Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The goal: Connect more American workers with good jobs.

Business leaders love to talk about the skills gap.

As the story goes, there are plenty of jobs out there. The problem is that companies can’t find qualified workers to fill them.

We’ve previously pointed out that are problems with this narrative — many of these jobs don’t pay well, businesses aren’t doing enough to train workers, etc. — but there is little doubt that America isn’t that great at connecting skilled workers with the good-paying jobs of the 21st century.

Enter the new Rework America Task Force. Chaired by Denis McDonough, who served as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, the task force includes members from big business, academia, the policy space, and the nonprofit sector, like Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul. It held its first meeting in New York on Wednesday.

According to Rework America, roughly 6 million jobs are unfilled nationwide because employers say they can’t find the skilled workers to fill them. But at the same time, there are millions of Americans with in-demand skills who are often unemployed or underemployed.

The hurdle is connecting these Americans and employers, and the task force believes that will require moving the market “from one based largely on traditional credentials, such as degrees and work history, to one rooted in the skills valued in the digital economy.”

“Many workers have the skills employers are looking for to fill open positions, but don’t know it because too many job listings are written in a way that excludes qualified job seekers rather than attracting them,” McDonough said. “They use credentials like a four-year degree as a proxy instead of listing the actual skills needed to work a job — which is a problem, since nearly seven in 10 Americans don’t have a four-year degree but many have the relevant skills.”

Rework America will build upon the success of the Markle Foundation’s Skillful initiative, which was established as a partnership between Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado government, LinkedIn, and local partners. Skillful utilizes data and technology to help employers find the talented employees while also helping job-seekers figure out the skills they need to succeed — and then connects them with employers.

The task force will aim to pull together and leverage current resources in a more effective manner to better serve the labor market. It will consist of small groups that draw on each member’s expertise, and recommendations will be delivered to key stakeholders. Our own Scott Paul will co-chair the working group on “Artificial Intelligence that Supports Workers and Businesses.”

“Redesigning the labor market is an ambitious challenge, but we have revolutionary tools at our disposal — digital technologies that have emerged as powerful, transformative forces in our economy,” said Zoe Baird, CEO and President of the Markle Foundation, which is also supporting Rework America. “’Big Data’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ aren’t buzzwords. They have already had a profound effect on how we do business, and we believe that they can have an equally large impact on how we train workers, and how we connect Americans with opportunity.”

Learn more about the new task force and find its current members here. You can also follow the task force on Twitter via @ReworkAmerica.