‘Unbound: Retraining the American Workforce’: A WorkingNation Panel Discussion at 2017 Milken Institute Global Conference

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Tuesday afternoon, WorkingNation hosted a panel discussion, Unbound: Retraining the American Workforce, at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference.

The theme for the 20th annual Global Conference, “Building Meaningful Lives,” included more than 200 sessions featuring in-depth discussions encompassing global populism, terrorism, medical research, refugee and immigration policy, artificial intelligence, fiscal and monetary policy, longevity, and global investing trends.

Today, millions of Americans have lost the jobs they were trained for as the employment needs of entire industries have shifted, and millions still in the workforce lack the skill set for tomorrow’s jobs.

Since its launch last year, WorkingNation’s mission has been to educate Americans on the looming unemployment crisis in our country and to highlight scalable solutions that are helping address it.

WorkingNation’s panel discussed a number of the urgent questions concerning today’s workforce including: How do we control for and counteract the growing skills gap in our country, and what can be done to properly train Americans for the jobs of the future?

Some of the talking points included:

  • What businesses can do to build and scale the retraining programs that can best prepare Americans for well-paying jobs and fulfilling careers
  • What programs local leaders and educators can adopt to this end
  • What’s happening on the ground across the country that serves as national models

Solutions they highlighted:

Allen Blue, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Management, LinkedIn, on closing the communication loop between employers and educators:

“We’re [LinkedIn] doing a pilot right now in […] the whole state of Colorado, and in Phoenix, where we’re trying to close that communication loop between employers and educators. It’s called Skillful. What it does is it says every time an employer agrees they will interview somebody if they’ve passed a certain training program. That feedback loop, that willingness for an employer and educator to work together actually makes a huge difference because it means the person who is looking for a job knows that if they finish that training program, it’s gonna lead them some place, which is something that hasn’t actually been available up to this point. You know the dollars you spend on training are gonna be dollars well spent and educators know what needs to be trained, which is something that hasn’t really existed, at least not in a quick feedback loop, before.”

Jaime Merisotis, President & CEO, Lumina Foundation on two ideas, both within and outside the traditional learning infrastructure, that are national in scope:

“Southern New Hampshire University spun something called College for America, which is actually a platform where you learn based on a competency-based model. In the competency-based model, it doesn’t matter how much time it takes you, you have to demonstrate competency in order to get that Southern New Hampshire credential. They’ve built these relationships with employers like Anthem and others in order to actually help dramatically increase the opportunities for their employees.

“[…] Credly is one that’s actually trying to recognize and aggregate your badges, your certificates, your certifications, whatever it may be, into new kinds of recognized credentials that have real labor market value.”

Shernaz Daver, Chief Marketing Officer, Udacity on making sure people get the skills they need to get a job:

“One of the things we do is we work with industry-leading companies like Google, Amazon, IBM, [and] Facebook to get the skills that they want in jobs. […] We have a Nanodegree that’s a micro-credential. You can do it on your own time because you generally tend to not be able to just devote all of your time to doing a Nanodegree because you have a family, you have a job. The idea is at the end of it, you either get a new job, or you get promoted, or you learn a new skill. Today in our program, we have about 25,000 people doing these Nanodegrees.”

Allen Blue on the players who can help address the skills gap problem:

“In addition to those three primary users, if you will, of the system. The primary members, the individual is looking for the job, the employer who will employ, and then the educator who is going to train them. There are probably at least two others that we need to consider. […] The first one is the government The other really interesting, super important component of making the solution work is other people. The people who help us navigate these things as they go along. Most job seekers, myself included, despite my background, I went to an elite college and all that stuff, I really had no idea what to do when I got into the job market. No idea at all. If I didn’t have any idea, I can guarantee there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who have no idea how to navigate. This role, the role for churches, the role for placement centers, the role for volunteers, the role for neighbors, the role for family members, is huge in attacking this. These are all fantastic opportunities for people who are working in any of these five roles to participate in an overall system which would allow us to attack the problem and have quick responses to what the future actually looks like.”

Jamie Merisotis on how successful workforce programs can reach the unemployed or underemployed:

“Part of it is to create a much more diverse set of opportunities for people and part of it, I think, is to make sure that we actually meet those people where they are and tell them unemployment is not a satisfactory outcome, collecting unemployment is not a satisfactory outcome for your life. Here’s what you can do if you get more skill, more training, more education, and as you move up that ladder, you’ll get greater rewards.”

Shernaz Daver, on a market driven program Udacity is working on with the city of Reno:

“Reno’s entire local governors, everyone, particularly EDAWN, which is their Economic Development Advisory committee for Western Nevada, has decided that they will reduce unemployment. So the last few years, they’ve reduced unemployment from 15% to 4% and they have convinced companies to move out to Nevada. So Google is there, Amazon is there, Tesla is there. Now that these companies have come there, they’re going, “Okay. Give us the workers.” So, Reno is going, ‘That’s a problem, but we can solve this problem if we can retrain workers in Nevada.’

“So Udacity is coming in with them, we’re kind of the plot that fills that hole for them. We’re doing an online and in-person intensive program called Udacity Connect in different jobs, starting with web development and these people will then get employed by these companies. That’s kind of where that local loop comes in where there is a need.”

Art Bilger, Founder & CEO of WorkingNation, on the industry that will see one of the biggest areas of job growth:

“[…] I think one of the biggest areas of job growth in the next ten years or so is the whole area of data and analytics. […] I don’t believe there’s an aspect of business, government, or the not for profit world, that will not be driven by data and analytics.”

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Former Chief Economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on an example of a partnership that is helping connect military members towards jobs of the future:

“In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the first program ever where the economic development group in the region combined with the community college, they’re moving onto the base to help a lot of your colleagues in the Army who are going to be coming out and instead of waiting for them to hit the street, they’re saying, ‘No, let’s start working on this six, nine, twelve months before you’re out so that we can talk to you, make you aware of different career paths, different training programs.’ It’s part of this new program they’re calling Bright Spot. That’s the kind of percolation, that I think we want to make sure it’s moving out into different careers.”

Watch the panel discussion below:

Below, learn more about each panelist.

1Panelist: Art Bilger, Founder and CEO, WorkingNation

Art Bilger is founder and CEO of WorkingNation. He is also an investor in early-stage private companies that integrate content with new technologies, focusing on online education, digital media and analytics.

Bilger’s involvement in this area began as an investor in and vice chairman of Akamai Technologies Inc. Previously, he was president and chief operating officer of New World Communications, a founding partner of Apollo Advisors LP, and executive vice president and co-head of corporate finance at Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Bilger serves on the board of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and its Executive Committee. Other nonprofit affiliations include vice chairman of the Skirball Cultural Center, board member of legal-services organization Bet Tzedek, advisory board member for the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging and member of the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs. Bilger holds a B.S. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Articles by Bilger:
Debate: Will Automation Create More Jobs Than It Eliminates?
Education Pathway Solutions Start With Divergent Thinking

Follow Bilger:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arthur-bilger-8a574338/

2Panelist: Allen Blue, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Management, LinkedIn

Allen Blue is Vice President of Product Management and Co-founder of LinkedIn, the online professional network. At LinkedIn, he is responsible for LinkedIn’s overall Product Strategy. He also sponsors LinkedIn’s Work and Education products within the Economic Graph team, including the products and platforms supporting Skillful.com (a joint effort to close the middle skills gap in the US between LinkedIn and the Markle Foundation) and TechHire.

He advises several startups in Silicon Valley, most focused on improving health and education. He sits on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Data Advisory Council, helping guide the department’s efforts to make its data broadly available to American businesses.

Allen serves on the board of the Hope Street Group, a non-profit which focuses on bringing economic opportunity to Americans through a combination of policy and practice. Allen focuses on Workforce projects at Hope Street. Before LinkedIn, Allen co-founded SocialNet.com, an online dating service, and graduated from Stanford University.

Follow Blue:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ablue/
Twitter: @allenb

3Panelist: Shernaz Daver, Chief Marketing Officer, Udacity

Shernaz Daver is the global chief marketing officer at Udacity, where she oversees the company’s marketing, user acquisition and partnership efforts. Under her leadership, the company has become a brand in the online learning space with millions of students and Global 100 companies as partners.

Shernaz brings over 20 years of experience building brands and consumer perception; advising executive management; scaling operational teams; and developing global businesses to take companies to the next level in marketing and mindshare. Over her tenure, she has worked with numerous companies including Netflix, Walmart, Motorola, Polyvore, Khan Academy, Zynga, Groupon, Kosmix and Baidu. She was the chief marketing officer and head of investor relations at Inktomi, a company that became one of the hottest internet names reaching a $37 billion valuation.

Shernaz started her career at Sun Microsystems with roles in the U.S. and European offices. She is an executive advisor to GV (Google Ventures) and serves on several advisory boards.

Article by Daver:
Jumping In

Follow Daver:
Twitter: @udacity
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/shernaz-daver-38a6ab2/

4Panelist: Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Former Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce; Advisory Board Member, WorkingNation

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick just completed an appointment as chief economist of the U.S. Department of Commerce where she worked on several administration initiatives to improve data quality, measure the digital economy, and expand manufacturing, trade and investment. Hughes-Cromwick also supported the development of the administration’s economic forecast.

Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Commerce, Ellen was chief global economist at Ford Motor Company. She joined the company in 1996 and was promoted to chief economist in 2004. Ellen managed the global corporate economics group with major responsibility for the company’s global economic and automotive industry forecasts used to support business strategy, finance, and planning.

Early in her career, Ellen was a senior economist at Mellon Bank from 1990 to 1996, and she also served for two years as a staff economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan Administration.

Follow Hughes-Cromwick:
Twitter: @EllenHughesCrom
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ellen-hughes-cromwick-723a78b5/

5Panelist: Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO, Lumina Foundation

Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. He previously served as co-founder and president of the nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Higher Education Policy and as executive director of a bipartisan national commission on college affordability appointed by the President and Congressional leaders.

Merisotis is the author of the widely acclaimed book America Needs Talent, named a Top 10 Business Book of 2016 by Booklist. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and other publications.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has extensive experience as an advisor and consultant in southern Africa, the former Soviet Union, Europe and other parts of the world. He chairs the board of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest museum for children.

Articles by Merisotis:
Zombies, college, and today’s student
Three reasons employers should invest in growing a talented workforce

Follow Merisotis:
Twitter: @jamiemerisotis
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamie-merisotis-4799aa9/

6Panel Moderator: Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, Founder, CSE Consulting; Adjunct Professor, Columbia Business School

Cheryl Einhorn is a media consultant, award-winning journalist covering business, economic and financial news and a long-time educator as an adjunct professor at both the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and at the Columbia Business School. Her research and decision-making system, AREA Method, has helped countless individuals and organizations with their business strategy and communications, and she recently published Problem Solved, A Powerful System for Making Complex Decisions with Confidence & Conviction, which came out this year.

Articles by Einhorn:
Four Habits To Help You Make Better Decisions Now
Misaligned Incentives Handcuff the ICC

Follow Einhorn:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cheryl-strauss-einhorn-57353823/
Twitter: @cheryleinhorn

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