NSC Partners and Business Leaders United Contribute to Job Quality Framework, Join Secretaries of Commerce and Labor in Launch of Job Quality Toolkit

By Andy Van Kleunen, , August 08, 2022

Last week, National Skills Coalition CEO Andy Van Kleunen and partners from Business Leaders United for Workforce Development (including Rick Plympton CEO, Optimax Systems, Inc. and Deborah Rowe, VP, Nursing Workforce Development, Genesis Healthcare) were invited by the Departments of Commerce and Labor to participate in the launch of the administration’s Job Quality Toolkit. The toolkit is an actionable tool that companies can use to improve the quality of the jobs they offer. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh participated in the roundtable discussion with leaders from the business, labor and policy communities.

The challenge of attracting and retaining a diverse, productive, engaged workforce has grown. More than ever before, workers are looking for quality jobs – and companies that prioritize job quality face fewer skilled worker pipeline challenges.

But what makes for a quality job? Drawing from the perspectives of NSC staff, BLU members, and a host of other business, labor and workforce experts, the released toolkit identified eight key drivers: Recruitment and Hiring; Benefits; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA); Empowerment and Representation; Job Security and Working Conditions; Organizational Culture; Pay; and Skills and Career Advancement.


Pictured Above: NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen and U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo. Rick Plympton CEO, Optimax Systems, Inc.


Hearing the on-the-ground experience of leaders from successful small- and medium-sized businesses was deemed especially critical by agency staff when compiling the Job Quality Framework. That’s why Commerce called on Business Leaders United. Not only have BLU leaders been advocating for skills policy at the state and national level; they also typically work closely with local partners to train and hire community residents for skilled jobs, and have themselves innovated to change their own operations in order to improve worker retention and advancement. They know what works from a business and workforce perspective, and they can articulate what support smaller businesses need from policymakers and other partners to improve worker outcomes.

Business Leaders United also contributed several case studies that supplement the framework. Each case study outlines how these businesses have invested in job quality and the impact it has had on their individual workforces.

NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen applauded the Departments of Commerce and Labor for producing the job quality toolkit, and especially for reaching out to small- and medium-sized businesses to better understand how their partnerships with other stakeholders could serve as models for expanding job quality within their respective industries, saying “Members of BLU have shown that public policies which support workforce-focused industry partnerships between employers, training and service providers, and labor can help smaller companies redesign their workplaces, and scale job quality practices across a sector. This includes the expansion of shared, high-quality skills training so workers can advance their careers and compensation while meeting local industry’s need to innovate. We look forward to seeing how Biden administration initiatives like Commerce’s recently announced Good Jobs Challenge grants will invest in such partnerships and thereby support the adoption of the toolkit’s job quality practices across a range of U.S. companies.”

Pictured Above: U.S. Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. Deborah Rowe, VP, Nursing Workforce Development, Genesis Healthcare


Several Business Leaders United members who contributed to the framework and toolkit released statements to the media on the occasion of the toolkit launch:

  • “At Optimax, our mission is to enable customer success and employee prosperity,” said Rick Plympton, Optimax CEO. “We manufacture precision optics for research and industry; and take great pride in being a key supplier to NASA for many of their missions. Optimax believes that investing in employees and ensuring a healthy work-life balance is essential to being successful. By building a self-lead culture, employees are empowered to identify innovations and efficiencies that will reduce expenses and/or help the company grow faster. Optimax averages 25% annual revenue growth and rewards the employees with 25% profit sharing each month. We hope that sharing our journey and our cultural practices will help inspire ideas for other companies to embark on a better path centered around the seven tenets of job quality.”

  • “Genesis Healthcare is on a continuum of improving key drivers of job quality that are important to each and every employee,” said Deborah Rowe MS, RN, PHR, CHCR, VP, Nursing Workforce Development at Genesis Healthcare. “The care and health of employees, along with patients and residents, is at the core of our mission. The development of our affiliated workforce is a top priority as we listen to what employees want and value. The Job Quality Toolkit is a myriad of best practices and strategies supported by research and most of all, business case studies. While Genesis has been on this continual path to improve job quality, this toolkit is a beginning point to assess where you are and offers steps in your plan to implement and evaluate outcomes. We wish you success!”

  • Scott Kammerer, President of SoDel Concepts, added: “We strive to create an environment of professionalism that includes job security, benefits, and systems for career advancement and longevity. It is our hope that through the practices we outline in the Job Quality Toolkit, the restaurant industry as a whole will move in this direction, realizing that job security and investment in employees creates sustainable businesses, increased profits, and potential for growth.”
  • Nicole Sohn, Co-Founder of Journey Discovery Center, stated: “Providing high quality work experiences for our employees is the heart and foundation of our business. This has always been true, but now more than ever, and as employers struggle to attract and retain employees, focusing on employee engagement is critical. We hope that the success we have had relative to current market conditions is helpful to others as we all struggle to build out of this pandemic and workforce climate together.”