Commentary from Rework America Members | Markle
Commentary from Rework America Members | Markle

We Need A New Economic Agenda

Commentary from Rework America Members

A Call to Value People’s Skills, Not Just Degrees

By Zoë Baird

LinkedIn Pulse
March 17, 2016

So many Americans have great skills, but for too long we’ve valued the college degree as the primary path to success even though 70 percent of Americans don’t have one. This has left millions of Americans frustrated by a lack of opportunities that could help put them on a path to more fulfilling careers and income growth.

This is especially true for middle-skill workers—those with high school diplomas, and possibly some college, but not bachelor’s degrees. Those who want to learn or demonstrate the skills or credentials to advance their career need a new way in! To provide these workers with the tools and support they need, the Markle Foundation and our national partners LinkedIn, Arizona State University, and edX created Skillful—a skills-based jobs platform that values people’s skills, not just degrees—to help jobseekers learn about available pathways and get on them.

Skillful is informed by data and research from some of the best firms in the nation, including LinkedIn, Burning Glass, McKinsey, Civis Analytics, and North Star Opinion Research. For more than a year, our team conducted eighteen stakeholder focus group sessions, five economic studies, and several market surveys in an effort to better understand the labor market and to develop a skills-based marketplace tailored to the needs of today’s digital economy.

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Skillful Launches in Colorado, Creates Pathway to Good Jobs

By Governor John Hickenlooper

LinkedIn Pulse
March 17, 2016

We’ve worked hard to make Colorado the best place in the country to start, grow or work for a business. Making it easier for Coloradans at all stages of their careers to get the jobs they want and pursue their American dreams.

By cultivating a world class talent pipeline in Colorado, we’re making our state an even more attractive place for businesses to invest, which creates more jobs, opportunity and prosperity for Coloradans.

Today, we had the pleasure of joining with our partners at The Markle Foundation and LinkedIn to announce the launch of Skillful, a new skills-based online platform that connects job seekers, employers and educators.

Skillful will help job seekers identify the specific skills and training needed to secure available and well-paying jobs in fast growing industries across Colorado.

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How LinkedIn is Helping Create Economic Opportunity in Colorado and Phoenix

By Allen Blue

March 17, 2016

LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. Notice that I said every member, not just white collar workers with four-year college degrees. Everyone.

To achieve our vision, we’re building the world’s first Economic Graph — a digital map of the global economy that includes every member of the global workforce and their skills, all open jobs, all employers, and all educational institutions. We’ve been sharing labor market insights from the Economic Graph with dozens of policymakers across the globe to help create greater economic opportunity.

For example, we’ve been sharing Economic Graph insights with policymakers in Colorado and Phoenix. We realized the combination of our Economic Graph insights and the LinkedIn platform can have an even greater economic impact. So last June we joined Skillful (formerly Rework America Connected) — a Markle Foundation initiative to help workers in Colorado and Phoenix with high school diplomas and some or no college education acquire new skills to advance their careers.

This is important because more than 40% of workers in Colorado, and nearly 50% of workers in Arizona, have a high school diploma and some or no college education. Yet 44% of the more than 468 recruiters and hiring managers we surveyed in Colorado and Phoenix in February said it’s hard to find people with the right technical skills. Companies that have a hard time hiring are less productive, which stunts the growth of the local economy.

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Dangerous Digital Divide Looming for Small Businesses

By Zoë Baird

The Hill
January 14, 2016

Small businesses have been critical in powering America through the greatest transformation of our economy since the Industrial Revolution. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs created during our recovery have been generated by startups and small enterprises. But as we begin the new year, those businesses are increasingly in danger of falling on the wrong side of an emerging digital divide.

Large corporations are investing heavily in data and analytics, far outpacing the investment capabilities of smaller firms. According to a recent GE Accenture report, 84 percent of executives in large companies worldwide indicated that big data analytics could shift the competitive landscape for their industry in the next 12 months. And 80-90 percent report that big data analytics is either the top priority of the company or in the top three. If the public and private sectors don’t come together to fix this imbalance, many small companies will be pushed out of the market to the detriment of the American economy. In 2016, we need a national public-private effort to solve this growing problem and ensure small businesses have the access to the modern data tools they need to thrive in the new economy.

Data has enormous power to transform a business, identifying efficiencies across an operation and spurring innovation. With advanced analytics, companies can forecast demand, optimize supply chains, identify emerging markets, and increase exports to the world’s growing middle class.

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Community Foundations Help Prop Up Labor Force

By Antonia Hernández

Los Angeles Business Journal
November 23, 2015

As head of one of the country’s oldest community foundations, I have seen many dedicated families, immigrants, and entrepreneurs work hard to succeed in Los Angeles County. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe that realizing the promise of the American Dream is not a question of policy or government spending alone, nor is it the responsibility of any single individual, company or school.

“Business as usual” is no longer workable or acceptable. Rather, solving some of our greatest challenges—including providing education and opportunity for all—starts with local residents coming together and taking innovative action to ensure that every member of the community has a chance to succeed. Simply put, it is time for new ways of investing in our communities.

Consider a recent initiative, Rework America. Convened by the Markle Foundation, the initiative brings together a diverse group of business leaders, educators, policymakers, and advocates to expand opportunities for all Americans. Working with local communities, the initiative launched Rework America Connected, a partnership with LinkedIn, Arizona State University, edX and local and state educators and employers to build a skills-based labor market.

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How Social Media is Reinventing the Job Search

By Zoë Baird

November 9, 2015

Many are talking about how the very nature of work is changing in today’s connected economy…the race against the machine, the rapid growth of the gig economy, introduction of technology into just about every job, market, and business. Less well recognized, and certainly less exploited, is the potential online tools have to change the way we learn, train, and connect to the jobs of tomorrow. This opportunity is key to making the transformation of work benefit all Americans.

Behind us are the days when employers placed ads in the classifieds, recruiters visited colleges to find applicants, or people combed their local newspapers for appealing listings for well-recognized jobs. Job seekers today are turning to online platforms — including LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder — which allow prospective employees to search online for open positions, while employers also can use these platforms to sort through potential candidates more quickly and easily. From part-time work to high-tech positions, the rise of connected platforms is only a small part of a much larger transformation.

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The Powerful Politics of Optimism

By Zoë Baird

October 28, 2015

America’s most successful political leaders have always shared a key ingredient—an optimistic vision for our country’s future.

Our nation’s most respected presidents have been those who offered hope to millions of Americans at times when they had little to none. From FDR whose New Deal vision brought Americans out of the Great Depression and into a new age of vitality, to Ronald Reagan whose ‘Morning in America’ propelled the country forward following a decade of economic stagnation, candidates can raise the national conversation to what is possible and the heights we can reach as a people.

We now face the greatest time of change in our economic life since the Industrial Revolution. Across the country, Americans are discouraged by stagnant incomes, and uncertainty about their future as the forces of globalization and technology continue to pummel everything familiar to them. Driving America forward—especially during times of economic change is never an easy job—but our best leaders have always leveraged our enormous assets as a country with the power of optimism and hope to lay out a path for a better future. Today, we need that more than we have in decades.

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Improving Opportunities for California Workers

By California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

The San Diego Union-Tribune
October 28, 2015

It seems nearly every day a new technological wonder changes the way Americans live, learn and work. From breakthrough apps to digital networks to automated vehicles, California is consistently a strong engine that pushes our country forward. Yet, too many in our state and elsewhere in the country, feel that opportunity is increasingly out of grasp. So often we hear of six-figure starting salaries and multibillion-dollar IPOs in Silicon Valley, but the stories are very different in places like Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton and plenty of other American cities where the middle class is rapidly shrinking.

As digital technology thrusts our nation into its greatest economic transformation in over a century, we must work together to ensure everyone benefits. It’s time for all leaders to work through the fog of partisanship and commit to an action agenda to create opportunity for all Americans. This is the new imperative.

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century forced America to transform the way it trained workers as they moved from field to factory. Now the digital revolution of the 21st century and our shift from an economy of bricks and mortar to one driven by software requires a different approach. We have to rethink how we educate our workforce, train workers to have skills they need for the digital age and better connect employers with job seekers.

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Viewpoint: How Do We Fix America’s Skills Gap?

By Dorothy Stoneman

Boston Business Journal
October 23, 2015

It’s no secret a skills mismatch is holding back American businesses and jobseekers. Millions in this country remain out of work or underemployed, yet more than 5 million jobs remain unfilled in the U.S. Some 45 percent of employers say a lack of skills is the leading reason for entry-level vacancies, according to a recent McKinsey survey.

Meanwhile, there are nearly 6 million young men and women ages 16 to 24 who are currently unemployed and out of school who have the potential to fill these jobs. This demographic is lately called “opportunity youth” because they are both seeking opportunity as well as offering an opportunity to society if we invest in them.

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Viewpoint: Expanding opportunity for Coloradans by redefining 21st century jobs

By Zoë Baird and Governor John Hickenlooper

Denver Business Journal
October 15, 2015

Colorado will soon introduce “Rework America Connected,” an online jobs platform that combines skills training with a digital labor market.

Colorado is on the road to recovery from an historic recession and no where is that more evident than in its technology, healthcare and skill trades sectors.

In fact, this week’s second Annual Talent Pipeline Report highlights these industries as some of the fastest growing in Colorado, offering the most prospects for those looking for meaningful work. Openings for physician assistants, mechanics and electricians and computer support specialists – many that require a specific skill set but not necessarily a college diploma – are presenting new opportunities to workers across the state.

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Match Americans to Opportunities

By Zoë Baird

October 13, 2015

If it was functioning well, the American labor market would do a reasonably good job of matching Americans to opportunities. Employers would be able to signal what skills they need. Job applicants would be able to signal clearly what they can do. Educators and trainers would respond quickly to gaps.

But the American labor market does not work nearly as well as it should. Credentials are out of date and often not very meaningful to employers. Job applicants have trouble knowing what skills are desired and finding flexible ways to learn them. Educators and trainers are out of sync with a fast-changing economy.

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Labor looks different in the 21st century—so should job training

By Leila Janah

September 7, 2015

My parents came to this country in 1978. Like so many first generation children of Indian immigrants, I learned to believe in a dream that is as much American as it is universal: a dream of equal opportunity for all based on merit, of power concentrated not in the hands of a few at the top, but fanning across a large, educated, and civically engaged middle class.

The reality, though, is that Americans have an increasingly difficult time rising from the bottom of the economic playing field. Part of the reason is because of the severe poverty that exists in the US–people have a harder time rising to the top because they start further behind. What’s worse is that people born into poverty tend to stay there.

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My Questions for the Presidential Primary Debate

By Zoë Baird

LinkedIn Pulse
August 4, 2015

On Thursday, the top 10 highest-polling candidates in the Republican presidential field will take the stage in Cleveland, Ohio for the first primary debate of the 2016 presidential election.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

We are in the midst of the greatest economic transition since the Industrial Revolution. Technology is transforming every industry and disrupting tremendous numbers of jobs. It’s up to America’s leaders to embrace new approaches that help all Americans find a meaningful place in the connected age.

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America’s Promise to a New Generation

By Geoffrey Canada

New York Daily News
July 5, 2015

In the 1960s, when I was a young boy growing up in the South Bronx, the poorest Congressional District in the United States, children around me were being lost to gangs, crime, drugs and lousy schools.

I, though, was sustained by a dream. My mother, a single woman, and my grandparents convinced me that if I went to school, worked hard and graduated from college, I could get out of the neighborhood, get a good job and live a “good life.”

While I didn’t believe there was a single ingredient to success, a college diploma seemed to be a good signal that you were on your way. It should come as no surprise, then, that when I created the Harlem Children’s Zone in 1970, our primary goal was to help our children get to college and earn a degree.

It’s been a long journey. We have seen the number of our students in college go from just a handful to more than 800 today. We told these students the same thing that I learned: Graduate high school and complete college, and you will get a good job. You can live a full life.

Now I worry that I may have spoken too soon.

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A Skills Based Digital Labor Market for Middle-Skill Jobseekers

By Zoë Baird

LinkedIn Pulse
June 30, 2015

America is in the midst of the biggest economic transformation in the past 100 years. Technology and globalization are fundamentally altering nearly every aspect of our working lives. Americans can see the transformation happening around them, but don’t feel equipped to handle it. There is a clear reason why: our economy is changing, but our labor market isn’t keeping pace.

The impacts of this change are felt by employers and jobseekers alike. Employers struggle to find skilled workers to fill available jobs, while jobseekers find themselves lacking the skills required for today’s available work. This mismatch, or skills gap, is a key reason why so many of our nation’s middle-skill workers continue to feel the strain. The challenge before us is how to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed in a rapidly changing 21st century economy.

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America’s Moment: Creating Opportunity in the Connected Age

By Zoë Baird

LinkedIn Pulse
June 20, 2015

America is in the midst of the biggest economic transformation in a hundred years. It has disrupted the expectations—and even dreams—of millions of Americans. The defining challenge of our time is making sure that all Americans will be included in this transformation.

This is personal for me. My mother was a Rosie the Riveter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. She and my father were so proud that their daughter graduated from college even though neither of them had college degrees. They were able to find a place in the American economy and achieve their American Dream. But if they were starting out today, would the same be true? I have two children who are growing up in this world transformed by technology and globalization. It’s my deepest hope that they will live in a time of optimism and shared opportunity.

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We Need to Rework American Higher Education, so Americans Can Get Back to Work

By Zoë Baird, Allen Blue, and Michael Crow

June 1, 2015

As Presidential candidates declare why they seek to be elected in 2016, they are promising jobs, growth, and a better future. With nearly three-quarters of polled Americans fearing the next generation will be worse off than theirs is, these promises cannot afford to be hollow. For millions of people, an uncertain future has become a constant, as lives are increasingly changed by technology and a networked world during the biggest economic transformation in a hundred years. The country is crying out for a plan of action.

The loss of optimism points at the defining challenge of our time: to make sure that all Americans will be included in this transformation.

The dream of working hard to achieve a brighter future has long been the bedrock of American society. But in the last two decades, technology has redefined the landscape of work and the economy.

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A Surprising New Source of American Jobs: China

By Zoë Baird and Emily Parker

The Wall Street Journal (section C3)
May 29, 2015

The 2016 presidential-campaign season will bring all sorts of familiar proposals to create jobs in the U.S., but candidates who really understand today’s global economy should highlight a more surprising possible engine of new employment for Americans: China.

China’s middle class continues to grow, reaching an estimated 630 million people by 2022. Those consumers want better health care, world-class education and a cleaner environment. China itself will eventually be able to provide those services, but meanwhile, the Internet makes it possible for China to create and sustain American jobs.

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