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Education to Workforce Talent Development: Virtual Jeffersonian Dinner

November 17, 2020, hosted by:

Jason Palmer, New Markets & Stu Solomon, Connected DMV

How would you answer the question – ‘Take a moment and think back to the first hiring process you participated in, and consider whether it was an equitable process?’ That question was the icebreaker for our virtual, by-invitation-only, dinner held late last year with 20 well-known experts and visionaries in the DMV region (see appendix for list of attendees). While the virtual dinner was scheduled for two hours – from 6:00-8:00 p.m. - this topic resonated so deeply with all of us we continued talking for another 30 minutes and likely would have gone longer if time would have permitted. What follows are the lessons we learned from each other in our conversation, along with external research, and excerpts and quotes from the conversation.

LESSON ONE: There is a need for an evidenced-based selection process for equitable hiring practices.

While we imagine and hope hiring processes will be equitable and thorough -- where employers are looking at the skills and competencies of applicants over brand names, personal connections, gender and race -- we found that process to be more of a future dream than a current reality. As is true for many of us, the hiring experiences we shared were based on who you know and not what you know, decided by one person rather than a committee, determined by total chance of being at the right place at the right time, and/or influenced by unconscious bias or subtle cues. Said best, “people who have developed the right mental and emotional skills have been ignored by employers due to too many ‘violins’ and not enough ‘oboes’.”

While hiring practices have evolved over time, and HR policies and practices have advanced with more detailed job descriptions, skills tests, and reference checks, research shows the actual process for hiring is still based less on facts and more on intuition. In fact, The Undercover Recruiter, reported that over 33% of bosses know in 90 seconds if they will hire a person. Peter Cappelli’s article in Harvard Business Review titled Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong suggests that data science will be the future of hiring practices and will eliminate much of the unconscious bias of the process. As evidence, he notes that “Goldman Sachs has revamped its process for entry-level recruiting to include first-round interviews by asynchronous video, doubling the percentage of applicants who get a first-round interview and leveling the playing field between graduates of various colleges.” The outcome is a fairer, more inclusive, and a more efficient process resulting in the firm’s most diverse entry-level offers.

As one participant noted, due to the coronavirus, employers seeking to hire will be met by an historically large population of unemployed workers, opening the opportunity to rethink hiring practices and establish more productive and equitable workplaces moving forward. Our brilliant policy wonks provided insights into the policy changes needed to modernize benefits and prioritize equitable hiring and human capital development to create the right incentives for educators and employers and the right environment for applicants.

LESSON TWO: Successful future learning pathways must have deep partnerships across the entire ecosystem – K12, post-secondary education providers, employers, industry associations, students, government and non-profit intermediaries – to translate into quality job outcomes.

Advances in technology have changed how knowledge is acquired. As recently as 1960, most employees stayed with their first company for 20 years and needed to be upskilled once or twice in their lifetime before retirement. Fast forward to today, most employees will have four jobs within ten years and according to experts at IBM, new technologies require regular upskilling of employees every year to ensure productivity in the workplace. These developments have led to a resurgence and focus on the T-shaped learner where skills and competencies that are transferable from industry to industry are now paramount to job security as more jobs become automated and new jobs are developed.

Life-long learning is the new model. Yet the gap is growing where supply of talent does not match workforce demand, in large part due to a breakdown between ecosystem partners talking with each other to create one taxonomy that all stakeholders can understand. To quote one participant, “To succeed in solving complex education to workforce issues, we need to include educators, employers, government, and non-profits into the same conversation.”

As an option, one participant noted that Switzerland has a nearly opposite model than the United States, where experience is needed in order to go to college to ensure students are majoring in disciplines that they like and can be successful. “Work-based learning” could be a new model of education. “It is unfair to people who did not grow up with the adequate resources to learn how to perform in corporate America from day one. And It is hard and expensive for employers to have patience for their talent to develop and grow. Maybe philanthropic or workforce development programs could think about this as core to their strategies.” This led to a discussion around the need for a regional approach to improve education to workforce pathways where supply of trained talent within the region matches the workforce demand of local jobs so that employers in the DMV region do not need to bring in outside talent due to the lack of skilled labor within the region. We need to train our talent for the betterment of the region, to grow our economy and to improve social equity.

LESSON THREE: Philanthropic leaders can work together to fund regional intermediaries on carefully defined place-based initiatives that accelerate social equity and job growth for the under-served and provide accountability to the region.

One of the most powerful and poignant quotes of the evening was “We can’t train our way into equity” which can be traced back to a conversation with Tameshia Bridges Mansfield at the Kellogg and worth repeating. It serves as a guiding principle to remember that we must focus on both training and racial equity to make progress for job-seekers and workers who are not making a living wage. There needs to be an accountability mechanism in place to ensure the ecosystem meets well-defined goals on the path to equity. While funder strategies are often purposeful and focused on specific needs, the challenge is the episodic and siloed approach to the systemic issues that impede progress for marginalized populations.

Despite all of the good work that is funded in regional pockets, regions still suffer, and the metrics are not moving in favor of the poor and working classes. Marginalized populations experience multiple challenges simultaneously that mirror Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – lack of food, housing, finances, jobs, transportation, etc. Episodic efforts, while heartfelt, are rarely going to succeed in the long term and will fail to have multi-generational impact. As an example, the Greater Washington region, despite its wealth and resources, is next to last in key metrics that demonstrate economic prosperity and social equity with evidence of a widening digital divide. For example, according to Brookings Institute study on metro areas, of the 53 largest metro regions, the DMV region ranked nearly last – 52nd – in diversity and inclusion. This is largely due to lack of regional delivery capability or authority, limited regional metrics, and over-reliance on the federal government for jobs and stability.

This group of experts agreed to have real impact in regionally based solutions, the Greater Washington area “needs an ecosystem map of players and initiatives in the area to clarify roles, goals, and accountabilities, plus find the missed connections or competition”. The DMV area also needs a regional agent and authority to establish clear goals, develop common taxonomies and metrics of success, and prioritize initiatives to keep industry, government, and education accountable. It has to be purposeful and focused. The group aligned on the benefits of using a regional intermediary to provide economy of scale, optimization of philanthropic funds, accountability to outcomes, delivery of regional capability, and to reduce government burdens. Partnerships with government, academic, industry, and non-profit agencies across jurisdictions are required to effect change, to deliver equity, build resilience, and accelerate job growth. “It takes a village” was heard more than once since no one agency can do this single-handedly.

We plan on continuing this conversation to develop solutions that produce tangible results within the DMV region. If you want to be a part of the next virtual dinner, please contact Sarah Bauder at

Participant List

In Partnership with Connected DMV and New Markets Venture Partners

Allison Gerber

Senior program officer for education, employment & training at the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is aimed at helping low-income families and young people develop the experiences, skills and networks needed to succeed in today's economy.

Amy Laitinen

Director for Higher Education at New America

New America focuses on federal policies to increase quality and transparency in higher education as well as the politics of higher education reform.

Angela Jackson

Founding Member at Chief

Partner at New Profit

Chief is a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there. Chief is the only organization specifically designed for senior women leaders to strengthen their leadership journey, cross-pollinate ideas across industries, and effect change from the top-down.

Charles Redman

Vice President at Venture Philanthropy Partners

Passionate about taking skills, learnings and capabilities from the private sector and figuring out ways to make those things work for people who they have not historically worked for before.

Danette (Gerald) Howard

Chief Policy Officer and Senior Vice President at Lumina Foundation

Lumina is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all with a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials.

Janet Salm

Managing Director, Strada Institute for the Future of Work

Strada’s mission is to ensure that Americans gain the workplace skills they need to launch meaningful careers. Strada Institute advances our understanding of the changing nature of work, so that we can design and create the learning ecosystem of the future.

Jason Palmer

General Partner at New Markets Venture Partners

New Markets is one of America's leading education-focused venture capital firms. As a double-bottom line investor, we focus on innovative, high impact, early and growth stage edtech and workforce startups that improve people-centered outcomes while building profitable organizations.

Jason Tyszko

Vice President, Center for Education and Workforce

Chamber of Commerce

Through events, publications, and policy initiatives, the Center for Education and Workforce—in partnership with Chamber members and business leadership seeks to cultivate and develop innovate thinking that spurs action to preserve America’s competitiveness and enhance the career readiness of youth and adult learners.

Jennie Niles

President & CEO at CityWorks DC

CityWorks DC is a new non-profit venture incubated by CityBridge Education, whose mission is to reshape education to employment pathways in Washington, DC so that more young people are equipped with the “social mobilitiy trifecta” 1) paid, relevant work experience, 2) valuable certifications and credentials, and 3) a supportive professional network

Joe Del Guercio

President and CEO at the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation

The Clark Charitable Foundation supports organizations and programs that have proven effectiveness, strong leadership, and growth potential in our core areas of focus:- Engineering programs, with a focus on undergraduate scholarships- Veterans organizations- Underserved communities in the DC region, with a focus on education, particularly STEM education

Jonathan Finkelstein

Founder & CEO at Credly

Credly is helping the world speak a common language about people’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. Credly helps individuals translate their learning experiences into professional opportunities using trusted, portable, digital credentials. Credly empowers organizations to attract, engage, develop, and retain talent.

Kathleen deLaski

Founder at Education Design Lab

The Lab is helping universities and other learning institutions design new models of education to harness technology, learning science and changing views about traditional degrees. We use design challenges, rapid prototyping and lean startup tools to map and pilot the future with partners ranging from the White House to edtech startups to large universities.

Kristina Francis

Founder and CEO Esteem Logic

Esteem Logic is an IT Consulting and Advisory firm that implements sustainable workforce and business solutions to ensure organizations optimize growth and engagement.

Michael Simpson

Founder, CEO, Coach PAIRIN

PAIRIN’s mission is to make everyone’s journey personally relevant and equitable. PAIRIN unifies the essential content and resources provided by regional workforce, government and educational organizations into one integrated platform designed for and around the user. PAIRIN’s science-based technology and personalized approach ensures the success of clients’ programs, and the success of people in their communities.

Rahim S. Rajan

Deputy Director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

BMGF is focused on innovating and scaling high impact solutions in higher education (e.g. high quality digital learning, developmental education, technology enabled advising and integrated advising) to dramatically close equity gaps and accelerate the positive transformation of colleges and universities.

Sarah Bauder

Vice President for Development Connected DMV

Connected DMV is a non-profit regional collaboration across the DMV. Its participants include local jurisdictions, federal agencies, industry, community, and academia who work together to advance the region's top opportunities.

Silas Horst

Program Officer, Poverty at Stand Together

Stand Together tackles the issues that matter most. The Stand Together community is uniting people to drive solutions forward on issues such as education, poverty, criminal justice, immigration, and economic opportunity to name a few.

Stu Solomon

President & CEO, Connected DMV

Connected DMV is a non-profit regional collaboration across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia--the DMV. Its participants include local jurisdictions, federal agencies, industry, community, and academia who work together to advance the region's top opportunities, generate economic


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