By Sharla Hooper
New research on the role of social capital in economic advancement will inform a strategic framework for higher education institutions and employers to better support career advancement
JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today announced an alliance with University of Phoenix Career Institute to aid Black learners and workers in bridging professional social capital gaps to advance their careers. With funding from University of Phoenix, JFF will conduct in-depth research, analyzing existing strategies for the development of social capital that are being implemented by higher education institutions and employers. This work will inform the creation of an evidence-based, actionable framework and raise awareness about the role of professional social capital in economic advancement.
Professional social capital, which refers to the resources that arise from a person’s network of relationships that can help mobilize and advance education and career goals, is a crucial element in establishing racial equity in the workforce and career pathways. In addition to raising awareness, the framework developed by JFF and University of Phoenix will shape more expansive strategies to support Black learners and workers in forming strong professional networks that increase access to career navigation tools and quality information, cultivate meaningful relationships with champions and sponsors in the workplace and result in lifelong networks that lead to equitable employment and career advancement. JFF will also establish an advisory council of leaders focused on professional social capital that includes Black learners and workers who will lend their perspective to the framework and provide crucial insights on the best practices for sharing the organizations’ research findings with the broader field.
“We were inspired to start solving for this issue after our 2021 Career Optimism Index™ study found that nearly half of American workers do not have someone in their professional life who advocates for them,” said John Woods, Provost and Chief Academic Officer for the University of Phoenix and Executive Director for the University of Phoenix Career Institute. “And despite recent gains in attainment, far too few Black workers are able to fully leverage the economic power that comes from completing a postsecondary credential. This is a challenge we are closely tracking as we develop the 2022 Career Optimism Index™, and we look forward to working with JFF to address this disparity head-on.”
This collaboration marks the first major alliance for University of Phoenix Career Institute, which was founded in 2021 to address broad, persistent and systemic barriers to career advancement through research-based solutions and impactful partnerships that break down barriers Americans face in their careers. In 2021, the Institute launched its first annual Career Optimism Index™ study, a comprehensive study of American workers’ career perceptions, sentiments and optimism, identifying what barriers stand between Americans and their careers and the tools and resources needed to overcome them.
“Black learners have made extraordinary strides in postsecondary enrollment and completion. Yet, a disproportionate number of people do not have access to networks and relationships that help make connections to professional opportunities, explore interests, and assess career options – in other words, professional social capital,” said Michael Collins, Vice President at JFF. “We look forward to working with the University of Phoenix because of our shared interest in developing professional social capital for Black learners and workers, and we are optimistic about the awareness and momentum this will create in advancing careers.”
For more information, visit www.jff.org and phoenix.edu.
JFF is a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems. For nearly 40 years, JFF has led the way in designing innovative and scalable solutions that create access to economic advancement for all. http://www.jff.org
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit phoenix.edu.
About University of Phoenix Career Institute™
University of Phoenix Career Institute™ was created to address broad, persistent and systemic barriers to career advancement through research-based solutions and impactful partnerships that break down barriers Americans face in their careers.