Alicia Sondberg Alicia Sondberg
Associate Manager, Digital Marketing and Communications


October 26, 2023


In the ever-changing landscape of the modern workforce, one key factor has emerged as the linchpin of success: talent. As companies strive to stay competitive, their ability to source, develop, and retain talent has become critical to their prosperity.  

At Talent Forward, we discussed the complex issues surrounding talent development in the current economy and the groundbreaking strategies that are reshaping the way we prepare individuals for the jobs of the future. This pathway entails quality education connected to careers, employer-led workforce development, modern workforce data, and a larger talent pool.  

From leveraging cutting-edge technologies to ensuring childcare benefits for every worker, several pivotal themes surfaced throughout the day.

Invest in Technology-Enabled Learning and Training Models

Skills training through virtual reality and AI-enhanced coaching tools are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to utilizing emerging technology to make education more accessible and scalable. Attendees at Talent Forward had the opportunity to witness firsthand the transformative potential of this technology in reshaping skill mastery and career training through the virtual reality headsets provided by Transfr, Inc. in the Networking Experience Hall. 

Later in the day, during a session titled “Reskilling and Retraining Alongside Emerging Technologies,” the founder and CEO of Transfr Bharani Rajakumar emphasized to the audience the impending impact of this technology on the workforce. Drawing upon a report from Morgan Stanley, he noted predictions that AI would influence over 40% of the labor force in a mere three years.  

However, the technology itself is only half of the equation. During their main stage session, co-authors of AI for the Rest of UsBeth Rudden and Phaedra Boinodiris emphasized how crucial it is to develop confidence in AI, and that the people behind AI models are just as important as their application. A diverse, multidisciplinary team is essential to build AI models that truly understand and cater to varying populations. Such thoroughness ensures AI tools are not only effective but could also play a key role in assisting individuals to find suitable employment opportunities based on their skills and growth areas. 

“The promise of AI is hyper-personalization, but we have to change how we look at artificial intelligence, and we have to show the world that we need to see the sources that are being used in order to train it.” — Beth Rudden, CEO and Chairwoman, Bast AI

The U.S. Chamber Foundation is working with IBM’s Open Innovation Community to assess the potential risks of AI models in the workplace.

Champion Skills-Based Hiring and Advancement

For businesses looking to stay ahead of the curve and individuals seeking to showcase their full potential, a skill-based approach to hiring offers promise, opportunity, and growth for all parties.  

President of American Student Assistance Jean Eddy pointed out the collective need for business leaders to "do a better job removing the stigma from non-degree pathways," because when companies look beyond traditional four-year degrees, they can expand talent pools and allow workers to open more doors to meaningful careers.  

Similar sentiments were echoed by Clayton Lord, director of foundation programs at SHRM, who noted the next step is to empower companies—particularly small and midsize businesses—to improve the hiring process. Shifting to a skills-based mindset requires changing company culture, retraining hiring managers, and rethinking how we source talent.  

“That's what we all have to start doing: stop looking at this piece of paper and start looking at them as a human” — Dane Linn, Senior Vice President, Business Roundtable 

The U.S. Chamber Foundation, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and Business Roundtable are joining forces to scale up skills-based hiring practices across the country.

Cultivate "Human Skills" That Complement Technology

While technology is molding the nature of occupations, human skills remain indispensable. Fernando Rodriguez-Villa, CEO and co-founder of AdeptID, aptly noted that as routine tasks increasingly become automated, those skills which are distinctly human—creativity, empathy, and problem-solving—will be in even greater demand in the labor market. 

However, nurturing these human skills presents challenges. Today's students, especially younger ones, have been profoundly affected by non-traditional schooling during the pandemic. Maya Martin Cadogan, founder and executive director of PAVE, cautions against a "one-size-fits-all" approach to education, emphasizing the unique qualities and needs of every community. Public-private partnerships bear the responsibility of bridging these gaps and establishing sustainable talent pipelines for students. 

“Here is where you see a big push around … apprenticeship. It’s hard to just learn those [skills] in a classroom… it's a different thing to go on the job, sit with someone who's done this before, learn in real-time, screw up, and learn.” — Chike Aguh, Former Chief Innovation Officer, U.S. Department of Labor

Initiatives like the National STEM Challenge are making headway in this direction, as explained by co-director Kari Byron. By linking students to tangible examples and professionals, work-based learning programs have the potential to ignite passion and guide young minds toward a fulfilling future career path.

Kari Byron, former host of MythBusters and co-founder of EXLPR Media, shares the stage with Chike Aguh (U.S. Department of Labor) and John Bailey (AEI/Walton Family Foundation).
Kari Byron, former host of MythBusters and co-founder of EXLPR Media, shares the stage with Chike Aguh (U.S. Department of Labor) and John Bailey (AEI/Walton Family Foundation).

Support Working Parents with Childcare Benefits

Lack of access to affordable childcare prevents many skilled workers from remaining in the workforce. In fact, Hugh Welsh, president of dsm-firmenich North America, cites childcare as a “headwind to economic growth in the United States” during a panel discussion titled ‘Companies Fixing the Childcare Crisis in Their Communities.’ 

Alex Grover, president of manufacturing company i2m, summarizes the dilemma with examples from her own work: "When it comes to thinking about these challenges, I think it can really be summed up with one word, which is hours. My plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week ... unfortunately, most childcare facilities are designed for people who work 9 to 5.” Part of i2m’s solution is partnering with community providers to offer flexible childcare options for all employees, including subsidized rates and extended hours for later pickups.  

Childcare benefits are more than just a nicety; they're a necessity. They enable more parents to participate in the workforce and are a vital component of a benefits package that prioritizes the holistic well-being of employees and their families. 

Explore more ways to support working parents with the U.S. Chamber Foundation's childcare roadmap for employers.

From L to R: Sara McLeod (Whirlpool Corporation), Hugh Welsh (dsm-firmenich), Alex Grover (i2m), and Eleanor Mueller (POLITICO) speak on childcare during a panel at Talent Forward on October 4, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
From L to R: Sara McLeod (Whirlpool Corporation), Hugh Welsh (dsm-firmenich), Alex Grover (i2m), and Eleanor Mueller (POLITICO) speak on childcare during a panel at Talent Forward on October 4, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Mobilize the Business Community

Two examples of inspirational corporate leadership came from hospitality giant Marriott International and professional services firm Accenture, who each showcased how they harness their resources for positive impact.  

During a fireside chat with U.S. Chamber Foundation President Carolyn Cawley, Chairman David Marriott detailed how his family’s company cultivates talent internally, anchored by its longstanding "people-first" values. By offering frontline staff the chance to rise to executive positions, Marriott not only retains institutional knowledge but also empowers its employees. Their core philosophy centers on supporting employees so they, in turn, can serve customers effectively. 

“If you take good care of your associates, they'll take good care of your customers, and those customers will come back." — David Marriott, Chairman of the Board, Marriott International 

Later in the day, Accenture CEO Manish Sharmatook the stage alongside Goodwill Industries International CEO Steven C. Preston to announce a trailblazing partnership with the launch of a new workforce training program called the Goodwill Clean Tech Accelerator™

This partnership aims to address the looming demand in the cleantech sector, as around 9 million energy jobs are anticipated to be created in the next decade. Through this initiative, both parties set the goal to fill 7,000 jobs over the next seven years. 

Accenture CEO Manish Sharma (left) and Goodwill Industries International CEO Steven C. Preston (right).
Accenture CEO Manish Sharma (left) and Goodwill Industries International CEO Steven C. Preston (right).

Corporations, regardless of their size, are uniquely positioned to offer real-time insights into the skills currently in demand. They play a crucial role in ensuring that training programs remain relevant and are in line with both current and future job specifications.  

Talent Forward 2023 underscored the imperative for the business community to be more engaged partners, challenge the status quo, and move education and workforce initiatives forward.  

 To view all the sessions, visit our YouTube

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s workforce portfolio reflects our dedication to pursuing solutions that ensure learners and workers have the right skills and experiences for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and the economy has the workforce it needs to compete and grow.

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About the authors

Alicia Sondberg

Alicia Sondberg

Alicia Sondberg is the associate manager of communications and digital marketing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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