Dawn Karber Dawn Karber
Director, SkillsFWD
Madelyn Rahn Madelyn Rahn
Network Manager, SkillsFWD


January 19, 2024


More than 70 million adults in the United States are skilled through community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning, rather than through a bachelor’s degree. Fueled by an intensely competitive job market, employers are beginning to adapt their hiring practices to reach this underutilized talent pool — between 2017 and 2019, employers removed degree requirements from nearly half of middle-skill jobs and a third of high-skills jobs.

Learning and employment records (LERs) could play a critical role in advancing skills-based hiring practices and ensuring they are implemented equitably. LERs are digital records of an individual’s formal and informal learning and employment and can be used to represent diverse experiences on the job or inside the classroom.

But there are critical challenges that need to be solved to encourage the widespread adoption of LERs across diverse stakeholders, including employers, learners and workers, education and training providers, and policymakers. That’s where SkillsFWD comes in. 

SkillsFWD is a new initiative on a mission to catalyze a more equitable skills-based hiring ecosystem. This month, the initiative announced inaugural grants to fund projects solving challenges around LERs. Each project will bring together cross-industry stakeholders to build upon existing tools and systems and demonstrate how to make LERs scalable. The six grant-winning teams will spearhead diverse projects across the country, generating replicable models and sharing original learnings and insights.


  • Accelerate Montana's Validated Skills will pilot statewide adoption of LERs among employers of all sizes in the construction trades and technology industries across urban, rural, and tribal communities.
  • The Alabama Talent Triad,supported by C-BEN, will leverage its comprehensive skills-based talent marketplace — which uses the lifecycle of LERs to connect job-seekers to employment and education opportunities — to scale state-wide pathways from entry credentials to middle skills jobs across four industries.
  • The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio’s project, called the Central Ohio Talent Network — powered by SchooLinks, a market-leading college and career readiness platform — leverages SchooLinks’ work-based learning solution to power new modes of early career talent and employer matching at scale via LERs.
  • The Colorado Workforce Development Council’s ColoradoFWD project will leverage LERs to efficiently match skills and talent to opportunity, promote economic mobility, and empower learners and earners in order to address urgent direct care and behavioral healthcare talent shortages.
  • Arizona State University’s project, Student Worker Employment for Skills-Based Success, will empower students seeking work to gain meaningful student employment through a scalable LER-driven job marketplace while reducing barriers to hiring for employers.
  • Led by the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy, Scaling the Skills-Based Workforce System in CT will strategically expand the state’s skills-based hiring ecosystem, leveraging LERs to bridge the skills gap, foster equitable and effective employment practices, and set a scalable model for nationwide, demand-driven workforce development.

LERs have the potential to transform the landscape of workforce and economic development, but there is still a gap between the existence of these records and their adoption and use by individuals and employers. SkillsFWD grantees will drive meaningful and measurable change to ensure that every individual's unique learning journey is recognized and valued.

Looking ahead, SkillsFWD will serve not only as a funder but as a facilitator, working with ecosystem leaders like the T3 Innovation Network to bring together diverse voices and ideas to advance skills-based hiring and help create an LER ecosystem that works for everyone. Learn more at skillsfwd.org.

About the authors

Dawn Karber

Dawn Karber

Dawn Karber is director of SkillsFWD and owner/operator of Talent Growth Group, LLC.

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Madelyn Rahn

Madelyn Rahn

Madelyn Rahn is Network Manager at SkillsFWD, where she focuses on the intersection of technology, and workforce development policy.

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