New Jersey Pay It Forward Program Prepares Students for Well-Paying Jobs
Tiffani Williams: Welcome to our sixth episode of Workforce Realigned, a series within the Economy Matters podcast produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Workforce Realigned is a production of the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Philadelphia, in partnership with Social Finance. Please note that the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta does not provide grants or funding to the general public or to partner organizations. We do not endorse or make any representations as to the suitability of partner organizations or their programs, and we do not advise on distribution of funds by partners. I'm Tiffani Williams, a senior adviser in the Atlanta Fed's Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity. Our work highlights innovative approaches to creating economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income individuals, and today we'll be discussing one innovation, the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Pay It Forward program. This program aims to help New Jersey career seekers complete training programs that would otherwise be unaffordable or inaccessible. It's called Pay It Forward because student repayments actually cycle back into the program, and then those funds are used or available to support future learners. One of the program's key goals is to close race and gender gaps that persist throughout the workforce by supporting traditionally underserved students, and we'll dive further into the details of the program with the help of our incredible guests in this episode. I'm excited to welcome David Socolow, executive director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority; Sarah Keh, vice president of inclusive solutions at Prudential Financial; and Jake Segal, head of impact advisory and public sector practice at Social Finance. David, Sarah, Jake—welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today.
David Socolow: Thanks a lot—glad to be here.
Sarah Keh: Thank you.
Jake Segal: Thanks.
Williams: Great to have you. I'd love to dive right in with a question for you, David. The New Jersey Pay It Forward program is the result of a collaboration between the Office of Governor Phil Murphy, six different New Jersey state agencies, and eight of the state's largest employers. How did this program first come together?
Socolow: Well, thanks very much, again, for this opportunity to talk about this journey that we've been on for more than two years. In the summer of 2020, in the wake of the shock to our economy of the global pandemic, there were a lot of conversations about what could we do that would be innovative, help people with employment, and deal with the talent development disconnections that we had. We had a lot of sectors where jobs were not being filled; we had a lot of employment that was dislocated by the spring of 2020. And so, Governor Phil Murphy and eight leading corporations—the New Jersey CEO Council—came together to talk about a long-term recovery initiative. As part of those conversations, there was an interest in a workforce training model that would enable us to stretch dollars further—to have some philanthropic contributions, but to have that money stretch further by having a recycling mechanism, a financing mechanism that says that if workers succeed they'll be able to affordably repay some of the money laid out for the cost of their training. And focusing on the jobs that are in demand that we need filled, and focusing on solving equity gaps where there are in fact barriers to people getting those jobs, because of structural issues in the labor market and their inability to pay for the job training that would get them a good, middle-class job in New Jersey.
Williams: Great. It's so interesting to hear about the catalysts, and how the work began. I understand one of the other major partners in the design of the program was the New Jersey CEO Council, which is a coalition of CEOs from some of the state's largest companies. The council includes Prudential CEO and chairman Charles Lowery. Sarah, I would be curious to hear from you what role the council had in helping to advise the design of the program from an employer's perspective, and just tell us a little bit about why this work is really a priority for Prudential?
Keh: Thanks, Tiffani. Yes, in the spring and summer of 2020 when the pandemic first hit, Governor Murphy reached out to the CEOs of the largest corporations in the state of New Jersey to ask them to come together to build this CEO Council for the first time, to think about the economic redevelopment and recovery of what we'd hoped was potentially just a one-year pandemic at the time, and to really think through the strategies. As David mentioned just previously, it's had devastating impacts on the economy, and so that economic development portion is critically linked to the workforce side of things. We need skilled labor to be able to help jobs grow, industries grow, and then also help the economy flourish. So the CEO Council came together to really think about different ideas; one of the ideas that our CEO brought forward was this "pay it forward" concept, because we had been supporting Social Finance for a number of years, really thinking about innovative financing mechanisms in the workforce development space. We knew that with high-quality talent with a lot of potential, oftentimes the finance side was one of the barriers—one of the most significant barriers—for them attending college, post-secondary education, or skills training classes.
And so this concept of bringing together this innovative financing mechanism was really championed by our CEO, adopted by the CEO Council, and then ultimately championed and advocated for at the state level with Governor Murphy's leadership, and really thinking through: How do we provide pathways to economic mobility for low-income New Jersey residents who really have the potential to fill these jobs? We know what the growth industries are going to be in New Jersey for the next several years, and so working with Social Finance was incredibly important because Social Finance has this experience for a number of years of building out these outcomes-based financing mechanisms. So it all kind of came together, in terms of our history in the work, Social Finance's experience and background, the needs of New Jersey, and the advocacy at the state level to bring this all together.
Williams: I'm glad to see employers so engaged and really leading the charge to stand up such an innovative program. David, I'm hoping you can unpack the mechanics of the program a little bit. As we mentioned in the intro, the program is really designed in such a way that loan repayments are used to "pay it forward" for subsequent students' training costs. Tell us more about that—and also, what excites you the most?
Socolow: Yes, it really is very exciting because it's an opportunity for us to have the upside of people getting good jobs, but a downside protection in case an individual faces challenges and ultimately doesn't succeed as a result of the program. Look, we—as we'll talk later—we believe we've picked really great training programs, so that everyone's going to graduate and everyone's going to succeed. But we have provided downside risk protection against the small percentage where that doesn't happen. We've got, first of all, a zero-interest, zero-fee loan that will pay for the tuition and the basic direct costs of the training programs that we are starting with, and so people who don't have the ability to pay up front and don't have any grants or scholarships to pay a portion of the tuition, this is last-dollar financing. First, of course, we rely on money that people don't have to pay back at all. And if there are programs of grants and scholarships that pay for everything, that individual doesn't need this. But for those for whom there is still a remaining gap, we will fill that with this zero-interest loan, which enables people to have the tuition covered. And in addition, we're providing grants to the students, to the participants in the training programs, to pay for living stipends so they have some income while they are in training—perhaps replace some of the lost income from reducing their hours of work, since almost all of these individuals are probably working to some extent, even while in training. This would enable them to focus more on the training, and reduce their hours, as well as access to emergency aid funds and mental health counseling, as well as job placement and other services.And so there's a whole suite of services. Only the cost of the training is paid back, and because it's zero interest that's the only amount that's paid back. Furthermore, it's then outcomes-based in terms of the cost of the repayments, which are based on an affordable repayment plan based on that individual's income. If they don't earn more than a certain threshold, they pay nothing back—it's an earnings threshold after training. That means we're really saying that you need to get the kind of good job that we are planning for the graduates of this program to get. If you don't make that much, you pay nothing, and if you make that much or more, you only pay an affordable percentage of your income, basically 10 percent of discretionary income after a certain amount. And then if you are repaying, and you haven't paid the entire balance back—and again, the balance never grows because there's no interest—if you still haven't paid that balance back after five years, the rest is forgiven. And so, it's an affordable repayment; some people will not have to make any repayment at all, and those who do will be on the hook for only five years. So you have a real opportunity to have a loan that is a far better term than any typical student loan would be, but nevertheless many people will in fact repay most if not all of the cost of their training—and that money will come back into the fund and be recycled to train future cohorts. So the same philanthropic dollars from the eight companies in the CEO Council—about $5 million from the eight companies in the CEO Council and $7.5 million of appropriations from the state budget—together we have a $12.5 million revolving fund that will train more individuals through this mechanism than we would if we had just laid them out as training grants, where the money is spent and then it's gone on that one individual.
Williams: Great—thank you for that, David. It's really exciting. Jake, from your perspective, I'm curious how listeners might think about facilitating scalable systems change—like this bringing together of these maybe unusual partners at the state level and in corporate sectors, to accomplish something together like this program?
Segal: Well, I've got to say, one of the great parts of my job is that I get to work with some of the most thoughtful, innovative public leaders in America. It's pretty rare, I'll tell you, getting to work with the David Socolows of the world—right?—or the Tara Coltons, our partner at New Jersey EDA [Economic Development Authority]. When you do new stuff—things that are innovative—it attracts the big thinkers, the people that are really trying to look at the system differently. And that is the work that we get to do at Social Finance; we get to sit alongside those kinds of leaders—but also, in many ways, outside the walls—and think seriously about, what's the kind of system that we want to see, and where are there gaps between that and what we're doing today? And those gaps are real, and they happen all the time. It's not a surprise to any of us, I think, and it's not for lack of good people or good intentions. It's because the barriers that people face out in the world are complicated, and they're big. Often to help them succeed—part of my job is to get better health outcomes, or to achieve housing stability, or here, to get into and through trainings, and into good jobs—it takes something new, and in this case it's a thick dollop of glue between these budding student financing efforts, and our workforce efforts and our economic development efforts. That's exactly the kind of problem that I think we love at Social Finance—that we can get better outcomes sometimes if we bring together different agencies and different sectors with a slightly different approach and help them work together in a way that actually creates a net positive impact for students. So we can solve problems for employers by getting them a more reliable, more diverse pipeline of talent, while at the same time attracting businesses to New Jersey through that talent pipeline—investing in human capital, and in the training providers that actually help to build it as a tool of economic development. For students, we can think about the money obligation, not as like a weight to carry—as student debt often is—but as the fuel for mobility—the way that we think about economic mobility. Or, put another way, we can use the workforce financing here as a tool for actually creating fairness within communities, by linking student obligations to whether or not trainings help to get them into a better job. I've got to say—and I think I've already mentioned this—but doing this kind of work in New Jersey is pretty special. For one thing, you have some really remarkable companies here that actually really believe in the state. You should hear Sarah talk about Newark; and if we have time, you should ask her about it. But seriously, Prudential and J&J and others—they help to catalyze big things here. And for another thing, working under a governor like Phil Murphy means that the smart people like David are also empowered to be bold. In the model he's describing here, our state partners have made tough choices consistently in favor of student-centricity. They get to decide, for example, that having really robust stipends, that kind of grant program he was talking about, is what matters in this program. And it matters in a way that is really primary, and more so than in the ongoing "forever recyclability" of these funds. So, it's a pretty special time and place to work.
Williams: Thanks, Jake. I'd agree: very exciting, very special. We know that the goal of the program is to help career seekers complete training that would be otherwise unaffordable or inaccessible. So, Sarah, a question for you: how does the program really prioritize student success?
Keh: Student success is the ultimate priority. It's the number one, it's everything that's surrounding the parameters of how we built this program. It removes the risk from the learner, and it's aligning incentives amongst the learners, the training providers, and all the funders and the state government as well, too. So as David mentioned, it's zero-interest, zero-fee, outcomes-based loans that only offer downside protections to students, because they only start repaying this loan back if they earn above a specific income threshold. And so we're really putting the guarantee that you only start repaying back if you get a job that's in a high-demand industry, that's providing you a family-sustaining wage. That's what's really most important to us. This loan program is designed to be more student friendly than even some of the federal student loan programs, the "recycle back into the fund" as David and Jake have talked about, and it's about reducing the risk. We know that college student debt is one of the most burdensome financial instruments that is hampering people's economic mobility pathways, and this program is really making sure that we are setting students up for success with all of the support and services that we're surrounding the student with, in addition to giving them a high-quality training program that will get them a credential for an in-demand job in this state.
Williams: One follow-up question to that is: from the other perspective, how do you think about employer or employee success in the context of the program?
Keh: Definitely for an employee, it's the student—so everything that we talked about, and making sure that we have the right supports and the services, that they're getting the credential that they need, but then also making sure that our employers—including Prudential and other members of the CEO Council—are providing good jobs. It's not that we're just wanting to connect them to any job, but a good job that offers benefits, career advancement opportunities, and really puts them on the pathway to economic mobility. Because some of the work that we do internally at Prudential is really making sure that we're connecting work and wealth issues, and so making sure that they have the right credentials and skills to get a good job, but that that good job is providing all of the benefits and the services necessary to put them on the pathway to financial security.
Segal: I just want to build on one thing that Sarah mentioned: one of the things that I think is less apparent here, but is maybe most important, is that relationship between students and risk. And this really taps into my inner nerd, but when I go back to what I was saying before about reimagining a training system as it should be, the macro trend here is the opposite way. For a generation, we've taken the risks of training and centralized them on students: less and less on-the-job training, less federal funding, and students have debt that sticks with them for decades—and sometimes forever. Part of the thinking here is to shift that risk around and make it less sticky, as David was mentioning. The state and the CEO Council are taking on some of that debt and making sure that students aren't saddled with it if they don't succeed at getting into good jobs. I think that risk transfer is really important, not just for the students but also in re-envisioning that model of how we want workforce financing to look in the future.
Williams: Absolutely, I agree. A step further on that, recognizing that it can be even more risky for certain populations of workers and students—and I recognize that another goal that's pretty explicit for the program is to close race and gender gaps. So just a follow-up question for anybody to tackle here: How does the program address these gaps when it comes to student success?
Socolow: Well, we're certainly looking at who we're going to be inviting to have this opportunity. We are explicitly focusing on closing those gaps in equity. This is a program that is about individuals who are going into job training programs that can give them an opportunity to succeed, but they're starting from a disadvantaged position—and often are telling us, "I can't do that, I don't think I can take on the debt to do that. That is not a training program that I'm interested in pursuing, because the risk is too great," to what Jake just said. And so by taking away some of those concerns, by providing some assurance—including not only through the financing of the tuition, but also the other supports that are right alongside that—we're offering a suite of services that is more robust than most offers are to individuals, and hopefully we'll change the calculus. Because they can see on the other end is a really good job, as Sarah mentioned.
Keh: If I can also just add, I think we've seen a lot of alarming statistics recently, particularly around the gender gap in the workplace, and a lot of women during the pandemic have left the workforce because of child-care needs and other family issues. That's why this program is so important, and providing services and supports around child-care issues, transportation issues—because we want to make sure that not just one population or one demographic are attending these programs, but that it's creating an inclusive workforce. We know the future industry, the future of this economy, is going to be dependent on the fact that we build an inclusive workforce that's representative of all demographics, all genders. We really hope that this program is focusing on those students and providing the necessary supports to get them to connect to a good job.
Williams: Yes. And further on that point, two aspects of the program that I do want to highlight and spend a little time on are the living stipend and the emergency cash assistance fund. David, maybe you could tell us a little bit more about why those were so important to include for the students in the program.
Socolow: Well, again, it starts with our student-centric approach. We've talked about what is blocking individuals from succeeding—both succeeding in the workforce and succeeding in career advancement, where you have individuals who start and sometimes drop out of training programs, and you have individuals who say they look into it and it's just not something they can do. Even after all of the direct costs of training are funded, there's still the need for paying for the facts of life: the ability to pay your rent, and pay for transportation, and child care, and food while you are in training. And the reality that good quality training often consumes a lot of hours in someone's week, those are hours that they're therefore not going to be working at their current employment. We're not living in a construct of individuals who can just take a year off from life to get this skills upgrade; that's not happening (certainly not for the populations that we're focused on). We have to recognize that by having these living stipends, we're not providing a full wage, but for the longer duration programs $500 a month is some amount of money coming in to replace the costs of living that might not be covered by work. For the shorter duration programs, $375 a month. And those are not in exchange for services rendered. It's essentially a stipend that might cover such things as transportation, and perhaps a little child care, during the training period. It's really important, from every student we've talked to—and from the training providers themselves, when they're talking about recruiting students—who is it they turn away? It's folks who are running into these costs. And then the other thing, of course, is emergencies happen. Life happens, cars break down, electric power gets shut off due to a missed bill. There are things that happen to people that are disruptive to their lives—perhaps a family member is having an issue—that can cause someone to completely drop out. If you can have an emergency fund and publicize it, and make it part of the regular order so that people don't feel somehow stigmatized in asking for help, you give them a chance, for certain kinds of emergencies—for emergency dependent care, food insecurity, or a transportation crisis like a car repair, you have some additional funds that we've set aside so that if people need it, we can help keep them on track.
Williams: Yes, absolutely. This program couldn't exist without the actual training providers, so I'd love to hear a little bit more about how the decision was made on who would be those inaugural training providers—and I'll note that there were three: registered nursing at Hudson County Community College; cybersecurity at New Jersey Institute of Technology; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning [HVAC] and welding at Camden Community College. So Jake, was there something in particular about these providers or these industries that really compelled you to partner with them for the program?
Segal: Yes and yes. I'll confess, we really leaned into this process because the goal here was finding providers who were most likely to help eligible students in New Jersey get into great jobs, and so finding those providers is the whole ball game. And we started—as you alluded to—with an occupation analysis, focusing on the most promising jobs within New Jersey's priority sectors of IT, health, and clean energy. And in that, we looked for current and long-term job demand, good starting salaries with potential for wage growth, and mobility, especially for people without degrees today—and where there are substantial funding gaps, because this is a program in which we're using money to help solve problems. And that led us to jobs like software developers, which I think isn't that surprising, but also HVAC mechanics and clinical lab techs. But the crux of the thing is finding those great training providers: providers who have experience getting low-income students, students of color, people in prison, and veterans into high-paying jobs. And to do that, we started by hosting this series of webinars—I think we had 73 different programs attend those webinars. We then asked programs to submit a pretty simple data form, focusing on student demographics but also on costs of programs, outcomes, and their ability to scale, and 44 different programs across the state submitted that first data request. We narrowed that pool by focusing only on folks who are currently on the eligible training provider list, those with starting salaries over $45,000, and we also deprioritized, at first, providers who don't have a strong historical track record—including those who are pretty new, or those who were only serving just a handful of students at a time. That left us with a short list for what we thought of as "stage two diligence"—the opportunity to go much deeper into the historical outcomes and student demographics by doing a site visit, talking with students, asking for additional data about their financials and past student success metrics, and really hearing about their thesis and why they wanted to participate in this. Ultimately, we selected this small set of three great providers, but it's also worth noting that there are many more out there. We've engaged with quite a number of them that we think are great, and we do expect to broaden that list over time.
Williams: Awesome. It's interesting, because you mentioned you start with dozens and dozens of providers, so I guess a follow up question is, why start so wide with the search for providers? I'm sure listeners might wonder, why not just start with a few who you know already and trust could really deliver on the desired outcomes?
Segal: Yes, it's a good question. And certainly, in part, this is just to keep it fair and open—make sure everyone has a chance to participate if they want to. I actually think that more importantly, it's a reflection of humility, of all of the stuff that we don't know about a program like this. David mentioned that this is a last-dollar funding source. That's both about where there are gaps in and between these different systems, and also about where there are real opportunities for acceleration, for helping support low-income people or people who are facing barriers to access to overcome those barriers. And in my perspective at least, keeping the aperture broad lets us consider lots of good ideas, both for this first round—which, to your point, was fairly narrow—and also for future ones.
Williams: I think that's a really important point; approaching innovation with the curiosity to first learn and recognize that, regardless of your experience in the space, you couldn't possibly know all the players and what might be the best fit, really, to support the goals of the program and the students. Sarah, from your perspective, how does the program compare to other workforce funding solutions that Prudential has seen across the country?
Keh: I think it's one of the most exemplary public-private partnerships around workforce development right now. This was a cocreation with the private sector through the CEO Council and all the state agencies, including the one David leads, in thinking about: what's the design of this, how is this going to actually look? It's great to have an idea, but then to actually figure out all the parameters, who are the training providers, what are going to be the outcomes, what are going to be their supports? That took a lot of brain power from all the different sectors—including Social Finance as well, too—in really helping to design and to be the first state to launch it. But we know that this is not a silver bullet; this is not going to solve all workforce development issues, but it is one very meaningful solution that is adding to people having more access to high-quality training programs and being able to be connected to quality jobs. For us, this is really helping to fund the future workforce of New Jersey. We want this to be an inclusive workforce, we want people to have the right skill sets to be able to have family-sustaining wages, to move up the economic mobility pathway, and so we hope many more states will adopt this type of model where both the private and the public sector are putting the funds in together to make sure that this works. We're putting in the brainpower together, and then we're having expertise from intermediaries like Social Finance, who are helping us execute upon this. And so this is something that we hope to see scale. And this isn't the very first one, but we hope that there will be more partnerships with the private and public sector in New Jersey, and across the country.
Williams: Absolutely. And speaking of scale, I would love to spend a little bit of time towards the end here reflecting on the future, and what this program looks like going forward. So David, what does the state of New Jersey hope to do to continue to scale this kind of work? And also, what would you tell other state governments that are interested in creating a program like this?
Socolow: Well, we'd be thrilled if other states ripped this off. Governor Murphy said at the launch we had in August, we are happy to share this with the whole country and see if other people can give this a try. We think it's got real promise—we think that it is filling gaps that otherwise are not being filled. I agree 100 percent with what Sarah said. We would like to broaden this. We would like to have this proof of concept in which a cohort of several hundred—probably 600–800 individuals in this first group—will get through training programs, will get jobs, will start actually having enough income to affordably repay the zero-interest loans, and then recycle that money and train more individuals and broaden it out. We can look at other training programs, as Jake said. We have a plethora of really good other options that didn't make this first cut of the pilot. We would like to see this grow and scale this wider. And we had an initial, quite significant, set of philanthropic donations and state funding—$12.5 million all together—that will train quite a few people to start, and as that money comes back, we may be asking for additional infusions to see if we can grow this even further. As far as what I would urge other people to think about: Start with your goals and your values first and build your design principles back from that. We started with: what's the problem we're trying to solve? We're certainly interested in having the recyclability, we're interested in having the money stretch further. But the goals here are to do better than regular student debt. Student debt exists—in fact, the training programs we ended up picking for this first iteration finance a lot of students' programs now with traditional student debt, so we wanted to do much better than that. We wanted to have an offer for students that would be appreciably more student-centric and appreciably more supportive of them to get through programs, because we knew that that was one of the barriers that people were facing. We knew that the costs of attendance that are not tuition was another barrier, and so we set out to fix that problem. So I would say, "start with your overall goals and then come up with the design that fits those goals" is really how we approached this. We had an overall idea, but as we built the design we ended up making a number of design choices that frankly reduced the recyclability. Every dollar of the stipends, for instance, is a grant. None of that's getting repaid. So right off the top, some amount of this fund is not going to be recycled, but we believe that that was important and so we built that in. So that means we will stretch these dollars, but they will not be evergreen. Eventually the fund will be exhausted, but after training a greater number of students than otherwise would be done with a grant program.
Williams: And from the CEO Council and Prudential's perspective, Sarah, I'm really interested in what you would tell other companies or corporate philanthropies that are interested in creating a "pay it forward" program.
Keh: I would agree with everything that David said—and it's coming together on a shared agenda and shared goals, shared values. And it's making sure that everybody is on board and thinking together on the design, making sure that everybody is chipping in their capabilities—which includes funding, but also having employers at the table, telling workforce training providers and the state and Social Finance, "What are the skill sets that we really need? Here are the types of competencies that we're looking for." So it's always really important to have employers at the table, but this is just a really innovative way to think about, how do you stretch the dollar as far as you can and support the needs of students in a very holistic, comprehensive way that's not in just a transactional loan perspective, but really also having that focus on individuals who currently don't have access to these types of training programs? And so I would say, think out of the box. As David said, we would love for other states to replicate this. As we know, there are so many job openings even in this tight labor market, and so really thinking through how do you create these innovative financing mechanisms that work for your local economy?
Williams: And replicating such a great public-private partnership, right? And Jake, you mentioned broadening the providers when we were talking a little bit about how initial providers were selected. Can you say more about how you see the future of the program?
Segal: There's a lot more to do here. One simple part of that is just expansion. We have these great providers out there. Continuing to identify them, diligence them, bring them into the program and help them serve more students is kind of an easy part of that future—a critical part of that future. I also think there are opportunities to continue to adapt. Like I said, we don't always know exactly what we don't know, and programs like this can attack some of those pernicious challenges that, again, live at the edges of our current systems. The other things that I would call out, though—building on Sarah's last response—is that continuing to engage employers in a way that's really deep and really meaningful, I think is what can help supercharge a program like this. We're half or maybe three-quarters of the way there when we get folks into and through training and into jobs. The other piece of it is, how do we help employers make sure that they're retaining folks and helping them get into upscaling opportunities? And actually, I think tools like this can be pretty helpful, pretty informative in that retention and upscaling conversation. As folks graduate and get into jobs with some of these repayment obligations, that actually is an opportunity for employers at times to take on some of those payment obligations as a tool of retention, and then use this kind of a financing mechanism to continue to grow skills within their organizations. The last thing I'll say is, hearkening back to what David was mentioning before, what the governor mentioned: we're happy to be the first state, but don't want to be the last. I'm also excited to take what we're learning here and continue expanding, bringing it to other places. We have another analogous program that's launched in Miami, working on another one in Colorado, and I'm actually here in the lobby of the California Economic Summit to talk about how to bring this to California. In San Diego, Supervisor Fletcher is really championing a model like this in the behavioral health space, and I think there's opportunities to fill some of these really critical talent gaps across health and the behavioral health ecosystem across a state like California.
Williams: Excellent—and actually, I think we have a couple of minutes. Sarah, if you want to tell us a little bit about Newark, as Jake referenced earlier, I would love to just take a minute, and then we can move on to closing it out.
Keh: Of course, we're always happy to talk about Newark. So for those of you who are not familiar, Prudential was founded in Newark, and we're still headquartered there almost 150 years later. Our founder, John Dryden, created the company because he saw a financial need of working-class families, which is that they didn't have the financial means to bury their loved ones. So our first product was burial insurance. It cost as little as three to five cents a week, at the time—so we like to say we were social enterprise before that term was even coined, because it was really looking at the needs of working-class families. We have since grown to be a global financial services company, but we have still stayed committed to being part of the growth and creating inclusive economic growth in the city of Newark. And so we work very closely with the mayor's office, local nonprofit leaders, residents, community leaders, to really think about how to improve public education, public safety, workforce development, building up a really strong small business ecosystem, preserving and developing affordable housing units, and then also thinking about a thriving and vibrant arts community. So it's really anything and everything that we all asked for, in terms of the amenities and services of a neighborhood; I've been with Prudential 12 years, and just even to see the transformation of Newark during my period of time as well, too—obviously, the pandemic has had some devastating effects, but we have some really innovative real estate development projects that are co-working spaces. We just redeveloped the Krueger Mansion, which is an old historic landmark in New Jersey that has. It's called "Makerhood." It has small businesses on the first floor that are selling things like candles and chocolates, and then they have apartments above them. We have a teacher's village that has charter schools and health clinics on the first and second floor, and then teachers get subsidized housing above. Those are the different ways in terms of how we're thinking about, not only how do we attract residents to Newark, but also, how do we build up the community of Newark? One of our partners, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, did a study many years ago that found 80 percent of Newark residents don't work in the city of Newark. So actually, this program and others are going to help us think about the ways that we can help upscale and rescale to make sure that Newark residents are participating in the local economy and that we're also contributing. We also have the Newark Anchor Collaborative, where we're getting anchor institutions to think about how do you increase their local procurement spend with Newark small businesses. I could go on and on about this, but that's just kind of a snapshot in terms of how we're committed, and really taking a place-based approach to making sure that Newark is a thriving and vibrant city.
Williams: Wow, thanks so much for sharing that, Sarah. I really appreciate the work that you are doing—all of you are doing—in this space, and I think there's so much potential for the future of workforce with innovations like this leading the way. So, thank you for your time and your insights today about the exciting New Jersey Pay It Forward program. To our listeners, thank you for tuning in to this episode of Workforce Realigned, a series within the Economy Matters podcast, produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. If you would like to learn more about this program or how to enroll, please visit njpayitforward.org. And please tune in to our next episode, where we'll feature another exciting partnership—this one between Google, several training provider partners, and Social Finance—to dramatically increase access to workforce upscaling opportunities in the technology sector. Workforce Realigned is a production of the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Philadelphia, in partnership with Social Finance.