WorkingKnowledge March 2023

Are we making progress in closing the skills gap?

Our visit to SXSW EDU, thought leaders on progress in closing the skills gap, and previews of two big WorkingNation releases
A Tight Labor Market

It’s “Jobs Friday,” so let’s take a quick look at some numbers.

Last month was another month of unexpectedly strong job growth with 310,000 workers added to employer payrolls. February’s strongest gains were in retail and leisure, government, retail, and health care. While the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% and the number of people out of work and looking for a job edged up to 5.9 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says these measures “have shown little net movement since early 2022.”

The demand for workers still outweighs the supply. Data from January shows there are now 1.9 job openings for each of those 5.9 million people looking for work. But, finding workers with the right skills that match certain available jobs is still a challenge for employers, according to the latest Beige Book report for the Federal Reserve Bank.

This is why the skills mismatch continues to be an issue.

How Do We Prepare Workers for In-Demand Careers?

WorkingNation was at SXSW EDU all this week in Austin. It’s the annual education conference which – more and more – looks at how education can prepare workers for careers and educators and employers can help established workers gain those in-demand stills employers want.

Are we making progress in closing the skills gap?

We put that question to leaders from education institutions, nonprofits, philanthropies, and businesses, including those from Opportunity@Work, McDonald’s, Western Governors University, Lumina Foundation, Obama Foundation, and Transfr, to name just a few.

In fact, we spoke with more than two dozen leaders about how education and business are changing their policies and programs to make more opportunities for a good-paying career possible, accessible, and affordable.

More workers with the talent employers say they want, the easier it will be to close that gap.

WorkingNation Overheard at SXSW EDU 2023

You can watch these interviews on our YouTube channel here.

In addition to these interviews from the floor of SXSW EDU, Jane Oates and I appeared on a couple of panels on skills-based hiring, expanding career pathways for people with disabilities, and how government policies can open the doors to education even broader.

We’ll take a deep-dive into what we collectively learned about those topics in the coming weeks and months.

Still Ahead This Month

On Monday, March 13, visit us at for the debut of our latest series, How to Make Money Doing What You Love.

The digital series highlights little-known jobs in the “big” industries that teens can’t get enough of, providing kids with a potential pathway into the career field of their dreams.

First up, we’ll head to a sports manufacturing firm to learn about all the skills needed to be a vital part of the company.

Want a peek at the full series? Watch the video below! We think you’ll love this new series from Melissa Panzer and her team.

Coming Soon from WorkingNation: How to Make Money Doing What You Love

Coming soon to, a new three-part series: How to Make Money Doing What You Love. Follow the conversation on social media: #WorkingNation #HowToMakeMoney #DoingWhatYouLove #futureofwork #workforcedevelopment #skillsgap #jobs #work #career #skills For stories about solutions to the jobs skills gap disrupting our economy and the future of work, visit WorkingNation at

Workers at the Intersection of Age, Race, and Gender

The COVID pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of being older, Black or Hispanic, and female in our nation’s workforce. And, that vulnerability has proved persistent despite post-pandemic gains within our workforce. Although workers of all ages were let go during the Pandemic, older workers have had the most difficulty reentering the workforce.

On March 22, WorkingNation and CWI Labs is releasing a digital magazine, Overlooked and Sidelines: Workers at the Intersection of Age, Race, and Gender, examining the barriers for reentry to the workforce for older workers, particularly women of color.

At the heart of the magazine is a video conversation about solutions to these barriers between Angela Beddoe, board chair for CWI Labs, and Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation.

We’re passionate about this subject and hope you stop by later this month as we share our insight in the subject.

Until Next Time

We just wrapped up our SXSW EDU coverage, so I’ll be keeping the newsletter short this month!

But I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to all the talented and hardworking people at WorkingNation that helped bring those important conversations from the conference directly to you this week via our website and social media. My deepest thanks to Laura Aka, Katie Schindelheim, Michael S. James, George Freund, Sharon Arteaga, Garett Jaeger, Brendan Anders, Max Ostrove, Ian Smith, and Azariah Bjorvig.

One more thing.

I may or many not have fan-girled when Hank Green stopped by for a chat. Not only is he smart, funny, and dedicated to helping kids get on a career pathway at the pace that is right for them – check out Study Hall on YouTube – he was sweet enough to scrunch down so the enormous height difference between us wasn’t so glaring. Or, at least he tried.

I’ll see you here again in April. But come see us before that here at our website and on social!