A conversation with Cheryl Oldham, Senior Vice President for the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce.
In February, Torsten wrote a post called Designing a Modern Education System from a Clean slate. This post continues where that post left off.
Employers Need Qualified Learners and Learners Need Good Jobs
In March of 2018, Burning Glass published a report developed for the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation. This report investigates supply and demand of qualified talent in major industries. Supply was established through federal workforce statistics and demand was established through job postings. In 12 of the career areas they examined, demand for workers exceeded supply by 4.4M openings. The top three industry areas with the biggest discrepancy between supply and demand were healthcare, business and financial operations, and office administrative support.
Supporting research like this is key to making progress in helping employers find qualified workers and helping learners find good jobs. Cheryl Oldham is the Senior Vice President at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce. After discovering the Burning Glass report, GHP reached out to hear her perspective on the mismatch of supply and demand for good jobs across the country. We knew Cheryl could help us better understand how employers can become active in addressing this challenge. But our primary focus was to get her take on how edtech companies could step in and help with this issue. Cheryl kindly agreed to take part in an interview. Here’s how she responded:
GHP: Tell us about the report Burning Glass developed for the Foundation - Different Skills, Different Gaps. How did this research get started? What was the goal?
Cheryl: We are always interested in opportunities to get beyond aggregate numbers - like 7.5M job openings or 6M+ unemployed. Our goal is to continue to understand the skill gaps that persist on an occupation-by occupation basis.
2019 Focus on Three Big Challenges
GHP: The findings of the report were released last spring, about a year ago. From a policy perspective, what are you focused on in 2019 that will help address supply and demand challenges in specific industries like healthcare?
Cheryl: Our focus this year at the U.S. Chamber Foundation is on solving three big challenges:
what is taught in the classroom doesn’t match what is required for a career;
jobs and skills are changing faster than we (employers) can communicate; and
the technology and data infrastructure powering the talent marketplace is due for modernization.
These three challenges are interconnected and the development of each will support the success of the next, ultimately working together to solve many of the supply and demand challenges that industries like healthcare are facing today.
Employer-led Strategy for Real Career Pathways
GHP: What role do you see employers playing in this challenge? How does this come to life in their work with colleges and universities? With high schools?
Cheryl: We see employers playing a critical role in solving each of these challenges. To address the misalignment, employers must lead. How often do we hear: “we need more business-education partnerships” or “if employers would just tell us what skills they’re looking for”. Solving the employer engagement issue as well as the challenge of more clearly communicating the skills and competencies required will go a long way to closing the skills gap. We’ve created an employer-led strategy for building real career pathways aligned to dynamic business needs within our workforce development portfolio, and each initiative requires active engagement from the business community and a willingness and desire to lead the way towards change. Through participation in these initiatives, we are confident that employers will see their relationships with the education community strengthen.
You can learn more about the Talent Pipeline Management™ (TPM) and Job Data Exchange™ (JDX) initiatives on our website.
What EdTech Companies Can Do
GHP: If there are major gaps in supply and demand in certain industries, then there are major opportunities for new types of organizations to help, right? Where should edtech companies begin?
Cheryl: I believe the key for any organization that would like to play a role in solving the challenge of people without jobs and jobs without people needs to connect first with industry. Industry is really the only one that can say with certainty what problem needs fixing. What we have done as a nation for many years is look to the supply side to fix these problems - the education/training providers. Often those communities would then create advisory boards of employers - a handful maybe. That is not the deep, intentional employer engagement that is necessary to really understand what problems need to be fixed.
GHP: Edtech organizations like the ones we represent at Good Harbor Partners would love to hear your perspective on how they could contribute. They’d like to understand what pathway they could take to help solve this challenge of supply and demand. If you imagine the most positive direction we can take in this country, how would new innovative organizations help us get there? Any ideas?
Cheryl: Our work tell us that solutions must be focused on solving local or regional issues. It’s not helpful to create a one size fits all approach or a national solution to what is a very local challenge. The skill needs are likely going to be very different in Louisville, KY than in Phoenix, AZ.
An Urgent Need for Connection Between Education and Industry
There is an urgent need right now for organizations to step in and solve this massive discrepancy of worker supply and employer demand because if they do - it means not only the success of learners, but of employers too.
At Good Harbor Partners we are most interested in the companies that have achieved product market fit and are positioned to make a transformational impact. If you are one of these companies, I hope this interview with Cheryl has been informative and helpful. If you haven't met us yet, please schedule some time with us so we can learn about your work!
We know we have a major challenge right now with worker supply and employer demand. Which organizations will jump in and help solve this issue right now so both learners and employers can win?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Looking forward to this discussion - Good Harbor Partners