National Skills Coalition members: Demonstrating leadership and tackling the Future of Work

By Katie Brown, March 10, 2020

Last month, National Skills Coalition hosted our 2020 Skills Summit; an annual gathering of workforce development leaders from across the country with an emphasis on the importance of skills in our 21st century economy, including how workers will be impacted by the Future of Work (FOW).

During the Skills Summit, workforce development stakeholders—including education leaders, business leaders, community-based organizations, state and local government leaders and labor organizations—heard from a range of experts about the “state of play” of skills policy in our nation’s Capital. Attendees were also briefed on NSC’s 2020 Skills For Good Jobs Agenda, which outlines priorities around a number of key federal policy areas, such as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the modernization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and ensuring racial equity in education and workforce programs.

This year, NSC’s Skills for Good Jobs Agenda included an emerging policy platform around the Future of Work (FOW). While most workers are optimistic about the FOW, it is also hard to deny that technology will have an impact on the jobs of the future. In fact, at least 60 percent of jobs are projected to be significantly impacted by automation and 10-15 percent of jobs will be eliminated. These changes would mean that 100 million workers would need to be upskilled or reskilled to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Because of this projected impact, workforce development leaders—including those present at the Skills Summit—see skills and job training programs as a top priority for workers, businesses and our country for the Future of Work. In light of this, NSC hosted three, FOW-focused break-out sessions (pictured above) at the Skills Summit where attendees heard from a panel of experts around specific policy areas: including digital literacy, business engagement and reemployment. Attendees then participated in small group discussions with their peers to talk through challenges and opportunities of proposed federal policy solutions. An overview of each of these discussions is as follows:

Digital Literacy

  • Problem statement: American jobs are undergoing massive technological transformation. To succeed in this rapidly changing environment, workers need broad-based digital problem-solving skills that equip them to learn a wide variety of today’s technologies and navigate continued changes in the future.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Leticia Lewis, the BSA Foundation
    • Alison Ascher Webber, World Education/Digital US
    • Angela Siefer, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
    • Moderator: Molly Bashay, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Defining digital literacy at the federal level is a crucial step towards ensuring its prioritization in education and training policies.
      • Gaps in digital skills affect students and workers of all ages including those working in in-demand industries. Efforts to increase access to digital literacy must be thoughtfully designed so that they reach all individuals—including individuals from traditionally vulnerable or displaced populations.
      • Digital literacy should be embedded into education and training best practices, including Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs and career pathways.
      • Industry and sector partnerships (ISPs) should be utilized as a convening tool to bring business and industry, education leaders, community-based organizations, labor organizations and other workforce development stakeholders together around digital literacy.

Business Engagement

  • Problem Statement: Given the importance of skills in today’s economy, many business leaders stand ready to play a significant role in making sure new and incumbent workers can access the education and training they need to be successful in in-demand industries. However, small and mid-sized business leaders, while willing to invest in skills training, often lack the tools necessary to scale and sustain these programs on their own.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Cassi Zumbiel, Manufacturing Institute
    • Mary Ann Pacelli, National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Dept. of Commerce
    • Ethan Pollack, Aspen Institute
    • Moderator: Katie Brown, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Robust industry and sector partnerships are crucial tools for connecting workforce development strategies with larger scale economic development strategies. Currently, these partnerships exist across the U.S., but stakeholders lack the resources needed to expand them at the pace and scale necessary for the future of work.
      • The federal government has utilized tax incentives for businesses to drive private investments in education and training. These incentives—while effective—should encourage work-based learning and reskilling in addition to hiring. Additionally, more workforce development stakeholders should be made aware of available tax credits for hiring, so these credits don’t go unused.
      • Given impending changes to our nation’s workforce due to automation, training for incumbent workers who will need to reskill to stay in their jobs should be a priority at the federal level. Incumbent worker training should have a dedicated federal funding stream, so as not to take resources away from supports for dislocated workers.


  • Problem Statement: Workers who lose their jobs due to technological change in the workplace will need reskilling to prepare them for jobs of the 21st century, well beyond the intensity and length of time covered by current policies.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Andy Stettner, Century Foundation
    • Jessica Fulton, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
    • Michael Griffiths, Deloitte Learning Consulting Practice
    • Julie Squire, National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA)
    • Moderator: Katie Spiker, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Individuals who have been dislocated from their workplace need access to income supports in addition to supportive services while they work to transition to a new job through education and training. Eligibility for these supports should not change based on why an individual was displaced from their job.
      • Industry and sector partnerships play a significant role in ensuring workforce development stakeholders can work together to address dislocation as well as strategies for recruiting and retaining new workers.
      • Connecting the unemployment system with education and training providers as well as community-based organizations is key to ensuring displaced workers have quick access to high-quality jobs. These connections will also make the dislocation to employment pipeline less cumbersome for individuals in need of assistance.

NSC is extremely appreciative of the efforts of all those who participated in these sessions. NSC plans to roll this valuable feedback into a series of policy briefs on the Future of Work set to be released this year.