A call to action: Upskilling can’t happen in a bubble

A conversation with Kristen Titus, executive director, Cognizant U.S. Foundation

Changes in the workforce are accelerating faster than expected, fueled partly by the emergence of the COVID-19 global pandemic. A new study from the World Economic Forum forecasts that by 2025, 50% of the world’s employees will need reskilling.

According to the study released last month:

  • 43% of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration
  • 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialized work
  • 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration

We’re no longer talking about the future of work—what’s ahead tomorrow—we’re talking about jobs and careers today. So, how do we build the workforce of today and tomorrow across the country? How do we make certain that the workforce is more representative of the makeup of our country?

The Cognizant U.S. Foundation is working to close the technical skills gap and ensure everyone—regardless of age, income, or background—has the skills needed for these evolving jobs. Since 2018, the nonprofit has invested over $50 million in technology education, workforce development efforts, and research and thought leadership to address the issue.

Foundation executive director Kristen Titus is my guest this week on the Work in Progress podcast. The organization partners with employers, educators, policymakers and thought leaders to identify workforce needs and develop actionable solutions to close the technical skills gap.

“This is really a call to action for every education and workforce provider, every employer, philanthropy, policy makers,” says Titus. “If we are to succeed in this work, we have to bring together a group of very diverse stakeholders. It’s one of the very few issues that requires at the table employers, policy makers, who set targets around workforce investments, training investments, set policy for both workforce and education efforts at the state and local levels, education of workforce institutions, every two and four year institution, the K-12 system together with those who are on the ground doing this work.”

The Foundation is the nonprofit arm of Cognizant, a Fortune 200 technology service company that helps prepare its clients for the future of work. “It’s from that view that we have this really unique perspective on what the jobs are, where the jobs are, what the requirements for those jobs are, how we effectively realign education and training landscape across this country to prepare everyone for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” she tells me.

Titus says “you can invest in a pipeline, you can build new pathways into jobs, but none of this will ever be sustainable and will ever truly happen at scale unless we drive systems change in parallel.”

We talk a lot about how we accomplish this sea change and she is in agreement with an idea that has proven to be effective. “One of the things that we know is absolutely true, is workforce is truly localized,” explains Titus. “In order to solve this problem, we need to go deep in markets where workers, employers are and location by location, define what those jobs are, what the requirements for those jobs are, and work with employers and workforce institutions to align those two things.”

We go in-depth into solutions. I think you’ll enjoy the insight and perspective Titus brings to the conversation. You can listen to the full interview here, or find us wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 155: Kristen Titus, Executive Director, Cognizant U.S. Foundation
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts