Beyond Upskilling: Marking Workforce Development Month

Posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

SFE marks Workforce Development month in September with an Insights series on skills development within the innovation economy

Work is one of Siegel Family Endowment’s most long-standing strategic grantmaking focus areas. We’ve spent years cultivating a growing network of grantee relationships with non-profits, academic research teams, and coalitions of state and local elected officials in order to better understand the changing shape of a career in the innovation economy. And while understanding technology’s impact on the way we work and develop the skills necessary to meaningfully engage in the digital economy has always been a major priority for SFE, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated trends that make this area of focus more urgent than ever.

We’re at an inflection point when it comes to work and employment: the skills of the workforce and needs of employers are increasingly misaligned, technology is reshaping the ways people find and persist in jobs, and pandemic-related health concerns, child and family care issues, workplace and unemployment benefits, and other factors have completely reshaped the way we think about work, careers, and long-term economic engagement.

More and more people are reconsidering their professional trajectories, and are seeking out new professional skill sets in order to achieve greater mobility and reward over the course of their careers. New skills training programs that meet this demand make up a significant portion of our grantee portfolio and as an increasing percentage of the workforce reexamines their own trajectories, more employers are developing internal skills development programs in order to cultivate existing pools of talent and strengthen their capacities internally. 

As the question of creating a more adaptable and appropriately skilled workforce becomes increasingly urgent, SFE grantees like Pursuit, the Knowledge House, COOP Careers, ICA, and others are doing field-leading work to define what comes next, and to figure out how to meet these changing needs for all stakeholders. Our grantees have significantly advanced the conversation around career adaptability, transferable skills, job quality, meaningful credentials, and employment. 

Throughout September, Workforce Development Month, we’ll examine the work that members of our grantee community are doing to create new skill building systems, and the work they’re doing alongside employers to rethink training, adaptability, and cross-sector collaboration. What kinds of credentials should you need to get a high quality job? How can employers adjust the systems and criteria they use to make hiring and internal mobility decisions? And what can job seekers do to engage in their own process of continuous learning and adaptation? We’ll also explore the ways that new technology informs this conversation, and share findings from our partners, grantees, and peer foundations on aligning new strategies for lifelong learning with emergent and in-demand skillsets.

First up, we’ll hear from Kalani Leifer, founder and CEO of COOP Careers, in an ED Q&A interview. COOP aims to increase employment opportunities for recent first generation and low income college graduates by closing the social opportunity gap through actively cultivating new social networks. The interview examines the strategies that COOP deploys to set participants up for success, and explores the nuanced role that social capital plays in expanding future-relevant career opportunities. The first post in this series is available now on our Insights channel.