A few weeks ago, the White House and the Department of Labor launched an exciting new initiative to support “job-driven” training. The initiative will deploy new investments to help individuals gain the skills they need to land and excel in jobs that businesses are hiring for now.
We were intrigued. As reported earlier this year, 11 million Americans were unemployed while 4 million jobs remained unfilled. The “ skills gap” has dominated much of the recent conversation around unemployment and workforce development (though not without differing opinions). Among the growing discourse and jarring reports, Living Cities embarked on a journey to answer the question: What does it take to prepare low-income working-age adults for quality jobs?
While we’re still in the midst of exploring this question, we were encouraged to find a number of intersections between our emergent thinking and the administration’s priorities. We agree that a ‘job-driven’ approach responsive to employer need is necessary to ensure that trainings prepare job-seekers for positions that actually exist. Since employers do the ultimate hiring, they are a critical piece of the training-to-jobs pipeline – as well as a central client of the workforce system in itself. To maximize actual placement of trainees, effective workforce systems will thereby need to align with the actual labor needs of businesses.
Increased collaboration between community colleges, employers and training providers is also core to the White House initiative. Living Cities similarly sees great promise in ensuring that education, employer, and workforce training investments are all aligned. As we’re learning through our Collective Impact efforts in the Integration Initiative and partnership with the Strive Together Network, it takes rigorous cross-sector collaboration towards a shared vision to begin changing broken systems. Increased alignment of the institutions that together shape the workforce pipeline is a promising step towards addressing the greater problems of unemployment and underemployment.
Similarly, the DOL’s focus on integrating employment and education data is a critical step towards building a more cohesive workforce system. An improved data infrastructure between these fields will ideally help states and regions better identify what practices do and don’t work in preparing job-seekers for employment. By using information in this way, we can bring to scale the strategies that actually produce results and stop supporting those that don’t.
We’ll be following the White House and Department of Labor’s efforts to learn more about what it takes to effectively prepare low-income people for quality jobs. In particular, we hope to glean insights into how industry partnerships help employers engage workforce systems and how integrated data can help build appropriate feedback loops to identify which approaches merit greater investment.
I hope that you’ll follow along with us.