WIP Art and Jane

Progress is being made, but there are still workforce challenges needing to be addressed

A conversation with Art Bilger, founder & CEO of WorkingNation, and Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation

In this episode of Work in Progress, WorkingNation founder & CEO Art Bilger and WorkingNation president Jane Oates join me to discuss how the labor market and workforce priorities continue to evolve after two-and-a-half years of global disruptions.

September marks the sixth anniversary of the launch of WorkingNation, the nonprofit media organization founded by Art Bilger focused on the evolution taking place in the labor market and how to prepare workers for those changes.

A lot has changed in those six years, but the mission remains the same.

“The original mission – still the mission today – was to identify where the jobs of the future will be, and I don’t mean 20 years from now. I’m talking about today, but also three years from now, five years, seven years from now and then identifying and then telling the stories about the solutions,” explains Bilger.

As we’ve discussed many times in articles, podcasts, and videos, COVID altered the way we work, for all of us.

The most recent U.S. employment report showed 20 straight months of sustained job growth and we’ve more than recovered the 20 million jobs lost at the start of the pandemic two-and-a-half years ago.

But, there are still very real labor issues that we, as a society, must continue to address – underemployment, inequitable access to economic opportunity, and labor shortages in key industries due to a lack of workers with certain in-demand skills, to name a few.

Oates cites the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020 as a wakeup call that there was gross inequity in every part of our society, including in access to economic opportunity. “That’s become really a mission for everyone, including us.

“I would say the word ‘mobility’ has become much more important. It is no longer just getting you in the door for your first job. It’s making sure that every single person has the opportunity to move up the pay scale, the job title scale, and advance themselves,” she adds.

Bilger agrees. “I do believe there is a lot more discussion (about access to economic opportunities) than when we first began six years ago. That’s great, but there’s a lot of learning that still has to happen. I would very much like the subject that we’re talking about and the solutions to be elevated much more quickly in this society,” he says.

“I feel as strong, if not stronger than ever, about the whole idea of the link between employment and purpose in life,” Bilger adds. “Yes, dollars and cents are critical, but I do believe there’s much more to employment.”

“It’s hard for me not to think that most people are still worried about salary, because with right now at 8.5% inflation rate, everybody’s dollar is worth less than it was before. But I think that Art’s right when he says it’s more than money. It’s flexibility. It’s, ‘Are you investing in me?,'” Oates adds.

“More employers than ever are looking at the importance of, A, providing a quality job, B, getting workers’, both incumbent workers’ and prospective workers’, input on what quality means,” according to Oates.

In the podcast, Bilger weighs in on another issue he is concerned about – the increase in remote working and its impact on team work and innovation. Oates also shares her thoughts on the way we talk about higher education as a pathway to a good career – let’s not send the wrong message to job seekers and workers.

There is a lot more to talk about here. You can listen to the podcast here, or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

And to all my WorkingNation colleagues, happy anniversary.

Episode 243: Art Bilger, WorkingNation founder & CEO and Jane Oates, WorkingNation president
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts