The story of work in 2018 was a study in contrasts. The US economy added more jobs each month, continuing a streak of unprecedented job growth. A 10-year low in the unemployment rate gave another reason to celebrate. The undercurrents of the red-hot economy revealed a different side to the success.
Behind the headlines were the stories of Americans who were still searching for their piece of the pie. While jobs were plentiful, their quality and pay were questionable. Many of the record-shattering 7.29 million job openings this year were out of reach, as job seekers lacked the skills or credentials to take them.
It was also a year of transition as technology upended industries and strengthened new ones. Studies predicting the destruction of human work ranged from dire to moderate. Stories abounded about the future of work and how automation and artificial intelligence would reshape the workforce in the coming years.
Their arguments belied a fundamental truth that predictions are based on the best current evidence. And that evidence is showing rapid advances in technology in the form of an in-home AI-enabled assistant or driverless technology. This year will be remembered for how automation wowed and frightened us, but for also how it became part of the public discourse.
WorkingNation contributed to this conversation by documenting the opportunities and challenges that Americans still face in securing meaningful work. We understand that more Americans are working, and employers are searching for new ways to find talent. They are positive signs that people aren’t waiting for a future recession or technological disruption to put ideas into action. Even in a strong economy, our storytelling mission stayed the course, and we continued to highlight solutions that are working.
We learned this year that great news about jobs and technology must be tempered by realistic expectations that their opportunities are not distributed evenly. Workers who have jobs today may not have the skills for the jobs of the future. Wages are still a sticking point with many Americans unable to earn a middle-class income. The gig economy presents an entirely new set of problems for the fastest-growing workforce, one without a social safety net. There’s more work to be done.
We take a look back on our past year, and the many ways WorkingNation amplified the conversation about jobs and the future of work. Our events and content spanned the country, adding the voices of workforce development experts, employers, policymakers and thought leaders to the voices of hard-working Americans making positive changes for themselves and their communities. The depth of our stories revealed the greatest lesson we learned in 2018: that all stories, whether good news or bad, are jobs stories.
WorkingNation’s Original Video Content
Who knew that reporting about workforce development is an adventure in of itself? Our documentary crew traveled out to sea on a Rhode Island fishing vessel and scaled the heights of a wind turbine to bring you incredible stories of Americans learning new skills and working cool jobs. Their visually-dynamic locales didn’t overshadow the emotional stories of the people who discovered their life’s calling through practical skills training programs.
Our most-viewed Do Something Awesome video of 2018, with more than 600,000 views across our platforms, involved one of the largest organizations involved in training young people through Career and Technical Education. SkillsUSA’s national competition for CTE students across a host of disciplines provided an incredible setting for our DSA video “Building a Strong Foundation.” The annual event brings a Super Bowl-like atmosphere celebrating the trades and the young workers who will enter these well-paying and in-demand jobs.
Here is what SkillsUSA Executive Director Tim Lawrence had to say about our mini-documentary.
“SkillsUSA’s vision is to produce the most highly-skilled workforce in the world, providing every member the opportunity for career success. With storytelling like that of WorkingNation’s helping us to shine a brighter light on our work, we know we can succeed.”
RELATED STORY: Do Something Awesome in 2018: Year in Review
Our new “I Want That Job” digital series gives our audience a quick, but informative introduction to the fast-growing careers that in need of new talent. The wind above turbine experience presents the job of wind turbine technician in a way that highlights not just the economic opportunity, but the adventure in joining the forward-thinking clean energy industry.
WorkingNation’s Town Halls
Our Town Hall events brought together the leading experts to discuss the significant issues affecting employment in the U.S. The STEM skills gap, veteran employment, cybersecurity and work-based learning were the focus of the discussions, involving millions of job openings and opportunities. Our moderators, journalist Stephanie Sy, PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan and CNBC contributors Ron Insana and Scott Cohn, guided the informative discussions about the present and future of workforce development.
We began our year highlighting the worker shortage STEM-based careers in our Town Hall with YPO-Los Angeles. Our panelists discussed the challenges of introducing STEM skills to young people and the solutions to developing a new generation of engineers, scientists and mechanics.
March saw the TV debut of the second part of our Dallas Town Hall on veteran employment with syndicated program Hiring America. The program was viewed in over 200 markets and worldwide on the Armed Forces Network.
In July, our New York City Town Hall “Cracking the Code” addressed the critical need for more cybersecurity workers and programs to train them. The event was the first to be live-streamed across our Facebook platform, bringing our conversation to a wider audience.
Our final Town Hall production took place in Boston and featured a conversation about the importance of work-based learning. With more attention being paid to labor shortages across multiple industries, employers and policymakers are innovating new solutions to attract, train and retain new workers. Our experts brought their insight into the power of non-traditional training programs to reach untapped workforces.
WorkingNation’s Original Reporting
WorkingNation continued to follow and report on the trends shaping workforce policy in the U.S. Whether it was the monthly Labor Department reports or studies assessing the impact of technology and training programs, our reporters placed and writers the headline-grabbing topics within their appropriate context.
Executive Producer and Senior Business Correspondent Ramona Schindelheim led our team with her interviews with state governors, C-suite leaders and tech experts. Schindelheim’s stories covered a wide swath of issues, equity in STEM-based work, state-led workforce development programs and the future of work to name a few. Her access to policymakers, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and Fortune 500 CEOs, like Akamai Technologies’ Tom Leighton, gave readers an insider’s look into workforce development. If that wasn’t enough, Schindelheim produced and hosted WorkingNation’s first-ever podcast “Work in Progress.”
Digital Content Producer Matt Parke kept our readers up to speed on research about work and education in addition to writing the long-form stories of the Do Something Awesome series. Parke filed stories about the top issues in workforce development in 2018. His reporting on college alternatives, unemployment insurance, credentialing and the impact of technology on jobs represented the diversity of stories that come from the topic of work.
WorkingNation Associate Producer Jaimie Stevens stepped outside of her regular duties helping make our video content to launch her “Starting Out in Tech” series. Her valuable advice and experience in learning to code come through in her articles, which provide an entry-level introduction to the world of software programming. She broke down the pros and cons of learning Python and examined different roles within tech while also providing her unique perspective.
Our featured writer, Dr. Mark Goulston, also contributed his expertise in psychology to show the human side of workforce issues. Goulston’s extensive background makes his articles a must-read for C-suite decision makers and unemployed people alike. When it comes to the issues of workplace communication, recovering from unemployment or learning new skills, Goulston’s solutions are sometimes unconventional but grounded in common sense. Both Goulston’s and Mick Kubiak’s articles gave our readers a different take on work.
More WorkingNation Happenings in 2018
The past year saw WorkingNation’s influence as an organization grow with our workshops with the Lumina Foundation and the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. In October, Poynter was host to 28 journalists representing mainstream news organizations who learned new ways to report about workforce issues.
WorkingNation Executive Producer of Digital and Content Partners Theresa Collington and Schindelheim were instrumental in organizing the two-day workshop and facilitating the learning environment. Shared ideas and experiences from leading journalists like Washington Post’s Amy Goldstein contributed to a learning environment that fostered our greatest lesson from 2018, that every story is a jobs story.
WorkingNation moved from strength to strength in 2018 with CEO Art Bilger naming Jane Oates as president and Lonia Guha as chief of staff and the addition of five key voices to our leadership team.
Oates hit the ground running this year, representing WorkingNation at numerous panels and on television. Keeping up with a powerhouse like Oates is almost a full-time job. She spoke at the Milken Institute Global Conference, the EdTechTimes’ work + EDU conference, a Capitol Hill screening of Results for America’s documentary, the ACT Policy Platforms launch and even met a robot designed to work with autistic children. She’ll continue her nationwide tour in the new year and deliver her signature wit and knowledge on future panels.
Guha moved from a supporting role with WorkingNation to become chief of staff where she will oversee new initiatives. She will work closely with Oates, Bilger and the content team to facilitate projects in the new year.
2018 also saw major additions to our WorkingNation leadership. The three new members of our Executive Committee are LinkedIn Vice President of Product Management and Co-founder Allen Blue, Morgan Stanley Managing Director Tsvi Gai and business consultant Leon Janks. Qualcomm, Inc. Senior Vice President of Engineering Susan Armstrong and Creating IT Futures Executive Director of Workforce Development Gretchen Koch were named to the WorkingNation Advisory Board.
Looking Ahead in the New Year
The new year will bring more powerful original content from the WorkingNation team. While the final Do Something Awesome video will debut in January, our filmmakers will introduce a brand new series called “The Middle.”
The mini-documentary will focus on the changes that technology, outsourcing and an aging workforce are making in the Midwest. Our filmmakers will look at the lives of three individuals and their communities that are affected by the seismic shifts in middle-class society. Their stories will illuminate the problems of a shrinking middle class in Indianapolis and the ramifications of job loss and retraining in the Midwest.
WorkingNation will also produce more events for TV broadcast in 2019. We are partnering with the Customer Analytics Initiative at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Johnny Carson Foundation and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for discussions about the skills gap in data analytics and agricultural employment respectively.
Look for WorkingNation at upcoming conferences like ASU + GSV, SXSW EDU and the next Milken Global Conference. Oates, our executive team and reporters, will be making the rounds, speaking on panels and spreading our message to a wider audience in 2019.
WorkingNation came a long way in 2018, but 2019 looks to be an even bigger year for our organization. With every story being a jobs story, we’ll be there to highlight the opportunities of the labor market while giving our readers the context they need to understand it.
Join the Conversation: Share your thoughts about WorkingNation’s content from 2018 on our Facebook page. Happy New Year!