronto’s Workforce Funder Collaborative

Thursday February 11, 2021

In 2020, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund joined Toronto’s Workforce Funder Collaborative (TWFC) alongside six other philanthropic funders: The Counselling Foundation of Canada, JPMorgan Chase, Metcalf Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, United Way Greater Toronto, and TD Bank Group. This newly formed collaborative, the first of its kind in Canada, enables funders to combine philanthropic resources to support innovators and initiatives that advance a more equitable and inclusive labour market and economy across the Greater Toronto Area.

TWFC and its philanthropic members are committed to increasing access to quality jobs for those who often face barriers, including immigrants and refugees; growing employer investments in workforce innovations; building capacity in the workforce development sector to address challenges in local newcomer communities; and changing systems around demand-led workforce practices. Through its funding, TWFC seeks to catalyze and scale successful models, support quality jobs, and help sustain partnerships between employers and service providers.

Equity is at the core of TWFC’s approach, which focuses on promoting quality jobs and opportunities for all workers. TWFC seeks to support strategies that ensure inclusivity in the workplace and build strong career pathways that lead to family-sustaining wages and economic advancement. This approach can help immigrants and refugees access the jobs they want and achieve their goals.

As a new funder in Canada, the Fund is excited to join forces with other philanthropic partners. In addition to co-funding solutions that have the potential to ensure that immigrants and refugees thrive, the Fund is looking to learn from other funders and contribute to TWFC’s overall strategy. We will share what we learn from the Fund’s Canadian grantee partners, as well as other funder collaboratives we are active participants in, such as the Workforce Matters Funders Network in the United States. We also hope to expand the field of workforce funders that integrate into their work intentional considerations related to immigrants and refugees.

“Despite the number of workforce development programs in the Greater Toronto Area, many of them are created in silos without meaningful employer input and are not meeting the needs of the labour market. As a result, job seekers and workers are either underemployed or unemployed, and employers are perpetually looking for skilled workers,” said Surabhi Jain, TWFC’s executive director. “These gaps are becoming even more pronounced during COVID-19, which disproportionately affected workers in low-wage jobs. Unable to build partnerships with employers, workforce development organizations are stuck providing job placement services that often do not fully meet the needs of both employers and job seekers.”

This past fall, TWFC launched its first open call for proposals to address these challenges and identify innovative practices developed in partnerships with employers or other organizations. The Fund participated in the applications review committee for TWFC’s first open call and learned about a range of impactful Toronto-based organizations through the process. Next month, TWFC will announce its first grant recipients from this open call.

With COVID-19 demanding future-proof approaches to enable an equitable economic recovery, and demographic shifts having implications for the future of work in Canada, there is a clear need for innovation and forward-thinking to ensure that the labour market can respond to the evolving needs of all workers. We believe that collaborating with other funders to seed new opportunities can help accelerate meaningful change.

To learn more, visit, and stay tuned for TWFC’s first grants announcement next month.

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Thank you for your interest in the WES Mariam Assefa Fund. We’ll share updates on the Fund’s efforts, what we’re learning, and opportunities through our email list.