Jane Oates


March 17, 2021


As more attention is directed towards reopening our economy, the work of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has become more important than ever. Since 2014, the Chamber Foundation has led the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative to help communities fill skills gaps that exist for in-demand jobs, allowing them to build more robust talent pools. Today, communities in 37 states, D.C. and Canada are using the TPM principles and this network to strengthen their local economies.

The success of TPM led to a critical question—how do we pay for the re-skilling?

Today, individuals self-finance their education while job-searching, relying on private loans and government-secured loans or grants. Thus, individuals bear all the risk while hoping that the skills that they are acquiring will lead to a good job. Unfortunately, with or without a good job, repayment is looming. And, while navigators and coaches from the public workforce system and many non-profits offer guidance and financial help, the reality is with the number of people looking for high-quality reskilling exceeding government and philanthropic funding, most people are on their own.

Moreover, employers need talent immediately and have real concerns about recruiting and retaining the right people. In the historical model, employers have allocated billions of dollars towards tuition assistance programs and offer employees a list of approved educational entities. Now, some employers are beginning to offer employees who are at high risk of being automated out of a job some direction on in-demand skills for new opportunities. For most tuition assistance programs, the response has been less than enthusiastic. Now is the time for a change.

In 2020, the Chamber Foundation began exploring a solution through Talent Finance, examining innovative ways to pay for the skilling of incumbent and prospective workers and imagining what else could be done by employers, government entities, and investors. Out of the examination came a comprehensive white paper, and several interactive sessions, intending to introduce leaders to the evolving structures and receive their feedback. Initial efforts have evolved into a movement educating people and providing a supportive structure for more communities to explore and scale existing solutions and to imagine new ones.

While there are islands of innovation where experimentation with alternative financing methods (e.g., income share agreements, impact bonds, life-long-learning accounts, work-based learning) has begun to scale, we cannot wait for them to filter to the rest of the country. Talent Finance is a movement—a movement to raise awareness, educate, provide an opportunity for the like-minded to interact and learn quickly from one another. The hope of the partners, the Chamber Foundation, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Greater Houston Partnership, WorkingNation, Education Finance Council, and National Association of Workforce Boards, is to provide a place where communities can create and define financing solutions that work for their businesses and workers. The partners are committed to bringing the people who have been leading on these fronts to the attention of those who want to experiment with some new ways of funding. The movement is growing, and we welcome your participation.

Join the Talent Finance movement

About the authors

Jane Oates