Eighty years ago this month, during the depths of the Great Depression, Dr. W.E. Upjohn, a local physician and founder of the Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical firm, created the W.E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation and later the Upjohn Institute. Dr. Upjohn had a three-pronged purpose in starting this venture:
Research the causes and effects of unemployment and study and investigate the feasibility and methods of insuring against unemployment;
Devise ways and means of preventing and alleviating the distress and hardship caused by unemployment; and
Create, experiment with, and put into effect any plan or device that the Board may determine feasible to accomplish that purpose.
The mission statement underscores the importance of incorporating all three elements in addressing the causes and consequences of unemployment—the fundamental need to conduct rigorous, high-quality research, the importance of experimenting with new ideas, and the necessity of disseminating the research findings to those who make policy decisions and to those who administer the programs that provide services to workers and the unemployed who need assistance.This mission statement is as relevant today as it was eighty years ago. Just in the past few years, during which time the nation was plunged into a deep recession and is slowly recovering, we have been reminded of the hardships caused by being out of work and the difficulties in finding jobs, regaining confidence, and getting the economy back on track.
Today, the Institute fulfills its original mission by capitalizing on the synergies of conducting policy-relevant research, administering reemployment and training programs, evaluating programs, providing technical assistance to workforce development and economic development practitioners, and disseminating research findings to a wide audience of policymakers and practitioners. A unique feature of the Institute is its ability to be a source of objective, unbiased information about labor markets and on the effectiveness of policies and programs directed at helping workers find quality jobs and businesses find qualified workers. That ability is made possible by the generous gift of the founder and his clear vision of the benefits of scholarship, innovation, and implementation. Its strong financial foundation allows the Institute to focus on policies and practices that have the greatest social value. As the U.S. economy and the rest of the world deal with slow growth, high unemployment, and fiscal constraints, understanding the workings of the labor market—and what policies work and don’t work—is more important than ever.
Randall W. Eberts, President
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research