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At a Glance

We’re excited to head back to SXSW EDU 2024 in Austin, Texas, and this year, we’re expanding to SXSW!
Date March 4 - March 16, 2024
Location Austin, TX

We’re excited to head back to SXSWEDU 2024 in Austin, and this year, we’re expanding to SXSW! Thought leaders across Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) centers and practices have applied to present at both EDU and Interactive this year with partners including Ares Foundation, American Student Assistance, GitLab Foundation, Walmart, StudioBE, Best Buy, Levi Strauss & Co., Kaiser, and more.

Help us spread the word and VOTE!

Interested in any of the topics below? Click any of the links below and cast your vote by August 20!

SXSW Sessions Featuring JFF Thought Leaders

Beyond Binary: Expanding the Dialogue on Gender Equity

Join this session to explore strategies that foster gender equity beyond the binary, embrace intersectionality, and create workplaces that celebrate and support the diverse experiences of all individuals. By prioritizing gender equity across the full spectrum and considering diverse gender identities, organizations can redefine the narrative, break down barriers, and create workplaces where every individual feels seen, valued, and empowered, regardless of their gender identity or background.

Featuring Megha Bansal Rizoli, Director, Employer Mobilization, JFF

Putting the Cool in Climate Tech: Music x Climate x Culture

We don’t look like your average climate activists; We DON’T wear Patagonia, and we DON’T wear khakis. However, we DO wear carbon capture diamonds and circular economy hats. Diversity is more than just about race and gender: It is about a different point of view. Our panel will be about the intersection of music, culture, climate with both investing and awareness. We will have an award-winning hip-hop producer who cofounded Klean Energy Kulture and an entertainer investing in climate to speak on their climate investing and activism experience and how music drives this awareness.

Featuring Taj Eldridge, Director of Climate Innovation, JFFLabs

Skills-First Practices: The Catalyst for Inclusive Mobility

In the past three years, we’ve seen increased energy among employers who recognize the value of focusing talent practices on skills as the key currency and signal for career opportunity and mobility. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, by 2025, over 40% of employers expect to prioritize skills over degrees when making hiring decisions. This session will discuss how business leaders, through skills-first practices, can support their employees in achieving their career and economic goals while also creating a more resilient, dynamic, creative, diverse, and inclusive workforce.

Featuring Cat Ward, Vice President, Employer Mobilization, JFF

Green Jobs & Genz: Creating a Diverse Sector for All of Us

The International Labor Organization estimates that by 2030, 24 million jobs worldwide could be created by the green economy alone. And while green jobs are on the rise across industries, diverse talent is still underrepresented throughout the green economy. Though the United States’ population is nearly 40% people of color, POC do not exceed 16% of representation. This panel will discuss the gaps that exist between access and representation for diverse GenZ populations, whilst providing insights on how the green jobs sector can engage with talent from traditionally excluded groups.

Featuring Taj Eldridge, Director of Climate Innovation, JFFLabs

Storytelling From the AI Revolution

The AI revolution is unfolding in real-time. What do we know about how workers and learners are experiencing this seismic change? Whose stories are–or are not–being told? How can people use AI and immersive media to help craft a new narrative, one in which this technology advances economic advancement and equity instead of deterring it? Join JFF’s Center for Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Work and the GitLab Foundation for a meetup aimed at surfacing stories, reshaping conversations, and energizing all of us to work towards the day when technologies are built with and for all people.

Featuring Alex Swartsel, Managing Director, JFFLabs and Director, Center for Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Work

The Art of Justice: Using Art to Drive Advocacy and Policy

Without bold policy action, the employment and economic prospects for people with records will remain bleak. These opportunities will be particularly limited for many Black and Latinx people, who are disproportionately arrested and convicted because of racism in the legal system and face constant racial discrimination in the labor market. Through art, we can activate a movement that increases the collective impact of various stakeholders. Join us for a conversation about the role we can all play in normalizing opportunity for people with records.

Featuring Brandi Mandato, Senior Director, JFF

Thriving at Work: Nurturing Wellbeing in Modern Workplaces

In this transformative session, we will address the impact of the pandemic, rising loneliness, and the social and political climate on employee well-being. This session will explore the complex relationship between mental health and workplace outcomes, providing practical strategies and technological innovations to navigate these challenges. We will highlight innovative approaches from leading organizations that prioritize mental health amidst these unique circumstances and discuss how employers can best foster more inclusive workplaces that drive equitable economic advancement for all.

Featuring Megha Bansal Rizoli, Director, Employer Mobilization, JFF

Making Second Chance Hiring Work: What Employers Can Do

For the more than 600,000 people released from prison in the U.S. each year, accessing stable, full-time employment has been shown to be one of the most effective tools in reducing recidivism and creating pathways to economic mobility after incarceration—yet stigma and a lack of resources remain key barriers. This session will bring together the voices of those on the front lines of the second chance hiring movement to discuss how employers can be partners in removing barriers that have prevented justice-impacted populations from securing employment and advancing in their professional lives.

Featuring Genevieve Martin, Senior Director, JFF

Climate-Resilient Employees for a Sustainable Tomorrow/CREST

Philanthropy frequently funds workforce readiness but has not deeply focused on readying individuals for green jobs. The growing green economy mandates skilled workers, including people of color and women of all backgrounds. The Ares Foundation’s CREST (Climate Resilient Employees for a Sustainable Tomorrow) initiative supports Jobs for the Future (JFF) and World Resources Institute (WRI) in advancing these goals. CREST will help prepare 25,000 people in the United States for high-opportunity green jobs and reskill 1,000 micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) workers in India. CREST will also generate evidence-based guidance to encourage global supply chain equity.

Featuring Meena Naik, Director, JFFLabs


SXSW EDU Sessions Featuring JFF Thought Leaders

Banning LGBTQ Education Means Banning LGBTQ Educators

“Teacher fired after discussing sexuality with students.” What looks like a headline from the 1978 attempt to ban gay teachers from schools¬ is one of many from 2022 that captures the growing effort to push LGBTQ educators into the closet. States across the U.S. have sought to expel LGBTQ educators from classrooms by banning discussions of gender and sexuality, with drastic implications for both teachers and the youth that look to them as examples of positive and possible futures. This conversation will explore how these laws perpetuate inequitable economic outcomes for the LGBTQ community.

Featuring Taylor Sprague, Senior Program Manager, JFF

Centering Black Workers Through Practitioner-Led Research

This panel will highlight the Workforce Communities of Inquiry in the Deep South research model. Utilizing the Local Voices Network, an artificial intelligence that helps analyze and identify common themes across complex conversations, organizations seek to identify promising practices for supporting the career and education goals of Black workers and learners in seven communities from six states in the deep South. The panel will discuss the value that this unique, community-led approach brings to centering worker voices.

Featuring Veronica Buckwalter, Director, JFF

Achieving the Big Blur: Lessons from Colorado

In Colorado, for every unemployed person, there are two available jobs. To help address these talent shortages, Colorado’s leadership, state agencies, and state-based advocates have pledged to ensure that every high school student graduates with credentials that hold labor market value and puts them on a path to economic advancement. This panel discussion will bring together education and workforce leaders to share insights from their experiences working to transform Colorado’s education and workforce systems and support the empowerment of young people in the state.

Featuring Joel Vargas, Vice President, Education & Training Pathways, JFF

Health Equity & the Intersection of Workforce and Education

Zip code is a strong predictor of health outcomes, academic achievement, income, and access to opportunity. The data tells a clear story. Education, Workforce and Healthcare systems often work in parallel lanes and struggle to disrupt systems of inequity. What if these systems came to the same table to center equity and focus on specific zip codes and communities? This conversation will highlight how we can drive health equity and opportunity for youth and young adults that have been impacted by systems of inequity and oppression.

Featuring Patrick Combs, Vice President, Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning

How Will 2024 Elections Impact Education & Workforce Policy?

From the rising cost of higher education and growing student loan debt to improving links between K-12 and the workforce to increasing access to quality jobs and conversations around equity and inclusion in the classroom and workplace, recent elections have thrust education and workforce policy into the spotlight as top issues. This session will bring together a bipartisan panel of policy experts to discuss the 2024 election and candidates’ policy proposals regarding education and workforce, including the potential impacts the election might have on students, educators, and families.

Featuring Maria Flynn, President and CEO, JFF

Next Generation Solutions for Next Gen Z Talent

Young adults, including those who face barriers in the labor market and those who are out of school and work, are advocates, leaders, subject matter experts, and untapped talent in education and employment innovation. As we continue to ensure equity and advancement for all, we must recognize this population of young adults as our next generation of leaders. This session will give attendees the opportunity to hear the personal and professional journeys of young leaders who overcame barriers to launch their own successful paths and lead the way for others to do the same.

Featuring Molly Blankenship, Director, JFF

Paving New Roads From Education to Career

Join American Student Assistance (ASA) and Jobs for the Future (JFF) as we present new groundbreaking research understanding the lived experiences and mindset of students on degree pathways and the people that influence them the most. During the session, you will hear students share their experiences as they forged ahead on a nontraditional higher education pathway and the lessons those supporting students, including educators and caregivers, learned in helping students achieve success. Panelists will explore the challenges and successes that young people encounter in their education to career journey.

Featuring Joel Vargas, Vice President, Education & Training Pathways, JFF

The Next Gen of Workforce Innovation: Voices of Young Adults

Young adults, including those who face barriers in the labor market and those who are out of school and work, are advocates, leaders, subject matter experts, and untapped talent in education and employment innovation. As we continue to ensure equity and advancement for all, we must recognize this population of young adults as our next generation of leaders. This session will give attendees the opportunity to hear the personal and professional journeys of young leaders who overcame barriers to launch their own successful paths and lead the way for others to do the same.

Featuring Marie Davis, Associate Vice President, JFF

An Investor Talk on AI: All-In or All-Hype

Venture capital investors have poured more than $40 billion into AI startups in just the first half of 2023. Big questions loom about how these technologies may impact education and the world of work. How are education and workforce investors separating the wheat from the chaff? Hear from venture capital and impact investors as they share trends they are watching and predictions on where the smart money is heading and decide if they are “all-in”—or feeling overhyped.

Featuring Sabari Raja, Managing Partner, JFF Ventures

Investing in Founders with Lived Experiences

Founders with experiences that reflect those often poorly served by our education and workforce systems today stand to bring some of the most innovative, effective solutions to bear. And potential for impact is financial too: entrepreneurs who are creating businesses with strong product-market fit, generate greater ROI. Yet, today, just 2% of venture capital is allocated to founders from underrepresented backgrounds. Come hear how VCs can move beyond performing arbitrary displays of diversity theater, and identify and cultivate founders who bring the power of lived experiences to the table.

Featuring Sabari Raja, Managing Partner, JFF Ventures

Mission-Driven Founders Explain Their Success & Share Tips

Although it seems that most education technologies are designed to address teaching and learning challenges, not every successful company is curriculum- or student-centered. Numerous company founders have created, launched and either sold or secured significant investment for how they are addressing large-scale issues. We’ve gathered founders from highly successful companies that either secured over $50M in investment or have sold their companies and moved on to bigger things. They will share tips about the opportunities that exist for mission-driven companies that solve large-scale problems.

Featuring Sabari Raja, Managing Partner, JFF Ventures


Tips for Promoting on Social


Encourage your networks across social media to VOTE for JFF sessions and join the conversation:

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