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Skills-Based Hiring: Opportunity or Illusion?

  • Publication: 
    Diplomatic Courier
    Date: 
    August 6, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic upended the 128-month post-Great Recession recovery—the longest U.S. economic expansion on record—with job losses and an economic contraction on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. That recovery, however, did not treat all jobs and workers equally nor did it address longer-term trends, including underinvestment in workers’ skills, growing wage inequality, or availability of middle-wage jobs.

    If we are to avoid further bifurcating the U.S. economy, the post-pandemic recovery must increase investment in workers’ skills, address wage inequality, and rethink occupational and economic mobility, including a more effective approach to skills-based hiring. However, recent employer surveys, interviews, and focus groups conducted by the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) found that disconnects among employers, workers, and postsecondary education may inhibit this transition. This essay presents these findings and suggests that workforce data, tools, and strategies can enhance the likelihood of a durable and more equitable recovery.

    The number of nonprofits focused on providing skills-based solutions for jobseekers, particularly those without college degrees, is also growing. Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation, is developing skills-based training and employment practices in collaboration with state governments, local employers, educators, and workforce development organizations to help Americans get good jobs based on the skills they have or the skills they can learn. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Job Data Exchange (JDX) is designed to help employers move towards competency-based hiring in a scalable and sustainable way. JDX is modernizing how the internet reads job data by updating the standards employers use in job descriptions. As real-time LMI data relies on job descriptions, improving those will carry tremendous insights about in-demand skills in real time.

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