"We urgently need to transform the labor market so everyone can compete with equal dignity for today’s jobs." So says Zoë Baird, CEO and president of New York-based Markle Foundation, which just announced a partnership with Microsoft to expand its Skillful initiative, Skillful is a data-driven approach to helping workers succeed in a digital economy that may be passing them by because their skills don't match what employers need. Baird is right, of course, and as you'll see below, this particular initiative has a lot going for it – including the ability to replicate a new labor market model. – Philip Bane
"There are 7.3 million fewer jobs in the United States today for people with a high school degree or less than there were in 1989. At the same time, six million jobs in our country go unfilled due in large part to a shortage of skilled workers. This mismatch is leaving workers on the sidelines and employers without the talent they need to run their operations,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. “Skillful is building an entire ecosystem to close this gap, helping Americans find and train for better-paying jobs, while connecting employers with the talent they need to thrive in the digital economy.”
Microsoft's corporate giving arm is investing $28.5 million to expand the Skillful initiative the Markle Foundation launched in Colorado last year. Skillful brings together key players across the labor market -- employers, state and federal governments, LinkedIn, educators and workforce centers -- to help displaced and vulnerable American workers adapt to the changing workplace.
Skillful’s coaches and online services enable job seekers to learn what skills are in demand, and access professional training at any stage of their career. At the same time, Skillful aligns employers and educators so that their training programs teach the skills required to succeed in today’s digital economy.
In addition to its significant financial investment, Microsoft Philanthropies also brings decades of experience in providing digital skills training for individuals, as well as learning tools for coaches, educators and employers to the partnership.
A time of sweeping economic change
"We are living in a time of economic change as sweeping as the Industrial Revolution, and this innovative partnership with Microsoft will help jobseekers and employers rise to this profound challenge," Markle CEO Baird says.
The first phase will expand Skillful throughout Colorado and then move to additional states. Eventually the partners want to create a skills-based labor market model that can be replicated across the U.S. to help more people overcome barriers to obtaining better-paying jobs.
In Colorado, Skillful is already leveraging data and technology tools such as LinkedIn’s Training Finder to help workers find training and support to prepare them for growth jobs in their community.
Boots on the ground
"Today, you can’t read, listen or watch the news without coming across a story about how technology is displacing jobs. And while there has been a lot of debate about whether or not skills gaps exist, the fact remains there were a record number of open jobs in the United States in April," said LinkedIn Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Management Allen Blue.
"That’s why the work Skillful is doing is so critical -- it applies insights, technology and boots on the ground to help people learn the skills they need to qualify for jobs employers are having a hard time filling," Blue added. "Our work in Colorado is proof that while technology is displacing jobs, it’s also helping us upskill people and get them back to work."
How UL helps steer young people into high-demand technology jobs
From Africa to Austin, "new collar" jobs open digital doors for young people
Nonprofit turns low-income wage earners into skilled IT workers – for free
This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.
Connect with #compassionatecities…
See all the latest Compassionate Cities headlines
Follow Managing Director @Philip_Bane on Twitter
Join us on Facebook
Share your insights in our LinkedIn discussion group