After the Pandemic Vol III: Reimagining the Future of Education and Work

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How Will You Come Back Stronger? It’s hard to imagine a post-crisis future and how your organization will thrive in tomorrow’s unknown reality. How each organization looks at recovery will be different, but one truth is certain: the steps you take now will impact future success. Let us help you create a roadmap for recovery to understand the current environment, navigate the unknown, prioritize decision-making, identify new stakeholders and engage differently with existing ones. Together we will help you take action now to plan your future.

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Global Talent Summit March 2020.indd 1

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A Bookazine Edition by


Published in collaboration with Emsi

Copyright © by Diplomatic Courier/Medauras Global Publishing 2006-2020 All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. First Published 2006. Published in the United States by Medauras Global and Diplomatic Courier. Mailing Address: 1660 L Street, NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC, 20036 | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data ISBN: 978-1-942772-07-1 (Digital) ISBN: 978-1-942772-06-4 (Print) LEGAL NOTICE. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form—except brief excerpts for the purpose of review—without written consent from the publisher and the authors. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication; however, the authors, the editors, Diplomatic Courier, and Medauras Global make no warranties, express or implied, in regards to the information and disclaim all liability for any loss, damages, errors, or omissions. EDITORIAL. The articles both in print and online represent the views of their authors and do not reflect those of the editors and the publishers. While the editors assume responsibility for the selection of the articles, the authors are responsible for the facts and interpretations of their articles. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication, however, Medauras Global and the Diplomatic Courier make no warranties, express or implied in regards to the information, and disclaim all liability for any loss, damages, errors, or omissions. PERMISSIONS. None of the articles can be reproduced without their permission and that of the publishers. For permissions please email the editors at: with your written request. COVER DESIGN. Cover and jacket design by Adobe stock photos.


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iplomatic Courier and World in 2050 have been exploring the Future of Work and Education since the launch of our Global Talent Summit in 2013. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic these questions are now more urgent than ever: What will the Future of Work and Education look like as global labor markets and our learning institutions come to terms with the “new normal?” How will an accelerated shift toward AI and digital technologies impact our existing workforce? How will young people set to enter the work force be impacted? How do we ensure the most vulnerable segments of the population aren’t left behind? As with the rest of our series “Life After the Pandemic,” we see problems which existed before COVID-19 are worsened. Similarly, many of the solutions, which have been identified previously, have the potential to not only mitigate these problems but to build a better future. We have the opportunity not only to rebuild, but to build back better. In this edition, Diplomatic Courier turns to our partners at Emsi to explore how we can build a better Future of Work and Education. The response to this series has been overwhelmingly positive. Diplomatic Courier has been fortunate to be able to expand our group of talented young editors to meet the task. We’ve been even more fortunate to work with the great editorial staffs of our partner organizations like Emsi, and tap into their broad network of experts to bring their analysis of COVID-19’s challenges and opportunities to a wide audience. We are especially thankful to our Guest Editor Kelly R. Bailey for her dedicated work in this edition. Emsi’s experts—and all our contributors—represent a diverse background, from academics to experts on the cutting edge of the digital revolution, to executives at leading private sector companies internationally. The themes they touch on are equally DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 11

diverse, though they all share one commonality—workforce and education issues that existed before the pandemic have been amplified in the time of COVID-19. One recurring theme our contributors touched on is the need for a shift in how companies identify the best workers to fill critical roles. For these experts, a turn to more “skills-based” hiring is essential to accelerate post-COVID-19 recovery and ensure future employees are appropriately valued. In “Skills-based Hiring: Opportunity or Illusion?” Brian Fitzgerald and Jennifer Thornton explore how the post-recession recovery left behind certain categories of jobs and workers. They present ideas for how to more effectively mobilize skills-based hiring to reverse a growing bifurcation of our economies, thus enhancing the likelihood of a durable and more equitable recovery. Sallyann Della Casa highlights the problems inherent in a system which privileges university education—which is often out of reach. In “Flattening the Diversity and Inclusion Curve through Skill-based Hiring,” Della Casa demonstrates how a turn toward skills-based hiring can help highlight both hard- and soft-skills, creating more opportunities for those without university education and expanding the hiring pool for companies. Employers can also do more to support skill-building among employees directly. In “Rising to Meet the Moment: Employerbased Upskilling for the New Economy,” Gayatri Agnew and Ellie Bertani explore the benefits some major employers (and their employees!) have gained by making powerful upskilling programs available to their workforce. Higher education faces daunting challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. University completion rates are set to decline, hampering the next generation of workers and businesses that rely on their incoming expertise. Universities and employers both need to adjust to these challenges to avoid lasting harm to the post-pandemic economic recovery and an entire generation of young people. Matt Gee demonstrates the equity gap, which currently exists in the current paradigm of education and career navigation in his piece, “The Revolution Hasn’t Been Digitized. It Needs to Be.” He argues that a reimagining of how we use powerful algorithmic tools and AI can help bridge this equity gap and bring millions of unemployed workers back into the workforce.


In “Can Badge and Certification Programs Accelerate the PostCOVID-19 Recovery?” David Leaser argues that through wider use of badge and certification programs, employers can identify so-called “New Collar” workers who have critical skills but not formal educations. Bringing these highly skilled individuals more seamlessly into the workforce can be a powerful accelerator for economic recovery. This doesn’t mean universities have lost their relevance. As employers begin to concentrate on skills rather than degrees, Marni Baker discusses how universities can align their systems to meet employer needs and get students on the best possible career path. In “Embracing a Skills-based Future Is Now More Important than Ever,” Baker discusses work being done in the higher education ecosystem to better demonstrate how degree programs align with employers’ skill and competency needs. Other contributors discuss equity deficits with a focus on ethnicity and poverty. Mary Beth Ferrante discusses the structural hurdles to success that parents—and especially mothers—face navigating the workforce. In “Scaling the Maternal Wall After COVID-19,” Ferrante argues that national paid family leave will support gender equity as we emerge from the pandemic while also supporting family health. If we want to do better than rebuilding after the pandemic—if we want to build back better—a daunting amount of work remains to be done. We hope this edition demonstrates that we have the capacity to do so—and a lot of great work is being done to this end— but we must collectively demonstrate the will to carry through.

The Editors Washington, DC July 2020




ave you ever experienced the feeling that you have been here before? Back in 2008 we experienced a major financial crisis that led to a recession. The discussions at the time included, unemployment recovery, jobs changing rapidly, employers not finding the right candidates, educators not keeping up, and the ever-growing skills gap. Twelve years later, as we experience the COVID-19 crisis, the very same topics are on the table. Twelve years ago, I was working for EmployOn, a tech start up turned labor market analytics firm, that happened to supply the labor exchange portal to the State of New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Our client, Yustina Saleh, PhD, the Labor Market Information Director at the time and now Senior Vice President of Analytics at Emsi, had a unique approach to solving the employee/employer pipeline conundrum. “Tons of people had lost their jobs in the tri-state area and they needed to get back to work and get food on their table now, and she saw a better way. Innovations in the workforce system like effective industry partnerships to create more responsive training programs, integrated and actionable labor market information, and data driven career counseling to help job seekers make better decisions.” She took our job posting data and started creating reports for her constituents on what jobs employers were looking to fill. Most people thought it was plain crazy, but my ears perked up. Could the information in these job postings actually be used to help people make better decisions in their lives and help the entire education to employment pipeline be more efficient? My passion, since college, has been to help people make better decisions to live a successful life and provide for their families. I was a traditional student in that I went right from high school DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 15

to university, but non-traditional in that I worked four to five part-time jobs to help pay for my education and living expenses. A little over two years into a three-year biology degree, I realized I did not want to be a dentist. I had to figure out real fast how to make a shift and not incur any additional expenses that I could not afford. And then 9-11 happened three months before I graduated with a Business degree and there were no jobs. I spent countless hours combing through newspaper ads, calling companies, applying online ( was in its infancy) and the result was nothing. Finally, nine months after I graduated, I was offered an inside sales job in NJ for $28,000 per year, less than what I was making working my part-time jobs. The only way to live “the dream� was to move back home with my parents. It was definitely not the life I envisioned as a college graduate. At the same time one of my adult colleagues at my part-time job was telling me about a job opportunity her husband had. He did not have a college degree and he was being offered a job at Nucor Steel making $80,000! He would complete a six-week certificate, on the job, and start working right away. It was confusing to me, because all I ever heard growing up was that going to college and working your way up the corporate ladder was the only way to success. How was it possible that there were alternative routes? There were so many people that could not afford to go to college the way I did, had family commitments that did not give them the time. And even if they could, how would they know they could make enough to pay off the debt they would incur? In 2009, our firm was acquired and shortly after Yustina joined us. She had outlined her dream on a white board, and it was a world of hiring and learning based on skills. I had for the first time seen the possibilities through the lens of data and it was exciting. It was a slow start, but our circle of believers started to grow. Educators started using job data to make decisions on new programs, to build stronger industry partnerships, and to help students understand the return on investment for their education. Companies started using job data to see what their competitors were advertising in their job posts and to search for potential candidates. Regions and states were using the job data to understand the needs of their localities and make better decisions to serve their people. In a recent interview, Elon Musk said that his vision for the electric car was a 20-year vision. The world and the technology were not ready for that vision when his first electric car came on the market. Today, there are charging stations everywhere and 16 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

electric vehicles are commonplace and affordable. The world of skills-based hiring is the same. Yustina and I both found our way to Emsi and we continue to push forward on the data infrastructure to facilitate skills-based hiring and learning with an amazing team. Innovations such as an Open Skills Library and Skill Shapes are unlocking a whole new set of possibilities for people, employers, and educators to finally speak the same language. Over a decade ago, the first tools to analyze skills within job postings became available and there were a few of us that took the first step. In the grand scheme of things, those small, first steps led to amazing innovation in the way we make decisions. But we have not yet addressed the major structural issues that are keeping us decades behind. How do we support personalized, lifelong learning, and winding career paths? How do we support the rapid recovery efforts around unemployment and at the same time ensure those most vulnerable are not in the same place a decade from now? How do we create talent pipelines when we do not know what we will need in three years? How do we track people’s data as they move through their winding life paths without infringing on their rights, privacy, and safety? What wrap-around resources are required for people to be able to work, such as childcare? How do we support diversity and inclusion in our labor market? COVID-19 has merely shone a bright light on problems that have been lying under the surface for many years. Lucky for us, there are many organizations that have been working hard to tackle them. In this Bookazine edition we will share the amazing innovations in work and education that have been well underway but that COVID-19 has accelerated. We urge you to look at this moment in history not as a crisis, but a catalyst for change. And instead of back to normal, let’s go forward to better. ***** About the author: Kelly is currently the Director of Open Skills at Emsi, the Founder & Host of the ‘Let’s Talk About Skills, Baby’ Podcast, and the Director of Operations at The Scone Pony. In her role at Emsi, she focuses on facilitating the change to a skillsbased hiring and learning economy through open skills data standards, innovative products and services, and Global initiatives and partnerships. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 17



t’s now been several months since COVID-19 caused schools and universities around the world to rapidly shift to remote learning. During this shift, technology has played a critical role in enabling students to stay connected, engaged, and motivated. Several key factors determine the effectiveness of online learning for students, such as access to a quiet study area, a connected device for school work, and teachers with the technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital experiences into instruction. And while some students have thrived in a more self-directed remote environment, others have faced difficulties without the structure and benefit of direct teacher-student engagement in an in-person classroom. Education leaders ask, “What’s next 18 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

for our students, faculty, and staff?” The answers may be as varied as individual institutions’ responses to the pandemic. While there are many challenges that need to be addressed, we have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the past few months, reimagine how learning happens, and create a system that empowers all learners regardless of ability, background, or economic group. Health and safety, equity, well-being, and quality learning are critical when looking at the next school year and beyond. Microsoft Education worked with international education experts Michael Fullan, Joanne Quinn, Max Drummy, and Mag Gardner from New Pedagogies for Deep Learning to produce “Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning.” The paper outlines best practices for managing the challenges of remote education and provides a framework for deepening the learning of all students, including the opportunity to reimagine the education system. The strategy is outlined in three phases, each of which prompts educators with a series of questions to identify where they are in the journey and help them chart a workable path forward.

Phase 1 is Disruption, which we all experienced when the pandemic first struck. Within the Disruption phase, there are three zones that individual schools and systems faced while they navigated the initial challenges: The Unsettled Zone, the Learning Zone, and the Growth Zone. These zones don’t present a linear path forward but identify where individual institutions are while helping them determine appropriate next steps. An institution is in the Unsettled Zone when it is determining how to adapt its curriculum and delivery systems for continued learning. An institution enters the Learning Zone when it gains insights on the situation and determines how to move forward. It enters the Growth Zone when it DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 19

begins developing methods of moving to the second phase, which is the Transition phase for reopening schools. During the Disruption and Transition phases, technology is crucial to connect both society and students. It can support the twin pillars of humanity: well-being and learning. In this model, technology shifts from being simply a vehicle for delivery to one that facilitates collaboration, discovery, understanding, and action. If teachers and students in a particular school are already prepared to use some form of remote learning, they may move out of the Unsettled Zone quickly. If not, they may take longer or move out of it then back into it when further unforeseen circumstances arise. In the Transition phase, organizations begin the process of planning for reopening. It’s a time when extreme flexibility is necessary; institutions are continually adapting to the changing needs of students, faculty, and staff, ensuring quality learning under unusual circumstances, and paying close attention to creating safe and healthy spaces and operations. This is also a time to reflect on lessons learned from the Disruption phase. The identification of issues and opportunities around improving well-being, equity, and learning for all emerge from this reflection. Institutions craft a vision for the future during the third phase: Reimagining. Educators reflect on difficult questions that will help set priorities for a specific school, system, or institution while engaging students, parents, families, educators, and community partners. Some of the key questions are: 1. What knowledge, skills, and attributes do our students need to thrive in this complex world? 2. What kind of learning is needed for this current and future complexity? 3. How do we ensure equity? 4. How do we attend to well-being? 5. What have we learned from remote learning? 6. How can technology be best leveraged for learning in the future? The move to remote learning has demonstrated that with the right tools and technology, students can (and do) learn anywhere and anytime. Learning can grow into a student-centric, personalized, and collaborative model that puts the focus on students and motivates them to seek topics of interest. The concept of reimagining education is not new. Well before the pandemic, many educators expressed interest and desire to con20 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

sciously evolve the existing system into one that better integrates well-being, future-ready skills, and equity. Driving systemic change across districts, regions, and entire countries is challenging. However, COVID-19 and subsequent remote learning impacted more than 90% of students worldwide. Now seems like an appropriate time to work together for systemic growth. Every child has the right to a great education. Across the globe, there is growing recognition that education systems have the opportunity to build on the successes of traditional, remote, and online learning models to create a new mix, a hybrid approach that enables every student to achieve their goals and become a contributing member of the global community. To help ensure the well-being and academic success of all students, reimagining curricula, teaching and assessment practices, and the role of teachers and students in the learning environment and more, is critical. ***** About the author: Barbara Holzapfel is passionate about empowering all of the planet’s 1.5 billion+ students to gain future-ready skills so they can reach their goals and become productive global citizens. She is the General Manager of Microsoft Education and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology.




ver a year ago, I argued that the core purpose of education (developing human capital to benefit society at large) was being hampered by managerial traps. Unlike other global industries, markets, and service sectors, the global higher education sector continues to side step opportunities presented by changing dynamics and contexts. In this time of pandemic, it is more important than ever that university leaders and their management teams react to the changing dynamics around them and recognize the new realities imposed on us by COVID-19. Put quite simply, “We are not in Kansas anymore.” The depth and pace of change now facing the global higher education sector is real—educational models will have to change dramatically if universities are to survive as we know them. In this “not Kansas” world, one constant priority everywhere should be the closing of skill gaps to prepare graduates for the dramatically changing world of work. The dominant model of university learning is anchored around knowledge with skills development, a “bolt on good” rather than the main anchor of the learning process. The university model needs to drastically rebalance the elements of knowledge, skills, and practice. Surely, this is not an unimaginable prompt when we are confronted by the following realities: AI/automation/robotics is an accelerated reality. More than a fifth of the global labor force—800 million workers—might lose their jobs to automation by 2030. Pre-COVID data bearing out this trend is already three years old. The pandemic is only accelerating the potential for robots and AI to reshape the job market by mid-century. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 23

Skills mismatch is the greatest pandemic for our generation. Fifty four percent of global employers report difficulties filling jobs due to lack of available talent. The unemployment rate for graduates in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries currently stands at 5.65% while the unemployment rate for graduates in EU countries currently stands at 14.5%. The talent mismatch costs the global economy an estimated total of $150 billion while more recent research concludes that “in OECD countries, the skills mismatch affects two out of five employees…[and] the skills mismatch affects 1.3 billion people worldwide and imposes a 6% annual tax on the global economy in the form of lost labor productivity.” The post-COVID world. Recovery from a post-COVID world requires a fast track reengineering of our educational systems. This reengineering is a direct response to the demands of organizations, many of which are re/upskilling their workforces as the fallout of COVID-19 reshapes society, economies, and corporations. In the UK alone, unemployment rose by 856,500 in the first month of the coronavirus lockdown and 7.5 million workers were furloughed as of May 2020. A McKinsey Global Survey found that in February 2020, 87% of executives were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. This figure and the intensity of this sentiment could only have snowballed since this survey. Recovery responses from higher skilled providers, including universities, must be agile and tailored. The current century-old model of university learning, which is stuck within the iron triangle of education (access, quality, relevance), has a once in a generation opportunity to play a lead role in the socio-economic recovery of our communities through a reinvigorated skills agenda. A marketized higher education agenda must hold itself accountable to the employability of its graduates, especially in a post-COVID world. As a product of several world-leading universities, both as a student and senior leader, I will always defend the “greater” role educators play in transforming lives; but equally, we have relegated the skills agenda for far too long. I can only hope that by 2050, the year of my proposed retirement, we do not see #WeAreStillinKansas trending from the Association of Global University Vice Chancellors! The Song Remains the Same. I hope we will eradicate the Kansas illusion along with the virus, both in 2020! ***** 24 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

About the author: Professor Minocha is an experienced higher education professional with over 15 years of senior leadership experience across both public and private sectors in a global context. An alumnae of the University of Delhi and the London School of Economics, Professor Minocha is currently spearheading a new Ed Tech start up in the hyper-personalized career centric learning space.




year ago, I sat at a table in one of America’s 2400 job centers watching a job coach help a recently unemployed client navigate their pathway back to work. The coach asked about prior experience and skill sets, whether the client wanted to find a similar job or make a major career change, and what additional supports they would need at this critical time of transition. The coach gave them personalized guidance, connections, and lots of helpful resources. They left the building with more hope in their eyes than when they entered. A week ago, I sat on a Zoom call watching a similar scene, only this time with a digital makeover courtesy of COVID-19. Many 26 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

of the same questions were asked and answered, and the job seeker received tailored advice and links to the programs and resources they needed. There was one big difference: in this career navigation session, it wasn’t a job coach giving the advice, it was a chatbot. The future of education, work, and career navigation is algorithmic. Algorithms, data, and AI are changing the face of how we learn and work. We can all expect our personal and professional journeys to be guided by AI algorithms giving us recommendations on which online course to take, which jobs to apply for, and which candidates to interview and hire. This transition was well underway before the global pandemic hit. COVID-19 just moved up the launch date.

The Good, the Bad, and the Biased As a data scientist, this algorithmic future is at once thrilling and terrifying to me. It’s thrilling because the responsible use of algorithms, data, and AI can help a lot of folks in need. AI algorithms could provide personalized career recommendations and instruction to millions of unemployed workers simultaneously without breaking a sweat. With unemployment in the U.S. higher than at any point since the Great Depression, it would be irresponsible not to invest in AI aimed at helping reskill and rehire millions or workers. The need for beneficial and assistive AI in education, career navigation, and hiring will only grow over time as automation continues to disrupt the labor market. We need the same AI tools that put us out of work to help us get back to work with new skills. But the algorithmic future of education and work also terrifies me—and not because I’m worried about a pending robot uprising or automation taking all our jobs tomorrow. The potential negative impacts of AI on society are much closer, much less apocalyptic, and much more pernicious. AI does one thing extraordinarily well: learn how to repeat patterns from the past. We can feed mountains of data about hiring decisions to an algorithm, with every human foible and systemic bias perfectly catalogued, and the algorithm will be able to recreate those same biases in hiring with remarkable precision, speed, and scale. This is the algorithmic future of work that tech platforms and startups are racing toward, while failing DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 27

to acknowledge one incredibly inconvenient truth: as a society we have yet to do the slow, difficult work necessary to ensure the algorithms we deploy tomorrow won’t amplify the systemic inequities and biases of today.

How to Build an Anti-racist Algorithm We have to do better than the past. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others have finally forced a long-overdue national reckoning with systemic racism and inequity. Communities are collectively reexamining the roles of statues, textbooks, team names, and entire institutions in carrying the inequities of the past forward into the present. But systemic racism, bias, and inequity are embedded in our data as well. For the future of work to look different than the past, this means examining our databases of job descriptions, hiring decisions, credentials earned, and skills acquired to root out present bias before we build our algorithms. If we don’t, these inequities will be subtly enshrined in the algorithms carrying us into the future. The good news is, we don’t have to throw out the algorithmic baby with the digital bathwater. We have a playbook for doing better. Whether you are researching, funding, building, or buying AI algorithms for education, career navigation, or work, here are six essential steps you can take to contribute to responsible AI for the future of work: • Build a diverse coalition of committed stakeholders who will advise and direct collaborative AI design. • Center on equity as a goal that you will all work toward and measure against. • Design for the learner or worker first and guarantee genuine digital ownership and empowerment. • Develop inclusive governance over the data and the algorithms that can use it. • Ensure transparency and explainability of your algorithms and their impacts. • Hold yourself and others accountable for missteps and failures and fix them.


Digital Justice in the Future of Work The potential benefits from AI in education and work are too massive to stop, and the potential harms too consequential to ignore. The work ahead is to bend the arc of innovation toward social equity and individual empowerment. Data should move at the speed of trust. Algorithms should be deployed at the pace of justice. This isn’t too much to ask. It’s the right thing to do. There are coalitions and alliances committed to equitable digital transformation doing this work right now. You can join. They include the T3 Innovation Network, the Open Skills Stack Alliance, the Partnership on AI, the Trust Over IP Network, and many others. Yes, the future of education and work has an equity problem, but if more of us come to the table and lift up our own and others’ voices on this issue, I’m hopeful we can turn the tide. ***** About the author: Matt Gee is the Co-Founder and CEO of BrightHive, a public benefit corporation that supports networks with responsible data collaboration, data sharing, and data use. He is also a Data and Society Fellow at University of Chicago’s Knowledge Lab.




new OneClass study which polled more than 10,000 current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors from 200-plus colleges and universities across the country, found, because of COVID-19, 56% of college students say they’re no longer able to afford tuition. While college completion rates were on the rise just a year ago, the numbers are bound to decline. The impact of COVID-19 has forced higher education to develop new programs for financial aid, remote learning, but few have developed strategies, outside work-study programs, to get their students into the labor market as quickly as possible. 30 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Faster and cheaper pathways to good jobs are needed now more than ever. Career seekers are looking for a silver lining to the pandemic and, fortunately, that has accelerated the development of new pathways into the future workforce.

The important concept of “New Collar” In the United States, about 88% graduate from high school, but only 33% complete college. And even after college, many organizations discover their new hires are not prepared for the workforce. There’s a real surge in the number of modern middle-class jobs in tech that do not require a traditional bachelor’s degree. They’re not blue collar. They’re not white collar. IBM calls them New Collar. These are roles that prioritize capabilities over a traditional degree. They’re in leading technology industry fields like cloud computing and cyber security, digital design, and cognitive business. What matters most for these roles is finding people who have the right mix of skills to deliver these capabilities for clients. The founders of Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle never graduated from college, so most hiring managers would have screened them from the applicant pool. But we have the opportunity to change that. The college degree was designed to provide exclusivity in the labor market. As we work to create a more diverse, inclusive workforce, we must rethink the impact and value of these high stakes credentials, particularly in entry level roles.

The Emergence of Certificate Programs and Badges According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 546,000 new jobs. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security. In a post-COVID world, how can job seekers who do not possess a college credential—or who now are not planning to obtain one— DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 31

signal their achievements and employability for these in-demand roles? That’s where badges and digital certificates come in. Certificate programs and badges have emerged as signals of achievement in an unpredictable, rapidly changing world. Technologies have accelerated the pace of change in these new roles to the point where skills become outdated in months, not years. The world needs a better way to build these fast-changing “liquid” skills and issue verified credentials which employers will trust. At IBM, we value the skills of New Collar individuals and created a certificate program designed to develop a pre-evaluated, pretrained, “ready to work” talent pool. We’ve attracted top-tier talent through the New Collar Certificate Program, and other companies can similarly leverage badge and digital certification programs. In the time of COVID-19, it could even be a requirement. IBM’s design for its New Collar Certificate Program provides a model other organizations can emulate. The elements are straightforward and provide an end-to-end solution: 1. Assess the candidate. Start with a science-based, non-biased assessment to uncover innate cognitive skills, abilities and personality traits to help match candidates to careers where they will excel. Too many people start careers and later (too much later) realize they are dead ends or a bad fit. It’s a big expense, and it takes time out of people’s lives. 2. Provide first mile training. Provide candidates with essential training, which will help onboard as quickly as possible. Online training options provide the best way to offer flexible, scalable, and globally consistent programs that will prepare a candidate for hire as quickly as possible. When designing the training, use a robust job-task analysis approach to make sure you are providing the specific role-based learning that somebody needs to get in the door to their new career. This is all about building essential skills and not about fulfilling a set number of hours in a classroom. 3. Host experiential learning. Create experiential learning opportunities—everything from pre-apprenticeships to apprenticeships to internships—to allow a candidate to experience the unexpected side of work that cannot be taught in a classroom. At every step along the way, offer digital badges for achievements. Badges encourage progression by providing valuable 32 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

incentives for achieving milestones. At the end of the entire program, provide a higher value certificate, which can also be represented by a digital badge.

Diversity and Inclusion: The Unintended, Magnificent Side Benefit In a post-COVID world, organizations and career-seekers should establish an “all of the above” mindset, which includes community colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions, but adds skills through certificate programs, coding camps, or modern career education programs like the P-TECH model or tech apprenticeship programs. When you focus on skills and abilities, not golden pedigrees, you can shift mindsets to make the labor market more diverse and inclusive. You can look beyond traditional talent pools and provide opportunities for people who may have been disenfranchised because of their non-traditional backgrounds, geography, or lack of diplomas. And that may be the shiniest silver lining to emerge from our present circumstances. ***** About the author: David Leaser is the senior executive of strategic growth initiatives for IBM’s Training & Skills program. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based embedded learning solution and is the founder of the IBM Digital Badge program. He is a Fellow at Northeastern University and a member of the IMS Global Consortium Board advisory group for digital credentials. David has provided guidance to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education as an employer subject matter expert. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Pepperdine University and a Master’s Degree from USC’s Annenberg School.




he term “Skills” seems to be on everyone’s lips lately, especially with the soaring unemployment rates brought out by COVID-19. Currently over 40 million Americans are unemployed, the highest numbers since The Great Depression. According to the World Economic Forum, the skills required for jobs over the next two years will change by 42%, with over one billion jobs requiring different skills than the ones that exist now, over the next decade. Now consider this statistic, a degree which is a stated requirement for about 60% of all jobs rule out 70% of American adults who do not possess one. Only 9% of Black Americans in a critical age range between 23-29 and 9% of Hispanic Americans overall have degrees. 34 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Skill-based hiring, with no degree required, can be a great equalizer that allows everyone a seat at the table. Opportunities for Skilling, Credentialing, and Signaling for workforce readiness is becoming the most important area of education and the future of work in business today—do we fully understand which skills are the focus and in demand? Organizations typically group skills into two categories: hard-skills, which are technical, and knowledge-based and soft-skills, which tend to be viewed as more intangible—such as communication and leadership. A job’s architecture has a unique combination of hard and soft skills. Because hard skills are generally quantifiable and easily assessed with degrees and certifications, they are easier to measure, hence leading employers to evaluate candidates in majority or exclusively on those abilities. This is a big problem.

Power skills matter. Soft-skills, aka human-skills, aka people-skills, aka power-skills, have been relegated to second place for too long, while in fact they are the most important and difficult set of skills to acquire. They are the personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace and are, in the end, the skills that give you true power in your job role. Power skills (e.g. problem-solving, judgment and decision making, and selfdirection) can be accurately measured, developed, and signaled to an employer to show readiness specific to a job and industry sector.

Human Soft Skills Matter. We have known this for decades. In 1918, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center concluded that 85% of job success comes from having welldeveloped soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (i.e. hard skills). Yes, we’ve known about the importance of soft skills to job success for over a hundred years. In 2008, Google Project Oxygen identified the eight qualities of their best managers. A good manager: 1. Is a good coach; 2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage; 3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being; 4. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information; and, 5. Has key technical skills to help advise the team. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 35

Only one of the top eight skills identified was a hard skill. Surprised? Power skills are developed like habits. We come to them at different levels with some of us having a natural advantage. Think Kobe Bryant. Habits take between one to eight months to develop and generally require these three qualities: 1) a high frequency of practice 2) an increased level of difficulty and 3) the experience of being coached when making mistakes. Habits, like the ability to slam dunk, are not formed mindlessly. Measuring power skills is not hard. At GLEAC we use a patent-pending quantitative, qualitative, and 360 views loop inspired by Ray Dalio’s dot collector.

Step into the shoes of an employer. How can they check your power skills? What if you had a “batting” scorecard in power skills, to include how you learn, apply, and change them in workplace situations? This is how we are redefining the future “resume” at GLEAC.

It’s relevant more than ever now. Ivanka Trump recently announced that Federal hiring will pivot to skills over traditional diplomas. I invite the Trump administration to take a look at Zoho, a software as a service (SaaS) company out of South India. With no pedigreed software professionals, they compete with Salesforce, Oracle, and Google Cloud. At present, Zoho is experimenting with 10 villages in Tamil Nadu, where 200 of its engineers—20 in each village—will collaborate and build software for the world. COVID-19 has created numerous emerging roles for tools such as Contact Tracer where a unique set of soft skills matter. How does one confidently say “I possess the right quantities of emotional distance, learning agility and following rules for the emerging role of Contact Tracer in Florida?” The CDC states that: “Requisite knowledge and skills for case investigators and contact tracers include, but are not limited to:

• An understanding of patient confidentiality, including the ability to conduct interviews without violating confidentiality (e.g., to those who might overhear their conversations).


• Understanding of the medical terms and principles of exposure, infection, infectious period, potentially infectious interactions, symptoms of disease, presymptomatic and asymptomatic infection.

• Excellent and sensitive interpersonal, cultural sensitivity, and interviewing skills such that they can build and maintain trust with patients and contacts.

• Basic skills of crisis counseling, and the ability to confidently refer patients and contacts for further care if needed.

• Resourcefulness in locating patients and contacts who may be difficult to reach or reluctant to engage in conversation.

• Understanding of when to refer individuals or situations to medical, social, or supervisory resources. • Cultural competency appropriate to the local community.

The vast majority of the above skills are human focused. COVID-19 has been hard. Yet our reaction to the pandemic can help facilitate the following measures: bridging how and in what we educate and job match; spotlighting skills which will flatten the equity and inclusion curve in the workplace; and, centering our unique “humanness,” which also happens to make us robotproof in the workplace. ***** About the author: Sallyann Della Casa is an “outside artist” having five degrees in everything but education. She is one of 4% of sole women inventors with her pending patent to measure soft skills. She leads GLEAC and her foundation, Growing Leaders, which upskills offline the most vulnerable in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific.




ong before there was COVID-19 the world faced the challenge of a global skills gap. Employers were challenged with meeting production needs with jobs left unfilled, as workers struggled to meet the necessary skill requirements. Worse, we faced the Future of Work (FoW) and the tech revolution, that threatened to make the gap larger. Then came the pandemic.

How Will Things Change After COVID-19? This question is on everyone’s mind and, while I do not pretend to have all the answers, I think we can surmise at least this much 38 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

about life after COVID-19—we are not going back to “normal.” I have come to believe that is okay because, for many, “normal” was not working anyway. “Normal” had our work/life balance in shambles. We were already facing tremendous change and uncertainty. A globally competitive environment meant working at a fever pitch. Shifting market needs required folks to pivot on a dime. Reports of surging workplace stress had become common. COVID-19 has complicated things, to say the least, but the business landscape was already complicated. Meeting the global skills gap just got more challenging as we face the need to re-skill millions of Americans in the wake of the pandemic. This new, larger skills gap is a bright light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Things will get faster. Technology adoption and the FoW will happen sooner than we had planned. The pace of change will never be this slow again. We will not go back to normal, because normal was not good enough to meet the challenges of the future … and thanks to COVID-19, the future is now. According to Forbes, “Coronavirus … might be the great catalyst for business transformation. In fact, where we once saw the future of work unfolding over years, we now believe that with coronavirus as an accelerant, everything we’ve predicted about the future of work will unfold in months.”

How Do We Cope with All the Post-COVID Disruption? In a post-pandemic future, we will need to be more open-minded. We will need to become nimbler, faster to adopt new technology, and able to lead our organizations in doing so. We will need to be able to take a risk, willing to fail, learn, and try again in finding a new, better “normal” for ourselves and for those we serve. We need to be willing to disrupt ourselves lest we be disrupted by our competitors. The starting point to close the gap will lie in creating more adaptive humans—beginning with ourselves. Authoritative sources like Indeed and LinkedIn cite “adaptability” among the most in-demand skills today. They are right. We can (and should) learn to better adapt. Research suggests each of us has a sort of “resilience set point” for how we tend to cope with change and bounce back from DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 39

disruption. It is rooted in personality traits like our openness to new experience, our confidence in our own abilities and our motivation to achieve. While our set point is rooted in our genetics, it is also shaped by our experiences—meaning resilient behaviors can be shaped and expanded—they can be learned. An individual’s natural set point is also influenced by the environment they work in (think our organizational culture). Agile organizations create an environment where workers can better cope. What I call “The Six Critical Traits of Agile Organizations” includes the presence of visionary leadership, collaborative decision-making, social support and an attitude that sees failure as a learning experience (rather than a performance issue). So, solving the skills gap in a post-COVID-19 world will start with solving the skills gap in each of us, and that begins with re-skilling our abilities to work at the speed of change. Leaders need to cultivate a culture that rewards innovation, offers psychological safety for risk-takers and engages each individual in achieving an aspirational vision that they can believe in. Individuals can start with an honest appraisal of their own coping skills and setting a learning plan to build on areas of weakness. Managers should objectively assess how their culture may be supporting (or hindering) future success. This pandemic has been devastating, but there is opportunity here too. Building a version of normal that is a better one for ourselves, our families and those we serve will start with building a more adaptive version of ourselves and our organizations. We can shape a better future, a better version of normal by building a better version of us. We should start now. ***** About the author: Rick Maher, President/CEO, Adaptive Human Capital, LLC. applies the science of Industrial-Organizational Psychology to the challenge of developing more adaptive human systems—at the individual, organizational and societal levels. He is a veteran of the human resources industry, and a recognized leader in the fields of managing organizational change and the strategic management of human capital. (BA, Seton Hall University; MS, Industrial-Organizational Psychology; Walden University).





nn B. is an hourly supervisor at a Walmart store in Connecticut; she is also a single mother trying to advance her career by pursuing college through Walmart’s LiveBetterU (LBU) educational benefits program. Through the program, Ann can pursue any of over 100 high-quality, in-demand degrees or credentials debt-free while also receiving the ongoing support of a personal coach to ensure she stays on track and successfully balances work, family, and school obligations. “Walmart has been good to me through the last 17 years. To know that my employer cares so much about their associates with these personal growth programs is fantastic. I cannot appreciate the company enough for their generosity.” 42 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, workers like Ann, with little to no college education, face dramatically increased pressures. In April 2020, U.S. unemployment rates peaked at 14.7%, with over 23 million Americans out of a job. According to the Lumina Foundation, “The need for universal post-high school education is rooted in the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. The vast majority of jobs being created require education beyond high school, and that trend shows no sign of abating.” Recovery from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and the 2020 recession requires employers to rethink the role we can play in upskilling and reskilling employees.

What Is LiveBetterU? In 2018, Walmart launched the LBU program to improve performance for the company while building opportunity for its employees. With LBU, Walmart took a pioneering step toward providing all associates—part-time, full-time, salaried, or hourly—access to debt-free education, including free high school and language programs, college degrees, career diplomas, and certificate programs for just $1 per day. Completion, rather than enrollment, is the most critical success metric, making LBU unique when compared to traditional education benefits programs. Every element of LBU has been designed to help maximize student completion rates, including personalized, weekly student success coaching provided by partner Guild Education; careful selection of educational providers that demonstrate bestin-class results for adult working-learners; and articulation of Walmart internal training for college credit, accelerating students through their degrees. All the programs are carefully selected to prepare Walmart’s employees for the future of work, whether at Walmart or elsewhere, in areas such as IT, business management, supply chain, and health care. Employers like Walmart are committing substantial capital to these types of investments due to several trends in the economy: • Economic growth in areas such as data science, IT, health care, and ecommerce are driving talent shortages and therefore high cost to hire. • The cost of turnover, both for frontline and management employees, is significant; offerings that encourage employees to stay for the long- term drive important cost savings. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 43

• Complex businesses often find that developing and career pathing internal associates drive improved business outcomes, as experienced associates tend to perform better than their peers. By designing learning and development programs to deliver on long-term talent strategies, companies can ensure return on investment, sustainability, and long-term impact. And, as we have recently seen, COVID-19 has only accelerated our nation’s need to reskill the workforce to meet the rapidly shifting employment landscape.

How LBU Has Adjusted to Meet the Needs of a COVID-19 World In June 2020, three months after the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States with full force, Walmart announced the expansion of LBU to provide even more opportunities and growth for its associates. The program added the following trade credentials: HVAC/R, Plumbing, Electrician, General Construction, Industrial Maintenance, and Facilities Maintenance. Walmart offers both online coursework and placement paths to ensure employees receive the hands-on training needed for career success. Upon completion of these programs, employees will either be placed in a role within Walmart Realty or Supply Chain or within its large contractor network. These programs will build “future-proof” skills; projections indicate faster-than-average employment growth in these industries, with millions of positions open due to retirements. Walmart also implemented a suite of 18 short-form digital credentials, including design thinking, product management, data science, agile team leadership, and UX/UI. The demand for these “future of work” skills continues to grow, even in the face of coronavirus; millions of jobs nationwide remain unfilled as employers struggle to find, recruit, and retain employees with these capabilities. LBU recently announced a partnership with SkillUp, a nonprofit dedicated to reskilling and placing workers who lost jobs due to coronavirus. Furthermore, it has begun a review to better understand program outcomes based on racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. While 47% of LBU students are associates of color and over half are women, Walmart wants to ensure that all associates achieve successful and equitable outcomes. 44 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Outlook for Employers, Educators, and Policy Makers The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for rapid evolution of U.S. education and workforce development systems. The following five areas will require significant focus and investment in the next 1-3 years: 1. Transition HR systems and processes to focus on skills first. Traditional hiring, promotion, and learning and development programs have relied on resumes, the ability to self-market, and the relative subjectivity of assessors. Often these processes are systemically biased and inaccurate, and drive inequitable outcomes at the expense of both people and organizations. One promising solution is for employers to move to a skillsfirst system in which skills become the “common currency” of the talent marketplace. With skills, education, and assessment transparency, employees will better understand how they can advance in their careers. Employers too will benefit from datadriven and accurate talent management systems. 2. Create stronger connections between education, training, and work. Some of the most painful stories of the student debt crisis are those of low-income and working-class young adults who take on debt without completing a degree or credential, leading to unclear job prospects. Education providers should actively partner with employers to build pathways with clear career outcomes. 3. Focus on short-term credentials. With unemployment at record highs, yet employers struggling to fill roles in high-demand areas, we as a country must invest in short-term programs that build skills as quickly and efficiently as possible. In many cases, key skills can be learned in fewer than nine months of training. 4. Increase and simplify access to education. The U.S. educational system is notoriously opaque and difficult to navigate. From locating a high school transcript, to selecting a school, to applying and gaining acceptance, to enrolling in class— every step presents barriers and challenges that can dissuade even the most motivated of students. Programs like LBU have shown the power of providing navigators and coaches to support employees through these complex processes; this investment should be applied elsewhere. 5. Make reskilling affordable. The United States is suffering from a crisis of student debt and unaffordable education. More DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 45

than 44 million Americans owe over $1.64 trillion in student loan debt. Education is a field ripe for disruption and more innovation is urgently needed. One clear shift amid the pandemic is a rapid move to online programs, which are cheaper, more scalable, and often high-quality. Companies such as Walmart, Starbucks, Disney, Chipotle, and Discover see the potential of educational benefits programs, which deliver both for employees and businesses. As of July 2020, Walmart has over 16,000 active students within LBU and has already served over 25,000 students in the program’s first 2.5 years. It has saved its associates over $52 million in student debt to date. This is just the beginning, however. Employed and unemployed workers across the nation are depending on employers, educators, and public servants to come forward with innovative solutions. We cannot let them down. ***** About the authors: Gayatri Agnew is the Senior Director for Opportunity at She is a leader in corporate and social impact strategy looking at human capital trends and the future of work and focuses on building stronger pathways to economic mobility for the American worker. Ellie Bertani is Senior Director of Associate Experience within Walmart U.S. She is responsible for leading strategy and operations for Walmart’s corporate upskilling and reskilling programs. With a background in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors, she brings a shared value approach to drive sustainable impact. In June 2020, Ellie and Gayatri were jointly awarded the 2020 Sam Walton Entrepreneurship Award for their work in designing and implementing the LiveBetterU program for Walmart.





he COVID-19 pandemic upended the 128-month post-Great Recession recovery—the longest U.S. economic expansion on record—with job losses and an economic contraction on a scale not seen since The Great Depression. That recovery, however, did not treat all jobs and workers equally nor did it address longer-term trends, including underinvestment in workers’ skills, growing wage inequality, or availability of middle-wage jobs. If we are to avoid further bifurcating the U.S. economy, the post-pandemic recovery must increase investment in workers’ skills, address wage inequality, and rethink occupational and economic mobility, including a more effective approach to skills-based hiring. However, recent employer surveys, interviews, and focus groups conducted by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) found that disconnects among employers, workers, and postsecondary education 48 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

may inhibit this transition. This essay presents these findings and suggests that workforce data, tools, and strategies can enhance the likelihood of a durable and more equitable recovery.

Lessons from the Great Recovery During the recovery following the Great Recession, the emergence of the digital economy increased the demand for digital skills and rewarded college credentials. Nearly all newly created jobs required some postsecondary education, with two-thirds requiring a bachelor’s degree. These requirements created an overreliance on bachelor’s degrees, even for middle-skill jobs, further disadvantaging African American and LatinX workers. In order to create a durable and equitable post-pandemic recovery, we must increase investment in workers’ skills and move to a hiring model that recognizes these skills. An overreliance on college credentials limits job opportunities and hinders rapid reemployment during the recovery.

Skills-based Hiring as a Tool for Diversity and Inclusion As businesses recover from COVID-19 and respond to the economic impact of systemic racism raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, skills-based hiring can broaden the talent pool. This method of hiring leads to a more diverse workforce by not automatically eliminating populations without a college degree, who are disproportionately African American and Latinx. Doing so will increase opportunities for individuals who possess the skills to successfully perform jobs but do not possess a particular credential. Skills-based hiring can also enable businesses to better respond to growth challenges in the post-COVID economy. And the value of a diverse workplace should not be understated: research has revealed that heterogenous teams are simply smarter and more innovative. This is exactly what we need now.

Impediments to Skills-based Hiring Widespread adoption of skills-based hiring has proven painfully slow, highlighting the complexity and challenges of this evolution. Not surprisingly, human resources systems are not configured for this level of skills-based evaluation and changing human resources policies, processes, and systems is neither simple nor without risk. Interviews DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 49

and focus groups that BHEF conducted with CEOs and human resources executives on this topic provide more context. Conceptually, many leaders agree that skills-based hiring is beneficial to the company and the right thing to do. For example, PwC has challenged its 250,000 employees to engage in digital upskilling and began hiring for digital skills. For the majority of companies that have not yet shifted their practices, they have shared four leading challenges: 1.

Shifting to a skills-based talent model requires a topto-bottom retooling of organizational-leadership models and culture, as well as talent acquisition and development models. This presents complex change management issues and requires continuous improvement.


In a rapidly evolving economy, even before COVID-19, businesses have difficulty anticipating skill needs. Many business leaders admit they lack the tools and insights to effectively anticipate trending skills in their company and their sector.


Businesses do not know what skills their employees possess. Many companies do not routinely assess their employees’ skills and voluntary reporting from employees has proven ineffective.

4. Businesses are unsure how to implement skills-based hiring and fear that poor implementation will exacerbate hiring challenges.

Opportunities for Moving Forward None of these issues are insurmountable. As organizations seek qualified candidates, they should use data to inform and strengthen decision-making about the hiring process. A recent survey of 500 U.S. human resources decision-makers reports that organizations are already using data in their hiring practices and future workforce planning, such as state workforce projections, real-time labor market information (LMI) data (e.g. Burning Glass and EMSI), and government resources (e.g. O*NET). This use of data should be enhanced and integrated into workforce planning processes. The number of nonprofits focused on providing skills-based solutions for jobseekers, particularly those without college de50 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

grees, is also growing. Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation, is developing skills-based training and employment practices in collaboration with state governments, local employers, educators, and workforce development organizations to help Americans get good jobs based on the skills they have or the skills they can learn. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Job Data Exchange (JDX) is designed to help employers move towards competency-based hiring in a scalable and sustainable way. JDX is modernizing how the internet reads job data by updating the standards employers use in job descriptions. As real-time LMI data relies on job descriptions, improving those will carry tremendous insights about in-demand skills in real time. The recently launched SkillUp Coalition brings together a network of education and training providers, employers, technology companies, nonprofits, and philanthropies to provide career navigation, training programs, and job opportunities to workers impacted by COVID-19. They seek to unlock new, marketable skills for impacted workers and provide them with connections to in-demand jobs and opportunities for longerterm growth. And SkillUp Coalition partner, Opportunity @ Work, is launching an online Opportunity Marketplace in 2020 to connect employers with entry-level technology training providers. Its platform utilizes a matching algorithm and other employers’ feedback to identify trusted providers, hire candidates, and signal hiring needs. BHEF has been working with industry, data, nonprofit, and higher education partners to develop an Upskilling Solutions Marketplace, which will provide information on regional skill demand and job trends, tools to capture employee skills and identify opportunities for upskilling, and micro-credentials developed by higher education institutions. The Marketplace will address employers’ key barriers to upskilling, enable an increase in rapid upskilling connections between individuals, employers, and educational institutions, and provide additional solutions for the post-COVID-19 employment landscape. There is movement on the policy front as well. On June 26, 2020, President Donald Trump issued the Executive Order on Modernizing and Reforming the Assessment and Hiring of Federal Job Candidates. The federal government’s civilian workforce exceeds 2.1 million and the goal of the order is to ensure that the individuals most capable of performing the roles and responsibilities required of a specific position are those hired for that position. Currently, for most federal jobs, traditional education—high DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 51

school, college, or graduate-level—is either an absolute requirement or the only path to consideration. The order recognizes that an overreliance on college degrees excludes capable candidates, particularly in jobs related to emerging technologies, and disproportionately burdens low-income Americans. In response, the order directs reforms around government job postings, candidate assessment, and hiring, and it encourages the same practices in the private sector.

What’s Next? The increasing number of major organizations promoting the importance of skills and credentials in the future of hiring gives cautious optimism for change. More than three quarters of employers reported that they will reevaluate their hiring requirements to find candidates and fill vacant positions. And as skills become a focal point in the hiring process, hiring decision-makers expect skills assessments to become more important when evaluating candidates. So, businesses realize the value of skills, but they unwittingly limit their candidate pool by making their initial cut by degree. Not only will that impact the speed with which they recover from COVID-19, it will hamper their ability to secure diverse talent. It will also decrease workforce participation and exacerbate inequality in job opportunities, as we saw after the Great Recession. It is time to look at skills first. ***** About the authors: Brian K Fitzgerald, EdD is CEO and Jennifer Thornton is Vice President of Programs at Business-Higher Education Forum.





he rapid change towards a skills-based economy and new collar jobs has been underway for years as both employers and employees adapt to new economic patterns reflected in the changing nature of work itself. Work has changed such that we no longer have one career but many; we bring value to our jobs based upon the skills we have, not the job title we hold; and we collaborate across teams and around the world, not just with our colleagues in the next office. In the current situation, where millions of workers have been displaced from the travel, hospitality and restaurant industries, which may not recover for years, there is a critical need to understand the skills people have and how those skills can help them find employment in adjacent and growing industries such as gro54 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

cery stores and ecommerce. It has exposed the fault lines in how poorly we understand, validate, and work with the skills people have, making it much more difficult to help millions of people move from one career to another. It has also shown that the current talent market for job seekers and employers is incapable of handling the challenges of rapidly reskilling and reemploying these millions of displaced workers. The movement towards a skills-based economy has driven explosive growth in the use of credentials as exemplars of people’s skills. In the United States alone, there are at least 738,428 unique credentials across 17 separate subcategories. These credentials are offered by a myriad of organizations (education institutions, industry organizations, employers, credentialing organizations, and governments). To optimize the use of these credentials and increase their value for decision-making, we need to address the fragmented nature of managing and exchanging credentials. Integrating this disjointed global market, such that it provides high value to its users, will require an enabling governance strategy and technical infrastructure that provides a secure, trusted, and well-managed utility function for all skills-based credentials. As we reimagine the talent marketplace, we must use advanced cross-industry technology solutions to enable skills-based talent management processes at scale. These solutions and processes will require sophisticated technologies like blockchain and augmented intelligence that provide high trust and validated information about people’s concrete skills. An infrastructure of this type can be used to provide high-fidelity support to learners, businesses, and academia in managing the rapid growth and proliferation of skills-oriented credentials. In addition, it will allow for consequential decisions around hiring and career advancement to be made in a more seamless, scalable, and integrated fashion. As an example, Walmart, CVS and other firms are planning on hiring more than 800,000 workers during the coronavirus outbreak. Addressing the challenges of sifting through and recruiting from the millions of displaced workers interested in those open jobs would tax any organization. A global credential utility that provided an efficient and integrated infrastructure to manage the talent acquisition process and provided displaced workers with insight to where their skills best matched the open jobs would greatly improve the way in which these job seekers and potential employers connect. Critically, we must first solve the related governance and engineering challenges if we would like to provide a global credential utility at the intersection of industry and academia. GovernDIPLOMATIC COURIER | 55

ance is essential because it manages both the adoption and use of common schemas and links data standards that assure the required interoperability for a seamless user experience. This means orchestrating the sharing of data between all systems of record, providing core data about an individual’s skills as well as managing the permissions for organizations and individuals to provide and use that data. The credential utility will need to provide the necessary tools to manage the continuing exponential growth and exchange of skills-based credentials. In order to do that, the utility will provide a trust anchor for skills-based credentials as well as information within the credential payload that describes the content, provenance, and relationship of the individual’s skills to careers. The utility will also enable interoperability of skills-based credentials between enterprises and individuals, support personalized career wallets, and enable the user with self-sovereign and autonomous control of their skills-based credentials. Assisting the millions of workers currently displaced will require the utility to operate efficiently and at global scale. The engineering challenges for the utility are addressed by using blockchain. Blockchain can provide a distributed, secure platform that manages the required credential transactions and related privacy and security services for credential issuers, holders, and requestors. Blockchain also provides a trusted and permissioned means of issuing, updating, revoking, requesting, and managing credentials for key users of the utility. These key users are: issuers—credential granting organizations (colleges and universities, technical schools, certification organizations, and employers performing formal training); requestors—organizations requesting credentials (typically employers and educational institutions seeking to validate learner credentials); and holders or learners (students, employers, and others who have credentials they wish to maintain and permit others to view). The utility can have a global reach, encompassing every issuer, holder, and requester of credentials. An example of this utility approach is the IBM cyber pilot done in partnership with the Learning and Employment Records initiative under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The cyber pilot will demonstrate an efficient, integrated solution/infrastructure that empowers learners to pursue and manage their cyber security career. The pilot will demonstrate how issuers can use credentials to align skills-based learning outcomes to both cybersecurity skills and jobs. It will showcase how employers and educators can use analytics and credentials to find and assess qualified cybersecurity candidates, determine skill gaps and curriculum for learners, academic institutions, and employees, and 56 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

facilitate career paths into the cybersecurity field. It will also demonstrate how learners can leverage an integrated credentials wallet to facilitate a near frictionless transition into the cybersecurity workforce. The pilot will also focus on supporting underserved populations. Finally, the goal of the pilot is to accelerate the broad scale adoption of Learning and Employment records such that an infrastructure can quickly be created to support the displaced workers impacted by the pandemic. Addressing the challenges we face near term in helping workers displaced by the pandemic find jobs, and longer term getting in front of the changing nature of work requires that we pull together skills-based information and data about individuals. Work of this type between business and education must always be respectful of an individual’s right to control their own data and enable the data providers—K12, colleges and universities, employers, and governments—with the proper infrastructure, tools, and governance solutions to create a secure and sustainable infrastructure for years to come. With the use of advanced technologies we can ensure the required governance and engineering needed to address the changing nature of work while making it easier for people to chart their careers and find jobs. Creating a global infrastructure to support a skills-based economy can provide important tools to the millions of workers who have been forced to find new jobs and new careers. ***** About the author: Alex Kaplan leads IBM’s global work on the application of advanced technologies as an enabler of lifelong learning pathways and talent transformation. This work encompasses leading IBM’s learning and industry credentials blockchain initiative, as well as work with the U.S. Department of Commerce on Learning and Education Records. Previously, Alex worked closely with the IBM teams that created Personalized Learning on Cloud, Watson Classroom, and Watson Tutor. Alex has closely collaborated with leading organizations in industry and education, including the White House, U.S. Department of Education, Apple, Pearson, and Sesame Workshop. Alex has spoken at both the Harvard and Columbia Graduate Schools of Education, the IMS Global Learning Consortium, the Getty Foundation, IBM Research, Blockchain Revolution conference, the National Institute of Standards, and many others.




ore than 50 million Americans have filed unemployment claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic—meaning all the jobs created since the Great Recession have been lost. Despite some unexpectedly good news in the latest federal jobs report, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the U.S. economy and American lives. And with new COVID-19 infections back on the rise in many U.S. states, things are unlikely to return to “normal” any time soon. We don’t yet know what the long-term effects of the virus will be, but many will likely pursue upskilling and reskilling opportunities to increase their value in a dramatically altered job market. Recent findings from the Strada Education Network suggest 58 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

that one in four Americans plan to enroll in education or training in the next six months. We also know that generally, a four-year degree is a good investment leading to increased lifetime earnings and a better quality of life. However, we don’t yet understand how well those skills will meet current value and demand parameters of this new employment marketplace. This gap between what employers are looking for and what credentialled jobseekers have to offer existed before the pandemic, and the gap is widening. The degree as proxy for employment readiness has been increasingly called into question across disciplines, as skills have emerged as the currency of the digital economy. Big names including Microsoft, Netflix, Google, and Tesla have already announced a shift toward skills-based hiring. Exemplifying this trend, Google recently announced three new certificates that they will treat as equivalent to a four-year degree for relevant roles. Universities need to catch up.

Aligning Degree Programs to Workforce Needs For too long, employers and jobseekers have struggled to find each other. Considering how much today’s learners and their families spend to get a four-year degree—student loan debt is at a staggering $1.6 trillion and counting—colleges and universities need to do a better job clearly signaling competencies their graduates have gained as an indicator of work readiness. For more than 20 years, Western Governors University (WGU) has worked with employers to align degree programs to workforce needs. Over the last 18 months, we’ve doubled down on that commitment by mapping the skills and competencies employers want into our course and program offerings. These maps are comprehensive collections of rich skills descriptions tagged to employment sectors, specific job requirements and labor market demand data. These comprehensive maps across industries form an “operating system” maximizing value for students by providing career-relevant programs and data-driven career assistance, as well as translating credentials and experience into the high-demand skills they represent. This new approach enables the development of a learner-owned record of achievement for every WGU student that goes beyond the traditional academic transcript to include academic credit, certifications, work accomplishments, and a description of accumulated skills. As employers shift to placing more value on DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 59

specific skills, the achievement record will document what a student can do, not just the courses they’ve completed. Today’s jobseekers rely on a combination of résumés, job applications, and credentials to describe their skills and qualifications. This approach fails to capture the full range of skills that workers gain in the classroom and on the job. The learner-owned achievement record will act as a single profile that represents the entirety of an individual’s abilities and experiences, available on-demand. The value of this new skills-centric approach is two-fold. Learners will gain real-time insights to the marketability of every skill and competency they gain; and these insights can be provided to learners and their mentors, helping them to consider career paths or options that may have otherwise gone unexplored. For a university founded to increase pathways to opportunity, this clear connection to workforce skills and employment pathways is an obvious next step. By reimagining how we can empower our students to clearly signal the skills and competencies they’ve gained, we’ll provide our students with a powerful new set of tools they’ve never had before.

The Importance of Learner-owned Records of Achievement to Higher Education Reimagining the value of a learner-owned record of achievement more broadly throughout higher education will allow learner/ earners, across a lifetime and across educational and work experiences, to clearly demonstrate and stack earned targeted skillsets toward a more explicitly competitive profile in the knowledge economy. Further, it will allow admissions and hiring teams to more reliably award “credit” for capabilities developed outside the traditional formal academy, including apprenticeships, internships, training and professional certifications commonly offered by industry and military employers. Compared with the sometimes harder-to-visualize goals associated with more traditional academic transcripts, a comprehensive achievement record surfaces tangible educational and labor market compassing tools and rewards that are attractive to students and can encourage them to persist in their education. We believe this approach will be especially important in meeting the needs of higher education’s fast growing population of working learners, as well as students who come to us from underserved and underrepresented communities where windows to high-de60 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

mand jobs and careers may be lacking, as are actionable insights and networking intelligence around the most effective pathways for getting to these opportunities. We don’t know what the lasting effects of COVID-19 will be, but we know that we can make changes today to better empower today’s learner-earners now and across a lifetime of achievement and social and economic mobility. That starts with providing learner-earners with insights into the jobs of the future and what skills and competencies they need to qualify for those jobs. No institution can take this on alone. This learner-centric future, able to readily connect talent with available opportunities, will require America’s higher education institutions, labor market insight providers, and employers to develop an open, collaborative information ecosystem, and to work together in unprecedented ways to support the nation’s workers and the future of our regional economies. COVID-19 may not be the impetus behind this critical imperative, but the pandemic is providing urgency to this call to action. ***** About the author: Dr. Marni Baker Stein is Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Western Governors University where she leads WGU’s academic programs, faculty, and supporting design, evaluation and student experience teams. In this role, she is accountable for driving the university’s focus on academic quality and student success. Stein has more than 25 years of experience in designing and scaling programs to improve access, affordability, and student success. Prior to joining WGU, she worked for educational institutions in the U.S. and abroad on the development and administration of pioneering high school, undergraduate, graduate and continuing and professional programming models delivered through competency-based, online, and hybrid formats. These institutions include: The University of Texas System, Columbia University in the City of New York, The University of Pennsylvania, The University of California Santa Barbara, The Pennsylvania State University, SUNY Buffalo (Latvia), and the United States Information Agency (Turkey, Japan). Stein has a PhD in Teaching, Learning and Curriculum from the University of Pennsylvania.




midst the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 crisis, all eyes in the education world are trained on K-12 school districts and flagship colleges. How are Fairfax County, Virginia, or Arizona State, preparing for the possibility—if not the inevitability—that most learning will need to take place online? These are, to be sure, important stories to tell, and they can act as a bellwether for other education institutions around the country. But to focus on this story is to ignore a bigger, and arguably more important one. 62 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

A majority of the jobs in the U.S. require some education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree. Often referred to as “middle-skill” jobs, these positions range from nurses and medical technologists to plumbers and electricians. They are among the 71 million workers without college degrees who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. The majority of them are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color and they are, in many ways, keeping our country running—keeping the lights on, the streets clean, and the shelves stocked. However, they are also among the most at-risk workers in the country, subject to a pervasive “first out, last in” problem that leaves them in a tenuous position during the pandemic. If the United States is to recover equitably from this historic crisis, these workers must be at the center of policymaking and investing. Ensuring the economic security, not to mention prosperity, of the American workforce will depend on training, supporting, and preparing displaced workers to navigate a dynamic labor market. But right now, the U.S. workforce system is not set up to achieve that goal. Workforce funding is highly fragmented, with billions of dollars flowing through 47 different federal programs, each of which is distributed at the state and local level. Much of the investment in training focuses on traditional programs, which are not only out of step with today’s demands, but also not nimble enough to keep up with the pace of change in the workforce. What would the ideal system look like? And can imagining that system help us work backwards to design an approach that meets the urgent needs of the moment? Let’s look through the eyes of someone like Leanna, who started out as a cashier at Walmart. Last year, Leanna wanted to pursue a long-standing passion for healthcare. Thanks to Walmart’s Live Better U program, which provides skills-focused training for a dollar a day, she enrolled in a training program to become certified as a medical administration assistant. The curriculum was laid out in “playlist” format, with short, engaging videos and other content, accessible via mobile device. Over two months, Leanna was able to learn all the skills she needed and earned a certification approved by the leading accreditor of healthcare training all while continuing to work. With the support of career coaching provided by her employer, Leanna found a job at Cleveland Clinic. Next, she’s planning to stack a new set of courses on top of her existing certification to complete a bachelor’s degree in Health Science. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 63

Stories like this are happening across the country, the result of renewed employer investment in training and the emergence of educational programs that are designed to be responsive to a new generation of learners. But they are happening in spite of, not because of, the traditional approach taken by most policymakers and employers. They remain the exception rather than the norm. As we chart a path to economic recovery, it will not be enough for the country to revert to the calcified approaches and practices that have typified our approach to education and training thus far. This means designing programs that are accessible, so learners do not have to sacrifice an income in order to learn a new skill. It means prioritizing affordability by encouraging investment, both public and private, in programs that are aligned to the needs of the workforce. It means rethinking the way we recognize skills, so that instead of the binary degree-or-no-degree approach, we recognize the full spectrum of experiences and competencies that define how an individual performs at work. Stories like Leanna’s prove that it is not an impossible task. And a challenge as unprecedented as the recovery from COVID-19 will demand a response of equal magnitude. We have even seen the U.S. federal government take baby steps toward change, like the recent executive order to prioritize skills over degrees in federal hiring. The question now is: will we seize the opportunity to build a better system? Or will we fall prey to our old habits? ***** About the author: Frank Britt is the Chief Executive Officer of the Penn Foster Education Group, a leading talent development provider focused on creating economic mobility by upskilling adult learners. Penn Foster serves learners both directly and through partnerships with employers who leverage its platform to recruit, retain and re-skill their workforces.




Willows and Oaks


hould access to our personal data and a quality education be a human right? Not an American right, not a right for those who happen to live in the right zip code, but a global human right? Across a growing network of mission-aligned organizations in the future of education space, there is a belief that this can be the case and they have their sights set on building the infrastructure needed to make it a reality. This future vision is being referred to as, the Internet of Education. 66 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

The average person checks their phone well over 50 times per day. In the U.S. alone, with some 275 million smart phone users, that could easily amount to 15+ billion data points being shipped instantly to just a few companies, and by extension advertisers, every day. This is asymmetric warfare at scale; the stakes of which we’ve yet to fully comprehend. Even if each data point—each like, swipe, or retweet—were only worth a penny, that’s still some $150 million worth of data we willingly part with every day. And amid the current pandemic, most of us are only further feeding this machine as we spend countless hours in our fancy new Zoom-fueled virtual realities. It’s fair to say that there are flaws in our existing infrastructure. As we think about the future of work, owning our own data will be critical as we look to develop new skills for jobs yet to be imagined. We’ve seen the importance of owning this data in striking detail amid the current pandemic, with nearly 15% of the U.S. population unemployed, and we’ll see it after the pandemic as AI and automation continues to bend and obscure the employment landscape.

Towards the Internet of Education By promoting agency, open standards, and merit-based opportunity for all learners regardless of race, gender, or zip code, we can bridge the digital divide and seed new networks of human potential. Alongside a novel virus, we see an opportunity for novel education and employment infrastructures; ones which, if realized, will allow us to avoid shouldering the burden of having seen a better future yet failed to build it. Amidst chaos of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to bridge our shared efforts into an open, global Internet of Education. Shared learnings from anonymized learner data will fuel innovation and industry. Skills and achievement data, secured with cryptographic techniques to ensure privacy, will allow us to measurably solve skills gaps and enter a new era where we can finally quantify the impact of human capital on our way to global human flourishing.

Empowerment of Ownership Let’s imagine Jenna, a part-time student who was working as a retail clerk prior to COVID-19, one course shy of finishing her DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 67

associate’s degree with a dream of becoming a nurse. She’s accrued a range of valuable skills, but owns nothing with currency in today’s labor market. She’s in debt, jobless, and has no practical ownership of her own data; assertions of skills she rightfully earned and owns. Sadly, this isn’t hypothetical. This is the story for thousands struggling to make sense of the present and fearful of an increasingly uncertain future. Much like the physical, existing identity credentials we all own, what might a secure, digital skills wallet do to reinforce identity and create a sense of empowerment for the displaced and unemployed? Imagine a post-pandemic world where Jenna owned and controlled her data and achievements. A world where knowledge, skills, and data were treated like assets that had currency in an open and equitable marketplace. This is the learning or knowledge economy that early internet pioneers imagined, and a vision still possible and worth building. A wide range of complementary communities and projects being pioneered by groups like MIT’s Digital Credentials Consortium, the T3 Innovation Network, and many others are currently working towards this type of infrastructure. With advances in distributed systems, global standards, open digital wallet architectures, and a shared focus on human and data dignity, we can all play a role in planting tomorrow’s willows amongst the forest of old dying oaks. That said, there’s work to be done that will take both community coherence and collective action. Together, we’re working to: • Connect the most vulnerable learners to the internet and ensure they have access to a personal, internet enabled device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.). • Empower learners to store their own skills data and credentials in a safe, secure wallet with total access control. • Provide all learners with equal access to quality education and opportunity. Existential threats will continue to come and go, but seeding the global Internet of Education, and bridging the skills and equity gaps widened by this crisis can endure for the benefit of all learners after the pandemic. Every crisis is part opportunity and part threat, and for education and employment, this moment 68 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

represents a silver lining; one showing us where we have failed and offering us the opportunity to create a more durable future for generations to come. ***** About the authors: Taylor Kendal is an educator, writer, designer, and Chief Program Officer at Learning Economy Foundation. His work with the Library of Congress, U.S. Department of Education, and a range of schools/universities in Colorado has led to a complex love affair at the intersection of public education and (de)centralized, future-focused networks. Chris Purifoy is the Co-Founder and Chief Architect of the Learning Economy Foundation. A serial entrepreneur, he is also an author, technology architect, and futurist. He speaks in global forums about blockchain, the slippery slope of progress and the importance of art with purpose.




espite record low unemployment in the United States prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 44 million Americans were without a college degree, not earning a living wage, and locked out of advancement within the labor market. After speaking in-depth with nearly 100 of these 44 million Americans, it has become clear to me that the pandemic has only exacerbated this disconnect and further revealed the flaws within the current education-to-employment system. The tension is real: on one hand, I heard first-person accounts of crippling self-doubt; the hard reality of the student financial aid crisis; the ongoing stress and challenges of juggling fam70 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

ily, work, school, and finances; and the frustrating disappointments of health challenges and costs. On the other hand, what I witnessed were strong motivations to learn new things, grow personally and professionally, be good role models to children, make good on promises to parents, and contribute something of significance to communities. Despite these positive attributes and goals, most of these individuals continued to find themselves stuck in place, feeling isolated and frustrated in dead-end, often multiple, part-time jobs. The numbers of newly unemployed people across the country lay bare what working adults without degrees have experienced for years—a labor market and education system devoid of the infrastructure and key functions to facilitate efficiency, meritocracy, and equitable mobility. Meritocracy is something we tout as a country, but we aren’t set up to make good on this promise. Currently, a degree is the proxy for achievement when it comes to jobs, but data shows that higher education is inaccessible for many. Reading the recent New York Times opinion article, “How Much Money Americans Actually Make,” one repeated word struck me: transparency. In the highlighted interviews, working people disclosed their salaries and stated whether or not they felt they were paid fairly. They consistently expressed a wish to know their worth, how they compared to others, and if their wages were fair. There was no animosity, jealousy, or malice in these interviews; instead, there was a desire for information, trust, fairness—and transparency. Fewer than half of Americans ages 25-64 have earned a credential beyond their high school diplomas. Only 31.6% of Black Americans and 24.5% of Hispanic Americans have completed degrees, compared to 47.9% of white Americans. Even more disturbing are the large wage disparities between Americans of color and white Americans with similar educational attainment. Furthermore, Georgetown University’s The Merit Myth notes “that 60 to 70 percent of the growth in earnings gaps since the 1980s is tied to differences in access to and completion of college programs with labor-market value.” The education gap between white Americans and Black and Latinx Americans means that white Americans are most likely to benefit from the college earnings premium. Those people of color who do everything right, study hard, are high-achievers in their local high schools, and earn top standardized testing scores—currently the main signal of college readiness—aren’t set up for success. Instead they are automatically removed from talent pool consideration while employers spend large sums competing to recruit and train from a diminished talent pool. This is bad for busiDIPLOMATIC COURIER | 71

ness, and the current infrastructure allows no way for the strong and diverse talent pool of individuals skilled through alternative routes to demonstrate their strengths. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we have an opportunity to build a new learning ecosystem designed to create seamless navigation between education and work—one that offers fairness, transparency, and the opportunity to make meritocracy a reality for everybody. A new learning ecosystem will power business and working people’s progress by clarifying labor demand and supply. It will also enable us to discover how learning-to-employment practices can be optimized to help people seize opportunities. With clearly articulated pathways linked directly to scaffolded job demands, aligned to the skills required, we can help individuals chart a path to specific goals and develop and demonstrate their knowledge and skills throughout a long working life, across a variety of jobs. The new ecosystem will also allow employers to better vet and recruit a diverse talent pool, understand their existing employees’ strengths and gaps, and tailor learning programs to help workers stay ahead of the curve for future job demands within, and beyond, their own ecosystem of workers. By designing learning and work pathways based upon skills, we can move beyond outmoded job descriptions to unmask the specific human+ skills required for success. We can better understand how unique skills can be acquired and applied across different jobs and how they operate differently across geographies. The mystery of job availability, mobility, readiness, and fit is maintained by old systems networks that have excluded too many from educational and job success for too long. Of course, it will require stakeholders to build new data interconnectedness to signal employers’ skills needs and employees’ readiness. It will require new learning models geared for lifelong learning. We must work toward creating the interoperable systems, data, and technology that will allow products, services, and organizations to speak with each other through a translated and shared language of skills. To do this, it is imperative to build coalitions that support new ways of working together; share insights, products, and services; discover ways to compliment strengths; and design for continual innovation and improvement. This unprecedented time in our history has exposed the urgent need for change—for new systems that generate greater equity and economic outcomes for the health of our workers and our businesses. 72 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

COVID-19 has helped unmask the glaring lack of meritocracy and the urgent need for transparency to ensure a better way forward. The time is now to build a new ecosystem that provides a clear and seamless way for working people to navigate and make progress in learning and work—to truly engage in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must work together toward this transparent new learning ecosystem to ensure that working learners are empowered to obtain and assess clear and trusted information, map pathways to success, and demonstrate their strengths—with an open playbook to mobility and meritocracy, leaving no one to wonder their worth. ***** About the author: Holly Ann Custard, PhD has worked across the nonprofit, public, and corporate sectors of K-20 education for more than 25 years, including at PBS, Pearson, UT Austin, and Strada Education Network. She earned a BA in international relations, an MA in bicultural/bilingual studies, and an MA and PhD in radio-TV-film.




he COVID-19 pandemic highlights the extreme challenge of working parenthood in America. Prior to the pandemic, two-thirds of all working parents already felt like they were failing at parenting and half of millennial mothers changed their job status after the birth of a child, either by changing jobs or fully or partially leaving the workforce . Meanwhile only about 20% of U.S. employees have access to paid family leave. The lack of universal childcare and rising costs contribute to the inability of mothers to gain significant traction in narrowing the leadership and wage gaps across gender lines, with. All of this has historically contributed to the Maternal Wall—the biases that undermine the career advancement of working mothers. The Maternal Wall is rising and it is now so high that everyone should be able to see it. 74 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Childcare disruptions and widespread school closures caused by the pandemic have exposed the patchwork of solutions working parents regularly navigate for what it is really is—a broken system. The ongoing challenges of the virus have already left their mark as mothers leave or are let go at higher rates than men. In fact, mothers have reduced their paid work hours 4 -5 times more than fathers. Mothers, even those still working full-time, are doing a “double-double shift,” averaging 71 hours of care and housework per week, while fathers are doing about 20 hours less. So, where do we go from here? How do we move forward to support working parents and ensure that all parents, but especially working mothers, are not left behind as a result of the pandemic? The future of work and parenting needs to consider a few key factors. 1. Men are caretakers too. 2. National paid family. 3. Flexible work.

Men are caretakers too. Before the pandemic, most Americans thought that parenting and having a career were in direct conflict with each other. The pandemic has brought this issue into clearer focus. Yet, whether they are aware of it or not, most people tend to think that women should be the primary caretaker even though 78% of millennials are part of a dual career couple. However, when you look at pretty much any recent research, millennial dads want to be involved in caretaking responsibilities. But it’s not enough that dads want to be there. Employers must grant them the ability and time to do so. Throughout this pandemic, both moms and dads share that they feel men are expected to have someone else handling the childcare and thus should be solely focused on work. They don’t feel they can step away or set boundaries to care for their children, even if their partner is also working full time. And the data supports this sentiment, the gender gap in work hours is increasing 20-50 percent. Yet employers have an opportunity to make changes that support more gender equity, from simply continuing to communicate that leadership recognize and supports that all parents need more flexibility to updated policies do be more equitable, such as paid parental leave. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 75

National Paid Family Leave Boosts Wellness, Gender Equity National paid family leave is an absolute must. Only 20% of Americans normally have access to paid family and medical leave and while congress did create some paid family and medical leave for some U.S. employees it expires at the end of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, we were already in a situation where Americans are unable to care for themselves, their children or family members without the risk of going into debt or job loss. As the only industrialized country without a national paid family leave policy, we can no longer ignore the impact it has on families. A national paid family leave policy prioritizes the health and wellness of families and can have a significant impact on gender equity. However, that impact can only be realized if paid family leave is equal, adequate, and accessible. Equal. ALL parents need to have access to paid family leave, not just birthing parents or the perceived “primary� caregiver. Time needs to also be provided to non-birthing, adoptive, and foster parents. Adequate. Leave length must be enough to support the health and wellness of those we are caring for, namely children. Research from the New America Foundation supports six months of leave. Accessible. This may be the trickiest aspect for Americans and why the move from employer benefits to a national policy is so critical. Right now, parental leave is used as a recruitment tool with the best policies only accessible for top, corporate employees. However, the people who need these policies most are left behind. Creating a national policy gives families what they need most—support and time to care for their loved one with the added benefit of dismantling underlying gender biases. If partners take leave, this not only normalizes the practice, but neutralizes the office environment that stigmatizes working mothers.

Emphasize Workplace Flexibility One silver lining that has come out of the pandemic is that we have demonstrated that is possible for work to be done remotely and flexibly. Even in jobs that require physical presence, new technologies make it easier for employees to control and flex their schedules. While there is a lot to be said for large struc76 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

tural changes like universal childcare, when it comes to parenting and work, flexibility is a start. Providing employees with the flexibility of how and when their work gets done is key to engaging and retaining working parents. The COVID-19 crisis has put a spotlight on working parenthood, that cannot be unseen. There can be no going back to what we now recognize, more than ever, is a broken system. As we look towards the future, we must focus on updating policies and support for parents. We must build and re-imagine workplace cultures that recognize the impact, socially and economically, for supporting working parents to creating a new future that includes working parents. ***** About the author: Mary Beth Ferrante is a mom of two and advocate for creating inclusive workplaces for parents. She is the Founder & CEO of WRK/360, a training & development platform designed for working parents and managers to help companies support, retain and recruit working parents. As a former SVP in the finance industry, she always valued growing her career and like so many other career-driven mamas, she was surprised to hit the Maternal Wall. Her own experience propelled her to dive deeper into maternal bias, to influence changes to workplace culture and to advocate for a national paid leave policy. In addition to being a senior contributing writer and thought leader for Forbes, her work has also been featured on Today, Thrive Global, Working Mother, Her Money, FairyGodBoss, The Ladders, Medium, ScaryMommy, and other leading publishers.




n January 27, 2010 Steve Jobs stood on stage at the Yerba Buena center in San Francisco and introduced the world to the iPad. Along with the millions of others watching the ‘Stevenote,’ I was transfixed, not only by this magical device but by what I would be able to do with it in the context of my work. The promise of an internet connected, touch based device with a screen 4x larger than my iPhone, had my mind spinning with possibilities. I felt that the cord had finally been cut, we would no longer be tied to our desktops. A device had emerged that provided 78 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

us with similar capabilities of our computers, but with mobility. This allowed us to move from a command and control technology environment to one that empowered people and their devices. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement was born. While our community embraced this movement, others shunned it. The fear, uncertainty, and doubt that accompanies any new technology permeated every sector struggling to grapple with the “consumerization of IT.” Looking back through the veil of the COVID-19 pandemic, those that choose to embrace the digital realm are now reaping the benefits of that investment as being socially distant has put a new premium on digtal experiences.

BYOD2.0 While the first version of BYOD created opportunities for technology leaders to embrace a person’s device, the next version will do the same with someone’s data. In September of 2019 the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board explained its push for an to create a record and a standard method of transport that would empower the American worker while providing new methods for businesses, universities, and governmental agencies to interact with someone’s information. Removing data silos that service an entity and liberating the ‘personally valuable’ data by providing each user a way to store, curate, and share their information in a verifiable way. Though this work the Learning and Employment Record (LER) was conceived. Right now, you may be asking yourself what differentiates this from LinkedIn. While there are similarities, there are some very important differences.

Verifiable When employers look at someone’s LinkedIn profile, how do they know that it is trustworthy? How can they verify that the person has the skills and abilities they claim or how and where they were attained? Verifiable entries in someone’s LER are not created by the user, but by the issuing institution. For instance, an employee goes through skills-based trainings to build the required capacities to perform a new role within a company. As these skills are assessed and attained the information is encapsulated into a digital badge and offered to the user. The user DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 79

accepts the badge and associated information that is cryptographically signed by the issuing institution, thus validating that this has attained these skills. The information is stored in the user’s digital wallet. Creating digital trust in the data while allowing it to be portable.

Immutable LER can also insure that the information has not tampered with or embellished by the user. By using blockchain technology when these skills badges are written into the user’s wallet, it becomes impossible to tamper with the data due to the cryptography used to create the record.

Many data standards, one container To make the LER work we need to adopt one container for data standards. Since data standards vary by industry and profession, the ability to accept many is imperative. The difference is the standardization of the transport method in the form of the user’s wallet. This standard provides a method to encrypt, share and verify data without the need for an intermediary.

The promise With these new capabilities, and in light of a disrupted world due to COVID-19, the promise of this approach is to help improve the hiring process in any industry by removing the friction of credential verification. For example, in our proof of concept work with a large health care system, the goal is to decrease the cost of recruiting and onboarding a nurse by 10%. A very conservative goal. But when you factor in the size of the system this equates to over 100 million dollars in savings per year. Not to mention the speed in which current validation of certifications, degrees, and licensures take. By empowering the nurse with their profile, contained in their digital wallet, the process of validating becomes instantaneous, eliminating a majority of the onboarding cost and time. Another benefit of this approach is the ability to align talent and their skills with the needs of the business. Change is hard. It becomes easier when you can help everyone see the future and how they can value and, more importantly, be valued within it. Providing new methods and approaches 80 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

at creating systems that remove bias creates opportunities for everyone to grow and succeed In the analog world, talent is distributed and opportunity is not. However, LER provides for the ability to shape the digital world to be much more equitable. One where a person’s race, creed, color, sex, or orientation does not factor into their future. A person’s grit, determination, and merit does. No longer will our zip code be one of the most predictive data point of an American citizen future. Our knowledge, skills and abilities, digital expressed and shared in a trusted way, will be the new foundation of learning and work. ***** About the author: Phil Komarny is VP of Innovation at Salesforce and the former Chief Digital Officer at the University of Texas Systems’ Institute for Transformational Learning.




magine if the United States placed caregiving at the center of its social fabric. It’s a longstanding vision among those advocating for family-first policies and inclusive workforces, and it’s past time to start building. The impacts are profound when public institutions and businesses truly prioritize the needs of working families. The centralizing of care nearly happened at the turn of the century, as suffragists brought women’s equal voting rights to the global consciousness and heavily influenced urban policy during great economic upheaval. The Atlantic explored early roots of this “gender mainstreaming” movement with the 1914 tale of labor advocate Frances Perkins, who lobbied to 82 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

power-wielding NYC planner Robert Moses about a particular problem women faced that could be solved with forwardthinking design and education. Perkins’ crusade? Installing diaper changing stations throughout public spaces, a significant hindrance that kept mothers and nannies homebound unable to enjoy lengthy time outdoors. Fifteen years later, Moses launched diaper changing rooms in Jones Beach—a stretch of time when New Yorkers survived a global World War, a global pandemic, and colossal collisions of women redefining family life by entering local voting halls and businesses. Profiled in Politico, the next great “Working Mom Wave” crashed during the historic 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The moment served as a hopeful signal of work-life equity and a stark reminder how much this nation still assumes there’s someone at home full-time: “A record 102 women were elected in the midterms, a total that includes several moms with young children. The influx is forcing lawmakers to reassess policies to make Capitol Hill more female- and parent-friendly. Renovations are already underway to install nursing stations around the Capitol. And there’s talk among Democratic women about how to best arrange the congressional schedule so that parents can video chat with their kids over dinner, help them with their school work and make it home three days a week.” As leaders navigate a post-COVID workforce, the same level of creative problem-solving must be applied to redesigning work for caregivers. They should redesign: flex schedules and job-sharing opportunities for parents unable to participate in back-to-back video calls; the cost of in-home elder care for the 30% of households who just missed their July housing payment, including teachers; management and shareholder expectations; work cultures to provide 24-weeks minimum paid family leave without penalty, and leadership to reward families with generational wealth and health. Mothers in particular are already battling for career growth, with motherhood bias accounting for a majority of the gender pay gap across all industries. Since COVID-19, reports nearly 2/3 of women polled have decreased their work hours or dropped out of the workforce directly due to lack of child care. The United States in particular is hemorrhaging highly skilled talent because of the lack of subsidized caregiving benefits and national paid family leave. This, of course, was already problematic to our economy before recent furloughs and mass layoffs. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 83

COVID-19 is causing seismic changes to systems that used to work. Distance learning is becoming the norm for school-aged children and center-based care is becoming less desired by families with children under five. Consider 40% of today’s U.S. families have school-aged children and a majority of households work and care for family full-time. Care benefits that were recently considered progressive are now unfit for the modern world. Parents are puzzling work and homeschooling into a round-the-clock schedule. They’re plugging in nannies and athome care providers (read: babysitters) where the ratio is safer—one provider to one family. Some families are collaborating and creating “pods” of shared COVID-19 safety, and sharing the cost of that nanny, who most times has a teaching role as well. The Helpr benefit, for example, sets up placements with nannies or pods for employees and their families while helping coordinate the complexities for easy transition and less stress. Helpr enables families to leverage and pay their own care providers, such as a neighbor who’s a college student and also distance learning or a grandma. The price on this new model of backup care is as low as 25% of typical care costs, making it affordable to single-parent workers and lower-income earners. It’s also flexible, as it can be used for just a few hours at a time. It’s a win-win-win and a long-term solution. The cost to replace an employee is anywhere from 16%-215% of an employee’s annual salary, according to SHRM. The fabric of our care communities, not AI nor machine learning, will keep us all connected, productive, and profitable. The future of work centers caregivers and parents in the decision-making on what is right for them. Companies and organizations are just as burdened by the care crisis as families themselves. They should therefore play a significant role in smoothing this newworld transition for caregivers and their working colleagues. *****


About the authors: Sarah Johal is a tech marketing professional and inclusion advocate for working families. Her impact founding employee resource groups (ERGs) is covered by Fast Company, Forbes, and Entrepreneur for providing additional paid family to thousands of employees. She’s a Board Advisor for featured LAbased startup Helpr, social movement #MothersMonday, and the Parents in Tech Alliance professional network in Silicon Valley. She lives in the San Francisco-Bay Area with her husband and daughter. Kasey Edwards is Co-founder and CEO of Helpr, a SaaS forward backup care resource and family support solution for companies seeking to support caregivers. Helpr helps companies offer more robust, safe and valuable care offerings by compensating caregivers in the family’s already created village. She’s been a foster parent, nanny, serial entrepreneur, and advocate for women’s wealth equality with Women’s Wealth Gap.




magine if the United States placed caregiving at the center of its social fabric. It’s a longstanding vision among those advocating for family-first policies and inclusive workforces, and it’s past time to start building. The impacts are profound when public institutions and businesses truly prioritize the needs of working families. Navigating a career pathway is complex and constant. It begins around Preschool or Kindergarten with the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From that point, it is shaped by socio-economic conditions, primary and secondary school educational offerings, occupational interest, 86 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

formal or informal training and skill development, access to employment, and countless other variables. A career pathway is not often linear or clearly defined, and it weaves in and around life experiences forceful enough to move a person in unexpected directions. For many, opportunities are happenstance and decisions may be based on the advice of friends, family members, teachers, mentors, therapists, faith advisors, or others. This process may result in some level of success but is by no means consistent, equitable, or fact-based. For the nearly 70% of adults without a bachelor’s degree, many of them people of color, access to key employment opportunities is only half the battle, as their career pathways are hindered by systemic barriers that limit growth and economic mobility. These include discrimination based on gender, race, cultural background, and physical ability, as well as access to finances, childcare, primary language, location, transportation, housing and food, and much more. The impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated existing challenges and led to widespread economic upheaval. Many of the recent job losses will be permanent and those unemployed will be driven to seek out new opportunities, possibly in unfamiliar occupations or industries—all while having to find the money for food, bills, rent, and other urgent needs. We cannot overcome these barriers or circumstances overnight, yet we can better navigate them with access to career coaching services, which provide the support needed to make informed decisions. A career coach is a professional who provides strategic guidance to a client—pinpointing moments along a career pathway and identifying key opportunities, successful points of transition, and supportive services to aid a client in persisting and persevering through employment, education, and life experiences. A career coach provides insight into industry and labor market information and draws on that knowledge as well as an understanding of an individual’s skillsets to determine next steps. The best career coaches quell the overwhelming feelings of discouragement and frustration with the process of navigating careers or training and motivate clients to take requisite action. The pandemic has upended many industries, making these services especially relevant now as those who are un/ underemployed need to understand career options in a rapidly changing labor market, decide if they need to pursue training, determine what training makes sense, and ultimately seek out help in reconnecting to the labor market. Research has shown that coaching interventions help unemployed individuals get back to work faster and at higher wages. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 87

The good news is that there are many places that offer career coaching services, including federally funded workforce centers (e.g. WorkOne Centers, America’s Job Centers, etc.), community-based organizations, and community colleges. Many of these facilities have transitioned to virtual coaching in order to better assist job seekers during the pandemic. The challenge? It is nearly impossible to get long-term, consistent advice throughout the career path journey. Here are a few reasons why: •

Many of these organizations operate in siloed environments, offer different incentive structures, and possess varying access to tools and resources, which has created inconsistent and sub-optimal outcomes for the workers they support.

There is little clarity on the educational and skill requirements for career coaches. The role has evolved over time in part by absorbing some of the same essential functions of case managers, student support service providers, job developers, and career navigators. For some it may be unclear what career coaches do and what specifically they need to best succeed in their capacity.

Career coaching often serves the purpose of immediate connection to employment or training. It is a transactional, shorter-term experience that solves for immediate barriers addressing an immediate need for work. This can lead to job seekers taking the first available opportunity and not fully considering future upskilling and career opportunities to move from “any job” to a “good or promising job.” This emphasis on immediate employment can lead to job seekers re-entering the unemployment system due to a variety of factors such as skills mismatch, lack of interest, or a changing job landscape.

At Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation focused on helping the nearly 70% of Americans without college degrees get good jobs based on the skills they have or the skills they can learn, we have been working with career coaches to help them better serve their clients. Now more than ever before, we see the valuable role coaches play in the labor market. Career coaches provide a critical human element in a job searching process that can be dehumanizing and difficult to navigate for 88 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

many individuals. We want to shift the coaching experience so that a short-term transactional process becomes a connected and human-centered one, encouraging a life-long appreciation of the value career coaching relationships bring. Instead of coaches working alone in siloed environments, we aim to create coaching communities with networking, shared access to training, labor market data and insights, and mapping of supportive services. Baseline core competencies are established for the role of a career coach. To fully support career coaches and enable this shift, we need to develop a cross-organization and sustainable model for life-long career coaching services and long-term relationship building with clients, and advocate for policies that expand access to career coaching.

Activities that could support this include: Improved training and support for coaches. Skillful is developing a virtual and accessible training program that establishes core competencies for coaches to become more skills-based, human-centered, and equity-driven. Organizations that employ or programs that support coaches provide one-to-one or group career coaching support to allow for growth in their profession and enhancement of their own skillsets. Increased access to coaching. Markle is raising the need for policies that result in hiring more coaches and providing funding to train coaches so that everyone who needs coaching services can have access to them. This is essential for quality, personalized interactions as demand for coaching services increases and capacity decreases due to the continuing impact of the pandemic. Creative application of technology to support life-long access to career coaching. Organizations that employ coaches utilize systems that automate basic information collection and/or the provision of selfguided activities. This enhances in-person guidance because automation creates more time for coaches to provide meaningful support to their clients rather than filling out paperwork or doing administrative tasks. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 89

Digital mapping of wraparound supportive services is essential because it allows workforce services platforms to identify all options available to meet that person’s needs. Taken a step further, a company can automate referrals to services provided by an outside organization. The development of AI-enabled coaching—to support, not replace, in-person coaching—as a function of the Learning and Employment Record is crucial. This technology is customized with check-in points and questions at various intervals of a person’s career pathway, providing 24/7 virtual coaching support and connection to in-person coaching services when needed. Improvement of performance systems and metrics. Organizations that employ coaches and federal and state systems that fund coaches should encourage performance systems and metrics that focus on long-term support rather than short-term placement, and require coaches to serve populations at rates proportional to the un/underemployed populations that are eligible for services in their community. Targeted, meaningful support for career coaches and improved access to their services will help provide the foundation to build the more equitable, informed, and resilient workforce that our present and future deserve. ***** About the authors: Kymberly Lavigne-Hinkley, Tracey Everett, and Maximillian Mascarenas make up the career coaching team at Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation that aims to create an ecosystem where individuals are valued for the skills they have and are positioned in an environment where they can gain skills over time.





t is becoming increasingly clear that the education and career pathways of the future will be marked by a thorough, ongoing— and, one hopes, effective, equitable, and ethical—application of data to student and worker outcomes with a degree of refinement never before thought possible.

While it is important to acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis has accentuated the need for these transformational developments, they arise out of longer-term trends already well underway. After all, there is nothing new, per se, in applying data to the management of students and workers. Taylorism transformed the shop floors of early 20th-century industry, while Progressive education reformers practiced quantitative “scientific” education reforms (giving us the IQ and SAT tests, a decidedly ambivalent legacy). All of these developments applied aggregated 92 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC

information rendered possible by the proliferation of social science survey methods to categorize patterns in large demographic sets and then apply those categories toward individual outcomes. The past few decades have witnessed a growing dedication of data accumulation to helping inform, guide, track, and empower students and workers in their educational and career paths. This has been enhanced by the ongoing digital transformation of our education and workforce systems, which has facilitated the capacity to provide more richly textured and “real-time” assessment of individual trajectories. To take one typical example, many colleges today provide automated guidance for course selection to students as they move through the requisites for a particular degree program. It is crucially important, of course, to ensure wholesale implementation of processes for identifying and correcting the biases that often inhere in such large social data sets and that, consequently, emerge in the algorithmic outputs derived from that data. There is clear evidence of the impacts of discriminatory conditioning of data-driven systems in criminal sentencing and hiring, for example, perpetuating deep-rooted systemic inequities. Nothing could be more critical as we adopt these tools in education than to guard against perpetuating or deepening systemic patterns of bias. Fortunately, data can and should also be used to identify and correct for biased outcomes through regular auditing. The use of big data and machine learning is part of a broader trend that has been discussed throughout our modern economy, from personalized medicine to internet algorithms that shape, say, an individual’s Google search results. Education has been a lagging indicator of these trends compared to fast-adopting sectors such as tech, notwithstanding some visionary and ambitious educational innovation. One of the more notable applications in 21st century classrooms has been the drive to implement personalized learning programs that allow students to move through curricula at their own pace. These initiatives have often reminded me of my own early 1980s elementary school experience as part of an Individually Guided Education district experiment. Personalized learning at its core hearkens back at least to John Dewey and Maria Montessori, or even Rousseau’s Emile. Today’s iterations are largely distinguished from such predecessors by the digital tools that can enhance teachers’ capacity to design and monitor divergent pathways simultaneously. At JFF, we have been developing systems for empowering and assessing individual career pathways for more than a decade. Yet there is a growing sense that we are approaching the limits of the tools at our disposal without having achieved satisfactory solutions to many questions, including: DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 93

• • •

How demonstrable are the pathways completed and maintained by individuals in our programs? How do we know individuals are benefitting from programs in the long-term? Can we ensure that the pathways are relevant and customized to individuals’ needs?

At the same time, we are on the cusp of an inflection point, made possible by the new capacities inherent in big data and algorithms to address these and other critical questions. Key to this development, is that data sets available to us (e.g., career outcomes data that draws on resumes and job profiles) are massing exponentially, while sophisticated AI programs are improving our capacity to mine this big data for pattern recognition. Overall, this is driving what some have termed a shift from personalized to precision delivery. In medicine, for instance, the availability of DNA sequencing is making possible “precision” medicine that is specific to a patient’s genetic profile, such as selecting an individual’s chemotherapy treatment based upon the DNA profile of that patient’s cancer cells. While the education and workforce sectors have been slower to adopt these methods, a promising application can be seen in a recent white paper from the Strada Institute for the Future of Work on “the new geography of skills,” where the skill needs of industry within microregions are used for tailoring the development of regional education and training programs. Still another intriguing step in this direction can be seen in the Burning Glass program designed to identify skills of workers displaced by the COVID-19 impact and match them to temporary jobs—lifeboat jobs—in sectors that are hiring amid the economic downturn. To this end, Burning Glass utilized their “database of more than a billion job postings and resumes worldwide.” It is possible to envision going further by designing career guidance systems that empower each worker with a set of career pathways informed by multiple data vectors—including regional geographies of in-demand skills but also anticipated skills trends, local patterns of career advancement, and a rich repository of an individual worker’s lifelong trajectory of learning and credentialing. When these recommendations are complemented by support from a well-trained career counselor, students and workers will have both the data and individualized support to make decisions that support long-term career growth and align with their interests and needs. This will be increasingly possible, effective, and necessary in the new skills economy that will place greater premium upon learning over a worker’s lifetime—and the ability to stack and combine credentials.


Already, there are multiple start-ups rushing into the market to provide repositories of individuals’ lifetime of transcripts and other markers of qualifications. The application of blockchain, coupled with likely breakthroughs in quantum encryption, will soon be able to provide users with a high degree of confidence in the security of such personal files. The Education Blockchain Initiative announced by the American Council on Education in February of 2020, which would utilize blockchain technology to facilitate a secure ecosystem of centralized data files on each individual’s education and skills that would be accessible to approved schools and employers, is a promising step in this direction. It may even be possible soon to add other dimensions to such profiles, such as multi-year portfolios of work or longitudinal profiles of learning outcomes unique to each person. A student who, for instance, joins a MOOC to refresh job skills might grant the online program confidential access to her profile so that the MOOC system algorithms could provide content delivery tailored specifically to that student’s unique set of learning strengths, modalities, and career path. Further, these recommendations could consider the high-demand opportunities with long-term growth potential within an individual’s local labor market to build stronger connections between supply and demand. That, indeed, would be precision learning and workforce development of profound import, a consummation of sorts to the more than century of striving toward the optimal application of data monitoring to ensure individualized pathways of unprecedented precision and nuance. Sometimes in history, quantitative capacities build up over an extended period of time until they reach a tipping point that ushers in a qualitative paradigm revolution. We are on the cusp of such a moment, driven by the advent of big data and AI capacities that enable the transition from personalization to precision in an array of sectors, including—transformationally—education and career pathways. The sheer power of this emergent capability is breathtaking. The upside potential for offering individuals agency and efficacy in their learning and work journeys is considerable. The downside potential is also far from trivial, challenging us in the years ahead to ensure that these capacities are applied with a commitment to individual empowerment and equitable access and outcomes. ***** About the author: Maria Flynn is president and CEO of JFF, a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems. Before joining JFF, Maria was a member of the Senior Executive Service in the U.S. Department of Labor, where she held several high-level positions involving employment, training, and research. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 95



Emsi announces new, open-access skills library with 30,000 skills.


alking about the labor market just got easier with the release of Emsi Skills, a new open-access skills library.

Emsi, an Idaho-based labor market analytics firm, curated nearly 30,000 skills from hundreds of millions of job postings, resumes, and professional profiles. Now the free library is open to the public, providing an up-to-date collection of the real-world skills that people have and employers value. “We built Emsi Skills to create a common language between people, education, and employers—groups that have historically struggled to communicate,” said Andrew Crapuchettes, Emsi CEO. “Employers want to know what skills to require in their job postings. Educators want to know what skills to teach 96 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC


in their programs. And jobseekers want to know what skills to learn so they can succeed in the workforce.”

“In an economy that competes on talent, the importance of employers clearly signaling in-demand skills and competencies cannot be overstated,” said Jason A. Tyszko, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. “With 62 percent of employers either exploring competency-based hiring or already putting it into practice, tools and resources like Emsi’s new skills library are necessary to support this critical shift.” Emsi is also providing free access to a skill tagging prototype which demonstrates how the library can be used to translate job postings, resumes, or syllabi into the common language of skills. Interested organizations can test sample text or try it out on their own documentation. The Emsi skills library is available now via API, enabling organizations to access the full list of skills along with the skill type and unique skill ID. The skill library is updated every two weeks based on live postings and profiles, as well as suggested skills submitted through the Emsi Skills website. Emsi takes an ontological approach, combining human curation and machine learning to discover new and emerging skills and ensure they accurately reflect the labor market.




Free Emsi Tool Helps Adult Learners Connect Skills to Education and Work.


killsMatch provides personalized learning and work recommendations powered by skills data. Read the press release and watch the walkthrough video below to learn more.

Emsi, a leading provider of labor market analytics, has released a free tool called SkillsMatch that gives adult learners a more efficient way to explore relevant learning and work opportunities, based on their skills. Using SkillsMatch, individuals can catalog the skills they have, clarify the skills they want or need, and discover open online courses that support their goals. SkillsMatch also features live job postings so learners can see the real-world job opportunities associated with their skills and learning objectives. 98 | AFTER THE PANDEMIC


“With most of the country under shelter-in-place orders, the opportunity exists for adult learners to upskill and pursue online learning that aligns with their professional goals, whether that’s advancing in their current career path or pivoting to something new,” said Luke Jankovic, EVP of higher education at Emsi.

SkillsMatch recommends learning and work opportunities based on the skills you have and the skills you want to learn. “We hope this tool helps people make the most of these challenging times by continuing to invest in themselves and their future,” said Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Emsi. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of having in-demand skills in a competitive labor market. SkillsMatch makes that process easier for learners at any stage of their career.” SkillsMatch guides users through a personal skill inventory where they can designate the skills they have and those they want to learn. The tool also suggests related skills that individuals may not have considered, helping them to develop a robust skill profile. These insights feed into personalized recommendations for educational content from leading providers of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Most MOOCs provide free lecture videos, readings, and other materials, with the option to pay for access to graded assignments that culminate in a verified certificate. SkillsMatch also displays job postings that fit the learner’s profile and location, providing a real-time look at how their skills and interests connect to the local labor market. Here’s a brief introduction to how the tool works: vomQY2pTiyw. DIPLOMATIC COURIER | 99


THREE STEPS TO SUPPORT ECONOMIC RECOVERY A Guide for Economic and Workforce Development Organizations




s state and local governments begin implementing phased approaches to reopening their economies, economic and workforce developers need to be ready to put recovery strategies into action.

In this guide we walk through three steps your community can take to kick-start its recovery and the tactics for successful execution. The pandemic has permanently changed economic and workforce development, and moving forward adaptability will be vital. Advanced labor market data and economic analysis will be the key to anticipating workforce needs and measuring impacts to regional economies.

The guide examines how that data and analysis will help in three steps:


Things have changed in a big way, so must our strategic plans. Assessing the full scope of COVID-19’s impact on your region will help decipher where to direct limited funds and resources, and set the right direction for recovery.


The perfect can’t get in the way of the good. Once a new course is set, action must be taken. When certain strategies don’t pan out, adjust accordingly. The important thing is for EDOs to keep moving forward with data-driven approaches.


The economic recovery, even by optimistic assessments, will be slow. Communities might take a few steps forward, only to take one back. The important thing will be to communicate progress and be honest about setbacks.


CHRONICLING COVID-19 What the COVID-19 pandemic has done— as most crises do—is magnify socio-economic inequities. It’s no news that we live in an age of paradoxes: we produce enough food to feed the entire world, but people still go to bed hungry. Healthcare innovators are extending our lifespan, but people still die from preventable diseases. Online education has never been more robust and abundant, but it remains inaccessible to those without a device or data plan. At all levels, this pandemic is testing what kind of a society we want to be. “Life After the Pandemic” is an anthology of essays that chronicle our society’s response to the challenges exposed so that we don’t just go “back to normal” but back to better. In this third volume, we partnered with Emsi to explore how post-pandemic recovery efforts will transform education, work, and eventually entire economies.

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