Learning is a lifelong endeavor. Regardless of age, we all must keep our skills current as we venture into the future together. WorkingNation will be at SXSW EDU in Austin once again this year, examining the barriers and discussing opportunities in work and education, so we can all stay ahead of them at school, at work, and in life. The future has arrived, and we’ll be discussing ways individuals, schools, and employers can address the disruption that change inevitably brings. 

There’s a Lot to Talk About

We love the way SXSW EDU describes itself. “We believe that education has the power to inspire, elevate, and change the future. We bring together the learner, the practitioner, the entrepreneur, and the visionary to share their groundbreaking stories, tackle complex issues, and build reimagined paths forward. It is this unfettered, inspired and passionate community that will collectively create a new tomorrow for learners everywhere and drive impact.”

We couldn’t have said it any better and we’re honored to be a media partner for this great conference for a fourth year in a row. Our team has pulled together four great sessions, touching on a wide range of workforce and education issues.

If you’re attending in person, we hope you stop by one or more of these discussions.

Don’t Leave Older Workers Out of the Jobs Recovery

The majority of the long-term unemployed are over the age of 45. A majority of hiring managers admit hesitating when it comes to hiring an older worker, fearing they are not tech-adaptable or might not fit into the work culture. Conversely, they say the older workers already on the job are valued employees. So, where does that leave mid-career workers trying to find a new job in the post-pandemic workforce? Let’s address this age bias directly and examine what’s being done to correct it. 

WorkingNation editor-in-chief Ramona Schindelheim will be hosting this panel of insightful and passionate leaders in an examination of this important issue. Joining her on stage will be Jean Accius, senior vice president of global thought leadership at AARP; Wendi Safstrom, president of SHRM Foundation; Maria Heidkamp, director of program development and senior researcher, at the Heldrich Center at Rutgers University.

When and where: Monday, 3/7, 5 p.m. CT, Room 18AB, Austin Convention Center 

Learn-and-Earn: A Proven Workforce Model

Employer-driven programs work. Apprenticeships work. Employers work with community colleges to set a curriculum that will teach skills needed in local businesses through a combination of classroom and on-the-job learning. And, the students are paid for the work they do while gaining valuable skills. Using this model, communities across the country can develop a much-needed, skilled workforce, leading to jobs that employers need to fill.

The panel will be moderated by WorkingNation president Jane Oates. She’ll be joined by Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation; Lydia Logan, global vice president of education and workforce development at IBM; and Kennon Harrison, vice president of workforce partnerships at Revature

When and where: Tuesday, 3/8, 11 a.m. CT, Salon H, Hilton Austin Downtown

Closing the Hispanic Digital Skills Gap

Latino workers are 14% of overall workers, but represent 35% of workers with no digital skills and 20% of those with limited digital skills. Digital skills are crucial to obtaining gainful employment and resources to support their families.

We talk to leaders from various organizations providing training and education to close this skills gap and help the community thrive, including Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of Hispanic Federation, Hector Mujica, economic opportunity lead for the Americas at; and Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. Our panel will be moderated by John-Carlos Estrada, anchor at CBS Austin.

Where and when: Wednesday, 3/09, 5 p.m. CT, Room 18AB, Austin Convention Center

Building Innovation Hubs Outside of Silicon Valley

The great 2020 migration from larger metro areas to more-affordable and less-populated cities and towns has created an opportunity for many of these mid-size and smaller communities to become tech innovation and entrepreneurial hubs of the future. Local businesses, civic leaders, foundations, and educators are teaming up to foster new tech-centric economies that will unleash new employment opportunities for all and encourage small business creation.

This panel will be moderated by award-winning journalist Hari Sreenivasan, senior correspondent and weekend anchor for PBS Newshour. Our panel includes Miami Mayor Francis Suarez; Nicholas Lalla, co-founder and managing director for Tulsa Innovation Labs; and Patrick McKenna, founder of One America Works.

Where and when: Thursday, 3/10, 9:30 a.m. CT, Salon C, Hilton Austin Downtown

Work in Progress – Live!

WorkingNation’s editor-in-chief, Ramona Schindelheim, will be recording an episode of the podcast Work in Progress live at SXSW EDU, and all attendees of the conference are invited to watch it live on Tuesday, March 8, 12:30-1:30 p.m., in room 406 of the Hilton Austin Downtown. The session, entitled Expanding Career Opportunities in Tech, will be part of a series presented by Cognizant Foundation.

Why “expanding opportunities”? It’s no secret that the tech industry has a diversity problem. However, there are programs and initiatives successfully working to break down the barriers that have historically excluded people from underrepresented groups from the sector. This session will explore some of these innovative pathways and feature a conversation with young adults who have completed industry-aligned training and are now at the start of their career in tech.

Ramona will interview Maria Contreras, a Code2College alumnus who worked as a paid intern at Indeed while still in high school, Sage Lee, a Turing School alumnus who became a paid apprentice at Handshake before moving on to other roles, and Kate Nichols, an Ada Developers Academy alumnus who worked as a paid intern at Zulily at the start of her career in tech.

WorkingNation Overheard

If you can’t be there in person, there will a chance to catch some of the conversation through our WorkingNation Overheard social media interview series.

Over the past three years, we’ve interviewed CEOs, top educators, state and local leaders, and heads of nonprofits at major conferences around the country. And this year, our multimedia team will be in Austin to record what key thought leaders have to say about the future of education, the future of work, and the future of workers – and we’ll share their thoughts with you. Look for it at or follow the hashtag #WorkingNationOverheard on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Hope to see you in Austin! If not, we’ll see you on social!

Michael James is WorkingNation’s Senior Editorial Producer, Social Media.