Kelly Rosenblatt Kelly Rosenblatt
Senior Manager, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


October 25, 2019


Last week, government, advocacy, and industry leaders convened at the U.S. Chamber headquarters for Talent Forward 2019, an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that connects government, employers, nonprofits, and schools in order to facilitate collaboration around workforce, talent, and employability. Guests led in-depth discussions on some of the biggest issues impacting the future of the workforce. Denis McDonough, senior principal for the Markle Foundation and former White House chief of staff under the Obama administration, sat down with the host of "CNN Right Now," Brianna Keiler, to discuss one issue in particular: expanding and strengthening America's workforce.

The Markle Foundation has been conducting through its new Rework America Business Network, an initiative launched in 2018, which analyzes workforce trends and gaps, and develops logical, impactful solutions to strengthen the U.S. economy while building healthier working communities.

Here are the top 3 takeaways from McDonough's session at the Talent Forward event.

1. We need a labor market “focused on skills and competencies.”

McDonough argues that the labor market relies too heavily on “pedigree, which is fundamentally inequitable.” He asserts that policymakers spend too much time “debating about the size of the problem rather than digging for answers,” when it comes to skills gaps and equitable hiring. A new perspective, “focused on skills and competencies” is not only equitable, McDonough claims, but a necessity moving forward. With demand for jobs across many sectors continually growing, employers can’t afford to overlook those who may not have the traditional pedigree, but who have a desire to work and potential to learn when provided with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

2. Technology is “permeating the economy.”

Technology is now a core component of businesses across all sectors of the economy and at all levels of employability. McDonough explains that “the pace of digitalization is happening more rapidly in areas like home health” and other sectors not traditionally associated with tech. For example, the “explosion of HR IT” and other fields of business create an increasingly greater demand for tech-educated employees. The nature of business and technology is shifting quickly, as both areas of the economy expand and intertwine. Traditional tech training doesn’t cut it anymore. Employers increasingly look for people who can not only demonstrate technological knowledge, but those who are experts in problem solving and who have an ethical understanding of technology as it relates to business.

3. Equitable access to programs that prepare people for careers in the tech industry is critical.

Today, “every job across every sector requires a degree of digital skills capability,” McDonough says. For this reason, it’s imperative that there are accessible pathways to education in tech, and open pipelines to career-oriented jobs in this field. Through subsidised programs like apprenticeships and fellowships, employers can build a loyal and highly skilled employee base, lending to a stronger, more sustainable business in the long run. The transition from these programs into a career can be challenging, but McDonough argues that “the defining characteristic for a successful transition is interaction with a human coach.”

Check out more about Talent Forward and learn how business leaders are tackling the most pressing education and workforce issues facing our country through U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce here.

About the authors

Kelly Rosenblatt

Kelly Rosenblatt

Kelly Rosenblatt is the Social Media and Digital Operations Project Manager at the U.S. Chamber.

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