As I enter my third month as JFF’s President and CEO, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that in order to advance JFF’s mission of helping all young people and adults attain quality credentials and employment, we must think about our strategies and solutions within the context that the rapid changes and economic trends—such as the growth in automation technologies and contract-based work arrangements—are bringing to the workplace and to the very future of work in our society.
Almost 35 years ago, Hilary Pennington and Arthur White founded JFF to help:
- states bridge their workforce skill gaps
- older youth and adults learn the skills and earn the credentials needed for higher-wage jobs
- employers deepen their pools of qualified employees
Today, this work is more important than ever. It remains at the heart of our organization, situated as we are at the intersection of policy and practice in education, workforce, and economic development systems to drive impact and outcomes for people being left behind in our economy.
Accelerating technological changes, which we’re told continually increase at faster rates than previous cycles, have a deep effect on both employers and employees, and on the skills and credentials needed to succeed. These disruptions make it difficult for traditional systems to keep pace, and create a risk that students and workers, already being left behind, will fall even further behind. And, while there is no shortage of “shiny new objects” coming on the market, claiming to fix the growing economic divide, it is often difficult to see how innovative system disruptors and traditional systems will come together at the arguably unprecedented scale needed to make a difference. The faster the technology changes, the faster we need effective systems to manage the affected populations. This concerns me on many levels, as an employer, as a mother of young children, and as someone who has spent the last 25 years striving for better alignment among education, workforce, and economic development systems.
As part of our mission, we will leverage our expertise about the populations, policies, and systems most impacted by these trends. Join us over the coming months as we begin to explore the implications of the future of work by investigating some key questions:
- What does the future of work mean for different industry sectors, and what are the implications for underserved populations?
- How can deeper and more learner-centered teaching and learning strategies help to prepare students for future jobs?
- What career navigation systems will be needed to help future and current workers plan for a successful future?
- How does workers’ skill development take place in the growing absence of a traditional employer/employee relationship?
- What changes in practice and policy are needed to help community colleges and other training providers keep pace with rapidly changing employer needs?
- What does the next generation of partnership between employers and educators need to look like?
- What are the federal and state policy implications of the shifting nature of work, particularly as these relate to lower-income individuals and families?
It’s in our DNA to connect decision makers, shape conversations, create partnerships, develop systems and programs, and influence practice-informed policy. We will help expand and enrich the current conversations on the Future of Work to intentionally include some of the system disruptors themselves and to ensure that those most at risk are not forgotten. We are, after all, Jobs for the Future.
Image credit: business2community.com