As we begin to recover from one of our nation’s greatest crises, it’s time to rethink the way we finance worker upskilling to meet the future of work. For all of the confident predictions we see about the future of work, the humbling reality is that there’s real uncertainty. America faced declining economic mobility and a growing skills mismatch before the pandemic; as the economy transforms, that uncertainty grows. With it comes financial risk: We—students, employers, public workforce developers, our collective society—don’t always know which investments will pay off.
Students bear nearly all the risk that comes with pursuing postsecondary education and career training. Even if a good job doesn’t come through, the student debt remains. Governments, similarly, take on nearly all of the risk of their workforce programs. They draw public funds, pick local programs that they hope will be effective, and bet that those programs will lead to better wages for participants, a stronger local economy, and more equitable wealth distribution. Programs are rarely evaluated carefully, so when they succeed, we often don’t know. When they fail, we pay for them anyway.
Achieving the twin objectives of advancing economic opportunities for workers and meeting the talent needs of the economy requires us to rewire the workforce system—rebalancing risk and realigning financial incentives.
That’s what this book is about. Produced by Social Finance and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Philadelphia, Workforce Realigned highlights the emergence of a new breed of cross-sectoral partnerships, characterized by shared and carefully apportioned financial risks and incentives; mutual accountability; and empowered, interconnected governance.
The 19 case studies and nascent ideas featured in this book reconceptualize the talent development engine that keeps our economy running. They demonstrate better ways to share accountability and risk across sectors—driven by outcomes-based partnerships among policymakers, education and training providers, employers, nonprofits, philanthropists, and impact investors. At the core of each case are results: measuring progress, optimizing delivery, and paying for outcomes.
Workforce Realigned illustrates a range of tools to rethink how we fund and finance the future of work. We need to create more aligned incentives for programs to ensure that those who are powering our economy are able to share in its growth. In doing so, we can lay the foundation for a more adaptive system ready to meet the continually changing economy.
We hope you’ll join us for the National Launch Event of Workforce Realigned on June 3 from 12:30-2:00pm ET, which will feature a conversation with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, and Social Finance CEO Tracy Palandjian. The virtual event—hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta—will include remarks from its President and CEO Raphael Bostic, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, and Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President and CEO Patrick Harker. Register here >>
You can also listen to the accompanying Workforce Realigned podcast series, which offers innovative ideas about how to reboot economic mobility in America. Featuring guests like former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and former Governor Deval Patrick, the podcast shares cases from across the country and is aimed at a broad audience including policymakers, employers, and training providers. Listen here >>
We invite you to reflect upon how the cases presented in this book might relate to the needs of your communities and your organizations; to connect with us for support, resources, and ideas; and to act.