The labor market in the United States faces seemingly contradictory challenges: Many employers have trouble finding qualified applicants for current and future jobs, while millions of Americans are out of work or are underemployed — their paths to living-wage jobs blocked by systemic barriers or lack of adequate skills.

Written by Stephen Goldsmith, a former Strada senior strategy advisor, and Kate Markin Coleman, Growing Fairly offers workforce development reforms that meet the needs of both workers and employers. Based on the experiences of hundreds of leaders and workers, the authors set out ten principles for designing a more effective and equitable system that helps workers obtain the skills necessary for economic mobility.

The principles outlined in the book argue for a more comprehensive view of the skilling needs of current and prospective workers. They spell out the attributes of effective programs and make the case for skill-based hiring, widely distributed performance data, and collaboration. The book emphasizes the importance of local action to overcome the structural barriers that challenge even the most determined would-be learners. Growing Fairly shows cross-sector leaders how to work across organizational boundaries to change the trajectory of individuals struggling to make a living wage.

This is not a book of untested theories. Instead, it is written by practitioners for practitioners. Much of it is told through the voices of those who run programs and people who have taken advantage of them. While the issues the book addresses are profound, its take on the subject is optimistic.

Between them, the authors have spent decades searching out and supporting effective practices. Even more critically, they have learned how to knit competing agencies and organizations into cohesive systems with coordinated missions. Their practical ideas will benefit a wide range of readers, from practitioners in the field to students and scholars of the American labor system.



“Few issues are as important to the success of cities as equitable growth. Even in a city such as San Diego, fortunate to have a strong economy and a national model for workforce development, upward mobility remains elusive for many. Growing Fairly presents a uniquely valuable set of principles that can help cities make progress toward a brighter future for all residents, leaving no one behind.”

— Todd Gloria, Mayor, city of San Diego

“Stephen Goldsmith and Kate Markin Coleman not only establish the indisputable case that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential elements of a stable and robust economy, they also have designed a model for effective collaboration among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Their clear-eyed, rational approach is rooted in years of practical experience, authoritative research, and a profound respect for the dignity of work.”

— Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

“In today’s labor market, we paradoxically have millions of people searching for their next paycheck and millions more job postings. In Growing Fairly, Goldsmith and Markin Coleman distill the nation’s leading workforce development prototypes and pilots and how to expand proven approaches. Communities need to convene partners — public and private, for profit and nonprofit — to design skills-focused solutions. Together, we can do this. It’s time. Past time.”

— Wendi Copeland, Chief Strategic Partnership Activation Officer, Goodwill Industries International