Help vulnerable people reach their full potential.

The Challenge

Too many individuals are either unemployed or underemployed, facing upheaval in the economy and the job market, and with no sustainable career pathway ahead of them. Access to opportunities and resources can change not only their lives, but those of their families and communities.

A happy couple in aprons stands in front of a produce stand. He has his arm over her shoulder and is giving a thumbs up while she holds a small chalkboard reading "Open."

The Response

Many Catholic Charities agencies offer a combination of workforce development programs — to provide those who are unemployed or underemployed with the necessary skills to pursue meaningful work — and social enterprise programs that offer opportunities for clients to hone their new skills in a supportive environment.

A young man in a t-shirt sits in an office space working on a laptop computer.

Workforce Development

Workforce development pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs combine specialized skills trainings, so clients can follow a career pathway in a trade, with case management, client-employer connection and follow-up until the client becomes self-sufficient.

Undergirding many of these programs are foundational educational offerings, such as adult basic education (ABE), GED, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), employment readiness and financial education.

Areas include:  

Construction, plumbing, electrical, roofing, heavy machinery operation, assembly and broadband installation

Community gardens, markets and farms

Culinary arts, cleaning services, language interpretation and translation, careers in banking, sewing, commercial driver’s license (CDL), home health aide, certified nursing assistant and doula certification 

IT training

Child development associate, first aid, CPR, OSHA 10 and microenterprise programs that provide business and financial education and support with seed capital to entrepreneurs

A woman in an apron wearing disposable gloves slices strawberries in a professional kitchen.

Social Enterprise

Social enterprises are often associated with Catholic Charities workforce development programs, allowing clients to become agency employees, receive the appropriate support to learn a trade, gain a salary and prepare for the outside labor market.

Examples include production kitchens, community gardens/farmers markets, coffee roasting operations, language interpretation services, home repair and building maintenance programs, product assembly operations, staffing agencies, sewing businesses and thrift shops whose revenue is reinvested in the social enterprise programs.  

An eclectic group of people meets in an open office space. The woman leading the meeting is laughing and wearing an orange dress and scarf. There's an open laptop and a French press coffee maker on the table.

community leadership

Innovation Challenge

The Challenge encourages Catholic Charities network agencies to explore bold solutions to alleviate, reduce or eliminate poverty and celebrates the transformative power of innovative thinking.   

Need assistance? Find a local Catholic Charities agency.

The Impact

Employees of social enterprises make significant gains toward economic self-sufficiency and stability in housing and income while decreasing their reliance on government benefits.  


Annual revenue from social enterprises  


Professional certifications/credentials earned  


People served through social enterprises 


Every two years, after a new Congress is seated, CCUSA’s Social Policy Team crafts legislative priorities and recommendations based on the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Charities network of agencies and the needs of the vulnerable populations Catholic Charities serves. 


This was what I needed to get back and step forward with my life.

— Steven, graduate of a Catholic Charities building trades program 
Julieta Machado is the vice president of social enterprise and workforce development initiatives.


Julieta Machado

Julieta is the vice president of social enterprise and workforce development initiatives. She manages the Innovation Challenge and the Rework America Alliance Project, providing technical support to local agency staff to build capacity and make connections with workforce development opportunities. She also leads the Construction Trades, Language Interpretation and Employment Readiness Communities of Practice.

Program Stories

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