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Years of research point to inequities in education and employment for people with disabilities, students of color (especially female), and people from low-income backgrounds. This is highly evident by their limited options to build skills within STEM fields, which is why these populations are underrepresented.

To address this imbalance, an emerging area of interest is building a highly Skilled Technical Workforce (STW) in STEM occupations that do not require a bachelor’s degree or above. Unlike previous generations where postsecondary degrees were entry points into the workforce, certifications and micro-certifications are shining light on the importance of awarding jobs for the individuals with specific skills.

In 2019, the size of the STW numbered about 18-million workers. Of that, STW’s with a disability made up 6.7% of the workforce and 13.9% of all workers with a disability were employed in skilled technical jobs. Looking within the STW by racial and ethnic groups, LatinX have a similar share (19.0%) of the STW as their share of the working-age population (18.5%). Although Black Americans make up the third largest share of the STW (9.8%), their representation still lags behind their share of the working-age population (13.0%).

FFF’s investment in building culturally competent workforces through stackable credentialing, micro-certifications and industry-powered certifications can both be a tool of poverty alleviation while educating the rising generation about the importance of eye-health.

To be successful in our mission of breaking the link between poverty and vision loss, we believe employment is the best route to independence, inclusion and mental wellness. FFF seeks to partner with grantees capable of:

  • Facilitating public awareness to the importance of eye health

    • Promoting community-tailored events with actionable take-aways for URMs to break cultural barriers to vision care and to improve eye health literacy

    • Expanding access to vision screening services and clinical care

  • Developing pathways for a culturally competent and inclusive workforce

    • Assisting with educational attainment level & academic competence

    • Ensuring effective use of assistive technologies, white cane & fluency in braille

    • Building employment related skills

    • Providing access to mentors / role models

    • Facilitating meaningful work experiences that build self-determination for the Fellow/Apprentice/Intern while also serving to dismantle negative employer attitudes

    • Offering professional development in Universal Design Learning for K-12 Teachers

  • Generating evidence and shared data that can be evaluated and standardized for the purpose of deploying better interventions over time.

With this plan of action, BVI and URM high promise populations will gain higher self-determination and overall satisfaction with their social currency. This in turn, will ensure inclusion, economic prosperity and independence.


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