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This mismatch may seem intractable, but I’m optimistic from my conversations with business leaders that they can close this gap and realize a new era of sustainable and inclusive growth.
Here are three steps they can take.
Expanding recruitment efforts to people who have work experience but don’t have degrees could open significant opportunities for job seekers, while broadening the talent pipeline for companies.
Business leaders could support more “gateway jobs,” or stepping-stone positions that provide an income boost while also improving workers’ trajectories toward more resilient, higher-wage, higher-quality jobs. Picture a former retail worker who draws on their experience in customer service and numerical skills to move into a manufacturing sales rep role and, over time, progresses to a sales manager.
Leaders can also challenge their organizations to embrace a more inclusive, skills-based approach to hiring and talent management. They can start by updating job postings to favor skills and competencies that can be transferred from other sectors, instead of relying on past job titles or degrees.
Such efforts could also create opportunities to accelerate the return of women who left the workforce in higher numbers amid the pandemic. For example, companies could remove requirements for recent experience or skills that can be learned on the job. Companies can also consider creating “on-ramp” programs to help women reenter the workforce without losing progress they earned earlier in their career.
Accelerate workforce training programs
The pandemic accelerated technology adoption, but workforce training programs haven’t kept pace. The chasm between the skills of today and the jobs of tomorrow will widen as demand for technological, social, emotional and higher cognitive skills grows. Developing iron-clad, scalable training programs is an important long-term strategy.
Business leaders should explore more ways to offer their employees education outside the workplace, or as part of onboarding or continuous learning. They can also prioritize short, flexible courses that follow the boot-camp model, teaching new skills in weeks or months rather than years.
Showcase the industrial sector as a source of high-growth jobs
Making industries like manufacturing more attractive and accessible is one way to address inequality. Jobs in these sectors offer strong pay and benefits, and opportunities to progress.
Private-sector institutions could partner with schools and communities to compel young people to explore trade-based careers, such as those in construction like pipe fitting and welding. Companies can also devote resources to understanding systemic barriers to diverse workforce representation, such as the proximity of jobs to diverse neighborhoods and transportation, and use those findings to inform paths forward.
Through a combination of strategic investments and decisive action to expand a skilled workforce, business leaders can play a key role in easing labor market pressure and make sustainable and inclusive growth a reality.