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Thoughts from Our Fellows: Connect Individuals to Meaningful Work

February 23, 2021

February 23, 2021

Welcome to Thoughts from Our Fellows, a collection of recent activity regarding the Academy's Grand Challenge of each Month. In February, the Academy focused on Connecting Individuals to Meaningful Work. Below you will find:

  • The recommendations from our Election 2020 project regarding the first year of the new administration,
  • Recommendations from our fellows for the next four years of the Biden Administration,
  • Management Matters podcasts related to this grand challenge, and
  • The top 5 clicked articles on this grand challenge from our Management Matters online newsletter.
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Election 2020

In November of 2020, the Academy published Providing Meaningful Work for All Americans, as a part of its Election 2020 Project. The paper's Working Group recommended the following actions:

  • Make workforce development and opportunity a key part of any infrastructure plans and strategies by leveraging infrastructure strategies, plans, and funds to create demand and to focus on future needs and sustainability.
  • Use collaborative governance models to ensure that workforce development programs can satisfy the demand that is centered on individuals and families rather than the agencies or levels of government that provide the services and recognizes that many employment decisions are made locally
  • Improve connections between job seekers and employers by streamlining the employment pipeline by coordinating the many existing and developing new educational programs to create a continuous ladder of workforce development from high school to graduate. school, or from high school through increasingly demanding technical credentials.
  • Expand national service programs, like the Peace Corps and the Cooperation for National and Community Service, by increasing the number of available positions; enhancing the compensation and benefits; and enhancing cross-sector collaboration in coordinating and delivering these programs.
  • Develop a longer-term strategy to enhance social equity and meaningful work and coordinate social safety net programs with the implementation of long-term workforce development actions.


Thoughts from Our Fellows

In addition to our Election 2020 papers, which focused on recommended actions for the first year of a new administration, the Academy also asked its Fellows for advice for the first four years of the Biden Administration.

Michael Maccoby: Make sure all jobs have a positive purpose, and employees are treated with respect and have opportunities to develop. Employees should be placed in jobs where they can use their strengths.

David P. Gragan: Establish apprenticeship programs as public-private partnerships with private sector organizations that have benefited from their key roles in pandemic response and remediation. Leverage philanthropic channels to support a comprehensive national effort that has a positive emotional and material impact.

Frank Fairbanks: Evaluate the effectiveness of the many existing programs, and then eliminate low-performing programs and improve coordination among existing programs. Where needed, provide additional funding/staff to increase the effectiveness of the smaller number of remaining programs.

Shoshanna Sofaer: Improve and equalize the funding of K-12 education so that all young Americans have the basic preparation they need to excel in available jobs. Create jobs by funding needed infrastructure improvements. Develop effective job training programs for work that will exist over the long-term.

Maria P Aristigueta: Provide training opportunities for those that are unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Opportunities for training and education in jobs leveraging artificial intelligence robotics and other technologies that did not exist 10 years ago could help bridge our digital divide and provide opportunities for those in need of training or re-training. COVID-19 has demonstrated our shortcomings in digital operations and offers lessons learned that could help individuals and our society in the future.

Carl Van Horn: The Hill: 'Help Wanted': Four Strategies to Fix America's Jobs Crisis.

Renee P Wynn: 1. Acknowledge the challenging times we've been through and the hardships created for many and the loss of life. (Empathy.) 2. Provide "hope" in forwarding action. 3. How is the US going to handle the "gig" economy? Right now, it seems, you sink or swim by your own effort. If that's our policy, then no change is needed. If we think the community needs support then action to support a "gig" economy is needed. 4. Support for a "gig" economy: ensure reasonable rates for health and catastrophic insurance; revise the tax structure to be more supportive of independent workers. 5. Keep focusing on leveling the playing field for women and minorities. 6. Take steps at all levels of the American government to curb climate change. 7. Keep the ultra-rich as part of the conversation and solutions.

Jane Fountain: Focusing on job creation and jobs of the future is important. There are research and other work already in this area that may be tapped. But equally important is a focus on the adjustments and transition strategies that will help those in occupations, in geographic areas, and in other categories, who will need retraining, further education, and a path to newer jobs. I would suggest that the Biden Administration be familiar with the work of Muro and others at Brookings on automation and work and on the recent report on the State of Indiana and the mix of old and newer industries there.

Ellen Tunstall: Collect data, study, analyze, formulate an action plan, garner support, and act.

Michael Brintnall: There are broad contextual elements affecting workforce training and reskilling that warrant attention by the administration. These contextual factors are key elements for contributing to the completion and success of workforce training efforts, regardless of the substantive priorities.

  1. Attention to pressures on working families. Family circumstances and daily economic survival are key to whether a worker can sustain and complete job training programs, such as supports for child care, food and income security, and similar real-life events. Protection from predatory training providers is also essential.
  2. Institutional and program-specific support. We need to support the capital and operating costs of provider institutions: training centers and institutes, community colleges, secondary schools as well as the delivery specific costs of a training program.
  3. Flexibility to adapt to local conditions. Communities will need the flexibility to focus workforce development resources on the particular growth prospects of their economy – similar communities may have quite different situations where the workforce is the critical missing element of a self-reinforcing growth cycle. Rural areas, for instance, will have different priorities from urban, as well as each locality having its own areas of promise.
  4. Evidence and outcomes focus. Outcomes need to be tracked, but equally, their definition needs to be flexible. For community college-based initiatives, for instance, completion may be defined as transfer, as job continuity, or a new career without the formal degree; and completion may take time and occur of multiple institutions and programs. Design of data systems that can support advising and career planning and can track workforce training progress and credentialing across multiple institutions and over significant time is a priority.
  5. Support for partnerships. Most successful workforce training will involve collaboration among and across multiple training and educational institutions – for example, between second and post-secondary schools, across community college degree and certification initiatives, among community-based service organizations, schools, community college, and industry. Programming should be designed to invite this collaboration.
  6. Racial justice. All programming must advance racial equity in all aspects and be proactive in outreach and antiracist in design. All of the above contextual factors, if developed with forethought, can help remove obstacles and can create pathways for underrepresented people: helping families, assuring quality institutions, responding to local conditions, monitoring progress toward balanced outcomes, and building partnerships that reach across the community"

Scott Cameron: Encourage community colleges to provide vocational training to dislocated workers changing careers and expand broadband access to rural and poor areas.

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Top 5 Articles on Connecting Individuals to Meaningful Work

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Brookings: After COVID-19: Building a More Coherent and Effective Workforce Development System in the United States, by Harry J. Holzer

Workforce Development in the United States today is spread across higher education institutions (primarily public two-year and for-profit colleges), labor market institutions, and workplaces, with public funding from a range of sources. But outcomes for students and workers are weaker than they could be, especially among disadvantaged students and displaced workers; funding for workforce development programs is insufficient and not always effective.

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The Hamilton Project: The Critical Role of Workforce Training in the Labor Market Recovery, by Wendy Edelberg and Paige Shevlin

The COVID-19 recession that began in March 2020 has had a disparate effect on workers depending on many factors: industry, occupation, level of education, parental status, race, and gender. For example, declines in employment have been largest for workers of color and those with less formal education. Such disproportionate effects owe in large part to the fact that those groups are overrepresented in the industries that have been particularly hard hit.

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The Well News: Federal Reserve Bank Presidents Call for Rethinking of Job Flexibility, by Victoria Turner

The pandemic has exacerbated deep-rooted issues in the structure of jobs. The need to “rethink” the future-of-work to incorporate flexibility and employee needs came to the limelight during a fireside chat between the presidents of two Federal Reserve Banks on Monday. Issues of access to public transportation, shift times, regular hours, effective childcare and paid sick days plagued the workforce prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. These issues have only been made worse by the pandemic, he added, and those affected by them have seen their situation “become much worse.”

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Route Fifty: Survey: COVID Driving State, Local Workers to Consider Switching Jobs, by Bill Lucia

There are signs that an increasing share of state and local government employees were souring on their jobs and pay over the course of last year with the coronavirus pandemic wearing on, according to newly released survey findings. Thirty-one percent, or nearly one-third, of workers responding to a Center for State and Local Government Excellence poll in late October and early November said that working during the Covid-19 pandemic has caused them to consider changing jobs. In a poll the center conducted in May, the figure was only 20%.

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Government Executive: Clicks on a Job Site Reveal Hiring Discrimination, by ETH Zurich

Scientists have leveraged big data from recruitment platforms and machine learning to study hiring discrimination. They find that discrimination against immigrants depends, among other things, on the time of day, and that both men and women face discrimination. This type of discrimination violates the principle of equal opportunities. For those affected, this may have long-term disadvantages, such as longer unemployment or lower wages. That’s why it is crucial to understand who experiences discrimination and why.

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