How Flexibility and Skills Will Shape the Future Workforce

To improve workforce development in the post-pandemic world, leaders will need to embrace flexibility, job training, and digital skills.


Air Date: October 26, 2021

Moderator: Suzanne Clark, President & CEO, Eleanor Mueller, Labor Reporter, POLITICO, Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Lisa Rabasca Roepe, Writer, Fast Company, Joe Fuller, Professor, Harvard Business School, Mary Alice McCarthy, Director, Center on Education & Labor, Ryan Craig, Managing Director, Achieve Partners, Paul Fain, , The Job, Carolyn Cawley, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Cheryl A. Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Featured Guests: Barbara Humpton, President and CEO, Siemens Corporation, Judaline Cassidy, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, Tools & Tiaras, Christopher Griffin, CEO, USG, Sean McGarvey, President, North America’s Building Trades Unions, The Honorable Martin J. Walsh, Secretary of Labor, United States, Alessandra Lezama, Founder and CEO, TOOTRiS, Chris Sharkey, President of Community Engagement, Corning Incorporated, Kristof Terryn, CEO, Zurich Insurance, Jamie Merisotis, President & CEO, Lumina, Kwasi Mitchell, Chief Purpose Officer, Deloitte, Maurice Jones, CEO, OneTen, Eric J. Holcomb, Governor, Indiana, Ravi Kumar S., President, Infosys, Lydia Logan, Global VP of Education, IBM, Ardine Williams, Vice President of Workforce Development, Amazon, Mike Rowe, CEO, mikeroweWORKS Foundation, Bill Cassidy, M.D., Raja Krishnamoorthi, United States Representative, Illinois

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Forward event series highlights the most pressing education and workforce topics in the COVID-19 era.

During the two-hour capstone to this virtual series, corporate leaders, state and federal policymakers, philanthropists and other workforce experts discussed the current workforce shortages and how to address them. To improve workforce development in the post-pandemic world, leaders will need to embrace flexibility, job training, and digital skills.

Embracing Flexibility to End the Great Resignation

Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of the German-based Siemens Corporation, discussed the ways Siemens has adopted German principles and scaled them to creatively problem-solve for workforce shortages.

“We've decided to embrace flexibility,” Humpton said. “You hear a lot of people talking about … mandatory back to work [but] that hasn't been our goal. Our goal has been to give people the flexibility to work wherever they are most effective.”

In addition to flexibility, Gumption said Siemens has formed partnerships with educational systems and built hands-on programs that give people the opportunity to learn the skills they're going to need.

Workforce Development Job Training Is the Key to the Future

As the former mayor of Boston and current Secretary of Labor Martin "Marty" J. Walsh cited President Biden’s job plan and skills training as the biggest factor in connecting people with jobs and getting them the skills that they need for the jobs that are open today.

“Workforce development job training is going to be key to our future,” said Secretary Walsh. “I really think that we have a unique opportunity at this moment in time, particularly in light of what we're seeing from the pandemic with worker shortages around the country, opportunities for people looking to change careers that better their place in society.”

Leaders Must Invest in Digital Skills Training for the Future Workforce

Infosys sought to prepare the American workforce for technology jobs of the future with its $35 million investment in a U.S. Education Center in Indianapolis, which broke ground in 2018. Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys, discussed the reasoning for the construction and how it fit into Infosys’s overall goals.

“It is not just about building a feeder for us,” said Kumar. “It's also about building feeders for our clients who would actually hire technology capabilities themselves because it is core. [Because] skills are very short-lived in the digital leader, so you have to intertwine education and work together.”

Collaborative Efforts from Employers Are the Colleges of the Future

In October 2021, IBM unveiled a groundbreaking commitment and global plan to provide 30 million people of all ages with new skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow by 2030. One month prior, Amazon announced that it increased its investments to reach 300,000 of its employees via its Career Choice program.

As two monoliths in their respective industries, representatives from each discussed the major commitments they’ve made to invest in employees.

“We are working with partners and offering industry-aligned content badges partnerships with high schools on the student's side,” said Lydia Logan, the Global VP of Education at IBM. "[With] teachers, community colleges, workforce boards, and other nonprofits for adult job seekers, [we're] making sure that we're responsible stewards of the technology."

“We book-ended [the existing Career Choices] program … [and add onto] the traditional program … [which] is really a continuum for wherever that employee might be in their education [ranging] from machine learning university to our nine registered apprenticeship programs in cloud computing and mechatronics,” added Ardine Williams, vice president of workforce development at Amazon.

Reconnecting America with Skills

Mike Rowe, CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and television host of shows including “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody's Gotta Do It,” is passionate about championing tradesmen. He noted that a change in perception about these skilled trades can help fill the labor shortage in America.

“Six-figure jobs, balanced lives, satisfying work environments — it's all there,” said Rowe of jobs like plumbing, which he said often bring to mind negative stigmas and stereotypes about blue-collar workers. “We just have to do a better job of telling their stories.”


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