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Learning and Work: Redefining Workforce Development for Impact



During SCUP’s 2022 Annual Conference in Long Beach, I participated in an exciting keynote panel on Learning and Work: Redefining Workforce Development for Impact. The panel included national leaders from private industry, higher education, and the public sector. All the panelists spoke candidly about the need to fundamentally rethink workforce development, address employer talent gaps, and meet employee learning needs. In the Q&A and online comments, many of the participants in the audience expressed genuine surprise at the extent of the challenge and the perceived need for immediate, decisive action.


The session launched with an urgently needed dialogue about the emerging Knowledge, Work, And Learning Ecosystem that is supplanting the traditional, episodic, and reactive workforce training that prevails today. Panelists provided insights on how higher education and industry must rethink workforce development to strengthen communities, provide sustainable employment, and address disparities - social, educational, and economic.


Some key take-aways included the importance of partnerships in the building of the ecosystem linking workforce and learning, where training and career curricula are aligned. To be effective partner in this effort, higher education must unlearn many past assumptions about learning and work and understand how these elements will be fused and transformed in the future.


Panelists described how education lifted people and gave them hope and opportunity, enabling them to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. This requires the difficult work across silos with individuals, communities, and businesses to position learning enterprises—especially community colleges—as leaders for economic prosperity and innovation in their service areas. Another key issue was raised that emphasized the state of crisis in our country's transportation infrastructure and the immediate need to grow a trained and qualified workforce to plan, manage and operate it. Other industries face similar challenges. Finally, the importance of creating career pathways, especially for people of color, and bold ways to lead this initiative were shared—demonstrating ways to take this to scale by leveraging the capabilities and substantial resources of industry.


The dialogue on this topic must continue to seek to address the following:

  1. Consider how work demands constant learning in order for people, businesses, and communities to thrive.

  2. Evaluate issues with current practices and patterns of workforce training and development on the sides of both higher education and industry.

  3. Envision a full workforce development ecosystem that’s agile enough to fill talent pipelines and succession needs as well as improve society.

  4. Define potential new models for workforce development that intertwine industry and education, work and learning in different ways, over work/learning careers spanning many decades.

Our next blog on this topic will explore a number of innovative and future-serving models. These will prove critical in bridging the gaps and inconsistencies between learning and work requirements. They will also help in achieving the potential for impactful workforce development and fulfilling employment experiences and careers.


The video recording of this session is available to conference registrants and ALL SCUP members HERE.