On-the-Road: Workforce Ahead! Your Turn to Comment

Reprinted with permission from the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB)

We’re listening at communications@nawb.org! Read on for more on how NAWB has taken to the road to get YOUR feedback.

The National Association of Workforce Boards, in concert with the National Coalition of Credentialing Centers (NC3), NAWB board member, Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert, and underwritten in part by Grant Associates has been crisscrossing the country talking to local business-led workforce development boards, educators, business owners, and other participants that make up America’s workforce development system.

We call this endeavor Workforce: Ahead. It is our new initiative to learn from those we meet on the road about what they see on the horizon in terms of the changing nature of work. Through these conversations we hear about what concerns these communities most about the scenarios they are reading and hearing about, what workforce development assets they think they have in place to contend with the changes and challenges ahead, and what they think policy makers should do to be helpful. This follows similar work that NAWB has done with the Bertelsmann Foundation.

We’ve visited many cities to date, coast to coast and in between, many of them as part of the Workforce:Ahead tour, and others as separate projects to connect with our members. So far we have been to Spokane and Seattle WA, Denver, Salida and Aspen CO, Omaha NE, Wichita KS, Danville VA, Tucson AZ, Arlington TX, as well as Pittsburgh PA, Charlotte NC, Duluth MN, Tampa and Orlando FL, Las Vegas NV, and Riverside and San Bernardino CA. Our mission is to gather insights from the people on the ground doing the critical work of upskilling the nation’s workforce, and we’re not done yet. We have additional stops planned in California, Florida, and Hawaii.

We’ve heard a lot of concerns in each of these cities, and the topics raised seem to be universal issues, but all with the local flavor that makes the U.S. so diverse and so interesting. Just when we thought we’d heard it all, we hadn’t!

Among the topics discussed have been the need for more and new skills among the workforce, how to know what skills are needed,  how to determine someone has those skills, employer hiring practices, the need to better connect people of color to employment and veterans to employment post-service, the need to better engage marginalized populations like Native Americans, returning citizens and low income workers, and individuals who have low literacy and/or numeracy levels. We’ve heard concerns about low wage work, the cost in time and money for re-skilling, family sustainable income jobs, immigration, automation, and the next recession. While listening to the experiences of the people in the workforce development industry, we’ve felt the angst of confronting the future to work and workers.

But there’s not just angst, there’s passion, innovation and hope as well. We’ve witnessed immense passion for the American worker, and creative responses by companies, local and state workforce development boards, education and community groups. It’s renewed our appreciation for how large our nation is, its diversity, and the great strength among the people and businesses who are committed to their community. This is the local fabric we advocate for on a daily basis. Thomas Jefferson once noted that the government which governs best is closest to the people, and we couldn’t agree more.

We recognize that time and money limit us, and we can’t visit everywhere we’d like in this vast nation. That is why I’m reaching out to those of who have reached out and connected to me. We want to hear from you. I am asking for your input – even those outside of America, I want to hear around the globe! What do you think are the workforce issues that lie ahead and what gives you concern? What examples have you encountered that give you reason to be optimistic that there is a life-long learning system in place that can bridge workers from the work and tasks needed now to what lies ahead. And most importantly, what needs to be on NAWB’s radar as we are chatting with policy makers, and as we develop the agenda for our annual Forum. We’re listening at communications@nawb.org

As we continue to compile all feedback, we intend to produce an analysis of what we’ve heard from you. We hope to have that analysis ready for release at Forum 2020, powered by NAWB, March 21-24 in Washington DC (www.nawb.org/forum).  We’d very much like for you to join us.