Finding purpose and happiness in the future of work

ASU+GSV X Summit turns spotlight on innovations in the workforce bending the arc of human potential.

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A businessman stands on a giant robotic arm and reaches to chalk-drawn stars.
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Technology is a double-edged sword, particularly in the workplace. We’re shifting away from labor-intensive industrial jobs toward knowledge-based, highly-skilled jobs. Innovation and evolution in technology could eliminate more than 75 million jobs that will be displaced globally by 2022, according to a World Economic Forum study. On the flipside, that same study says the new technology could create more than 133 million new jobs.

These 133 million new jobs will be lost opportunities unless we, as a society, address the shifting workplace being disrupted by technology now. Displaced workers need to be reskilled for these new jobs. Younger workers need to be taught to be lifelong learners so they can bob and weave with the future changes in the skills they will need to land and keep a good job.

Bending the Arc of Human Potential

Job security and career satisfaction are important drivers in whether we’re happy in our lives. Expanding education and access are important to achieving this happiness. As they started to plan out this year’s ASU GSV X Summit on the intersection of education and the workforce, Deborah Quazzo, who co-founded ASU GSV with Michael Moe ten years ago, says they kept asking themselves, “What are we trying to do?” This year, the conference, which gets underway April 8 in San Diego, turns the spotlight on these important issues.

Deborah Quazzo on stage at ASU+GSV Summit
Deborah Quazzo (center) on stage at 2018 ASU+GSV Summit. (Photo: Chuck Kennedy)

“We landed on this Bending the Arc of Human Potential concept,” Quazzo tells me. “Innovations that are actually helping people and organizations advance from a learning perspective, or from a performance perspective, within the workforce are critically important as we think as a country and a world about these clearly very serious issues. Our mission is that all people have equal access to the future. And that means people have purposeful and happy lives and meaningful careers.”

ASU GSV has brought together the nation’s most committed leaders in business, education, nonprofits, government, and entertainment for the three-day conference. “We’re as proud of this program as we’ve ever been. Tal Ben-Shahar who is the former Harvard professor who taught the happiness course that received the highest registration in recorded history at Harvard is speaking it at the kick-off lunch. He is very much focused on purposefulness and happiness and how do we intertwine those things in our lives and careers.”

Joining him in the discussion are Cindy McCain, chairman of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University; Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, and Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks.

Steve Case and J.D. Vance who have been traveling the country on the Rise of the Rest Tour speak on Wednesday. The bus tour has traveled throughout the country to highlight startup success outside of Silicon Valley and to invest seed money — $100,000 in a local startup — at each stop.

“This is a critically important topic and it can’t just be an elite issue. I think Steve was brilliant in pairing up with J.D. after his Hillbilly Elegy came out to focus on this vast swath of America that really gets lost between the two coasts and can’t be,” explains Quazzo.

Grammy Award- and Academy Award-winning artist Common will join Sal Kahn, founder of the Khan Academy in a discussion around helping people broadly realize their full potential, with a particular focus on underserved populations, especially children.

“Khan Academy is launching a new initiative around delivering a very low-cost curriculum into U.S. schools. So, that’ll be exciting. Common continues to support, through his Common Ground Foundation, incredibly terrific work serving low-income students here in Chicago, in addition to the general leadership he provides on critical topics around equity.”

WorkingNation & ASU GSV

WorkingNation is a collaborating partner on the ASU GSV X Summit and will be moderating four panels this year. Our mission is to rise to the level of national debate important issues on the future of work and to help draw attention to initiatives and programs from businesses, educators, nonprofits, and local governments which are trying to close the skills gap.

Graphic of each of WorkingNation's panels, with moderator photos, at 2019 ASU GSV Summit.Investing in Talent

Some employers are reluctant to train workers with the skills they need for new jobs because they fear their upskilled employees will then leave them for other companies. WorkingNation president Jane Oates will be leading the discussion on how employer-investments in education can actually drive employee satisfaction and retention and accelerate career mobility. Joining her on the panel are Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts and Managing Director of Bain Capital Double Impact; Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster; Cathi Canfield, Vice President of Associate Experience for EmployBridge; and Zoe Weintraub, Vice President of Partnerships at Guild Education.

Fake News!

WorkingNation Chief Content and Programming Officer Joan Lynch takes a look at how the news media reports on the unemployment numbers. The headline number — 3.8 percent through February — doesn’t tell the entire story. It leaves out, among other factors, the number of people underemployed — those working at jobs that they don’t pay a family-sustaining wage or jobs for which they are over-qualified. Without some of this crucial insight, it is sometimes hard to see the urgency of the skills gap crises.

Still, there are almost seven million open jobs, 6.7 million people looking for work, and employers saying they can’t match the jobseekers to the jobs because they are under-skilled. Lynch will examine the issue with some of the nation’s top journalists: Hari Sreenivasan of PBS, Scott Cohn of CNBC, Paul Fain of Inside Higher Ed, and Akiko Fujita of Yahoo Finance.

Expanding Opportunities for the Formerly Incarcerated

I will be moderating two panels, both on untapped talent pools that, with the right training, could help fill many of the new jobs being created. There are 70 million Americans with criminal records who represent talent “hidden in plain sight.” These men and women are held back in their pursuit of meaningful work by societal bias, lack of personal networks, and a lack of career and skill pathways.

Panelists Aly Tamboura, the Manager Director of Technology Delivery for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Topeka K. Sam, the founder and Executive Director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries, understand these issues better than most. They were both previously incarcerated — Tamboura was in the first cohort of The Last Mile at San Quentin prison and Sam spent three years in federal prison for a nonviolent drug offense — seeing firsthand the impact of incarceration on women of color during and after they serve their time.

Both Tamboura and Sam are now leading efforts to create opportunities inside and outside the prison system to give formerly incarcerated equal access to training and to the current and future jobs markets. We’ll be joined by Scott Budnick, a well-known advocate for criminal justice reform who founded the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Good Films, a production company that leverages the movies and TV shows it makes to effect positive social change.

Future of Work in a 100 Year Life

WorkingNation will also be leading the discussion on the Future of Work in a 100 Year Life, examining the aging of the workforce and efforts at bringing older adults up-to-date on the skills needed to compete for meaningful jobs. Sixty-three percent of adults 60-64 are still working. Forty percent, ages 65-69, still work. And with life expectancy nearing 79, how are we going to address the need for financial and job security for the older population? This is not only a challenge but a big opportunity for employers looking for workers.

Joining me in the conversation will be Paul Irving, Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging; Eunice Lin Nichols, Vice President for Encore.org and Campaign Director of Generation to Generation; Tyler Bosmeny, CEO of Clever, Judith Spitz, Founding Program Director for WiTNY, and Andrew Scott, the author of The Hundred Year Life and former Deputy Dean at the London Business School.

Feeling Inspired

Quazzo tells me that she finds Scott’s book simple and compelling, and a must-read for people of all ages. “This is a book all three of my 20-something kids should read. It causes you to recalibrate life decisions you make, including learning and thinking about the skills you have that will have to take you through a longer period of work.”

Deborah Quazzo head shot
Deborah Quazzo

“Thinking about a longer life does move lifelong learning into a central position. Over the last decade, education is almost a four letter word. It’s something that’s imposed on you. It’s not something you do willingly. And so, I do feel like this transformation about how people learn, whether it’s with peers, or in a project-based setting, or using gamification, is exciting,” Quazzo adds. “I think it has moved it into this place with an outcome that results in a better place for you, whether it’s financially or in some other way.”

What do she and her partners want the 4,500 attendees to get out of this year’s conference? “We want this to be the place where things happen and so what we really hope for is that the mashups that happen with people who don’t know each other, or somehow bumped into each other in an elevator, that real productive things come from those mashups. We want everybody to walk away inspired.”

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