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Bank Leads Dialogue on Workforce of the Future

District Dialogues: Human Capital Decisions and the Future of Work was held on February 8, 2022, on a virtual platform

As the nation seeks to adapt to a rapidly evolving workforce, conversations are also underway about what the jobs of tomorrow will look like and how both employers and job seekers can prepare. The Richmond Fed offered an expert lens into this discussion earlier this week during the first live installment of its signature District Dialogues series.

District Dialogues: Human Capital Decisions and the Future of Work took place Feb. 8 in a livestream format that allowed participants to experience the conversation in real time and ask questions of the speakers.

“We launched the concept of District Dialogues to help us better understand what is happening on the ground, through doing deep dives into topics which are critical to the economy today,” said Tom Barkin, president of the Richmond Fed. “This information goes straight to our research and policy conversations.”

Richmond Fed Regional Executive Renee Haltom moderated the program and led three special guests through a conversation about the future of work, the impact of automation on future jobs and how education can better prepare students for the workforce of tomorrow.

Anne M. Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA); Jeff Strohl, director of Research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; and Kristen Broady, director of the Chicago Fed’s new Economic Mobility Project, who was previously a fellow at the Brookings Institution, exchanged insights and findings with each other and with Haltom.

According to Strohl, the future workforce will see big structural changes.

“There will be big changes in tasks – where you do them and how you do them,” Strohl said. “How can we help individuals using education and training – [which is] human capital development – make that transition? Fifty-five percent of people affected by the pandemic are high school age and less, and have not had the opportunity to [consider] college. If we’re going to up the skills, how do we provide training through an equity lens to all of these individuals and be careful about not just teaching them tasks, which is what the employers are going to want?”

Kress suggested a deeper partnership between employers and higher education could be beneficial.

“At NOVA, we think of it in terms of skilling, reskilling and upskilling,” she said. “We want to give them skillsets that can map to high economic sectors.”

Broady said starting from an even playing field during the early education process is key.

Noting that as a higher education professor and administrator she has encountered numerous students whose inequitable educational paths limited their reach, the question becomes, “Are they prepared to learn the skills that are being taught?” Broady asked. “When everybody has the same access to education from the beginning, everybody can learn and achieve at the same level.”

District Dialogues: Human Capital Decisions and the Future of Work was the first of four public conversations the Richmond Fed will be hosting this year as part of its District Dialogues series. Visit the District Dialogues Event page to view a recording of the Feb. 8 event and explore additional research and resources, including the Voices from the Field digital series featuring interviews with industry leaders from across the Fifth District. The next installment in the District Dialogues series will take place May 12 and will focus on racial wealth disparities. All members of the public are invited to attend.

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