From John Legend to Apprenticeship's John Lennon: A Wrap-up of Talent Forward 2019

October 25, 2019

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Talent Forward 2019 Wrap-Up
© Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Takeaways

Though we shared data about workforce challenges, speakers came armed with solutions producing promising results.
This event was attended by more than 400 forward-thinking, strategic workforce leaders from across the country.

Each year, as the Chamber Foundation hosts the Talent Forward national workforce conference, we focus on talent—educating and training, talent tech and data, recruiting, hiring, and upskilling. With no shortage of talent challenges, the opportunities for informative discussion are endless.

This year, the excitement in the room, which held a sold out crowd, was a direct reflection of the incredible talent we had on stage. Though the panel anchored by singer, songwriter, producer, and activist John Legend, which discussed the Unlocked Futures intiative and the power of an inclusive American workforce, was the most highly anticipated, attendees shared with us that the tangible takeaways they gained from all sessions will keep them busy in their communities as they await an announcement about next year's conference dates. 

Though a day devoted to dissecting talent-related topics could focus solely on discussing problems, Talent Forward is all about the solutions. Yesterday we heard plenty of sobering data about the state of skills training and the various communities and industries still struggling with an ongoing skills gap. But with each data point revealed, it was followed with a call to action, where realistic solutions that are working in one region or another create a model of success that others can bring home to their communities.

Steve Rudolf, from Baptist Health, walked attendees through the process the healthcare industry in Kentucky took to apply Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) strategies to develop the talent pipelines they so desperately needed.

Following that presentation, President of the Chamber Foundation, Carolyn Cawley, and CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management, Abe Eshkenazi, announced the launch of TPM Next, an initiative that will bring that same proven TPM workforce strategy to a digital platform, increasing access for a global audience of employers to identify their talent needs and create education and training solutions for them. 

The TPM story is one of partnership, and it wasn't the only one discussed on stage yesterday. Speakers shared details about the power of partnerships that are already happening and producing promising results. Like in Chicago, where apprenticeship's John Lennon (Daniel Serota, Aon) and Ringo Starr (Robert Hoffman, Accenture) are working on the Chicago Apprenticeship Network, an effort to accelerate and bring to scale high-quality work-based learning programs in Chicago. You can catch the Beatles reference at around the 4:50:00 mark in the recorded webcast. 

Throughout the day, some of the most talked about moments at the conference reception, sponsored by FedEx, were those that included personal stories. We heard about the real-life impacts of both workforce challenges as well as the solutions to them. John Legend and his Unlocked Futures Cohort members Topeka Sam and Will Avila shared about the roads they have traveled from prison to entrepreneur, Goodwill Industries CEO Steve Preston shared a story about Chelsea Rucker who found her way from homeless to a thriving career through the Goodwill career center, and Traci Tapani spoke about her community in Minnesota and the impact interactive learning has made for her employees. 

We also heard about the need for a data and technology infrastructure of the future for the talent marketplace, and we all agreed on the critical ingredients for success: leveraging technology, working collaboratively, and building on effective practices. Lisa Lutz, CEO of SOLID LLC, on the Transforming Technology panel discussed how critical it is for the military community to define credentials and identify the transferable skills and competencies that an experienced member of the military has to help them find their career path after they leave the military. On a different path on the same topic, Ben Pring of Cognizant asked us to consider what type of robot we'd like to be, since they're already here. 

Many speakers added to the discussion about data and technology opportunities by referencing the Job Data Exchange (JDX) and T3 Innovation Network projects. Gayatri Agnew of Walmart spoke of these projects as a step towards closing the communications gap that is keeping talent and skills from being translated between job seeker and employer. 

Over the course of the day, we asked: 

  • What role does technology play to improve how the talent marketplace works to connect people to in-demand jobs?
  • How do we support existing workers to prepare for career advancement opportunities or how do they keep pace with changes in industry? 
  • How do we certify that employers are up to date in their hiring practices based on what someone knows how to do?
  • How do we support companies that recognize the importance of a diverse workforce? And how do they ensure an equitable workforce environment for all of their employees? How do we support fair change hiring?
  • How do we upgrade the finance solutions available to learners?

Our incredible list of moderators from Axios, New Profit, the Chronicle of Higher Education, HR Dive, U.S. News & World Report, Inside Higher Ed, Quartz at Work, and CNN came prepared with the questions they know audiences across the country would like to hear the answers to. They challenged our speakers and in doing so elevated the content our audience received.

A Call to Action

With an audience that flies in from all across the country, we get to hear of innovations on the ground in states like California, Arizona, Kentucky, and Louisiana. We benefit from the insight of companies large and small. We provide an opportunity for our guests to contribute to the conversation and we learn just as much from the questions as we do from the answers.

In a fireside chat, Denis McDonough of the Markle Foundation left the audience with a call to action: let's get to work on the solutions, rather than just trying to frame the problem and figure out who is to blame. 

We had the right people in the room to take action but it’s going to take more than those folks. The recorded webcast is live on the event page and we encourage you to watch. Thinking strategically forward on talent requires a lot of brain power. We are committed to spending the next year learning and hope you’ll continue the journey with us at next year’s conference.  

One last note - last, but not least - this event that brings a national education and workforce audience together for a day of inspiring, educational content and networking would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors, each a dedicated champion of the issues covered at this event.

#TalentForward19