WIP Andy Van Kleunen (1)

‘We have a labor market desperate for skilled people’

A conversation with Andy Van Kleunen, National Skills Coalition founder and CEO

In this episode of Work in Progress, I am joined by Andy Van Kleunen, founder and CEO of the National Skills Coalition. We sat down in the “Bucky Dome” on the Aspen Institute campus at the Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss what is being done to upskill workers to fill the 10.1 million open jobs across the country.

Since 2000, the National Skills Coalition (NSC) has been advocating for what it describes as “a national commitment to inclusive, high-quality skills training so that more people have access to a better life, and more local businesses see sustained growth.”

Founder and CEO Andy Van Kleunen explains that the NSC was created as a reaction to what was happening in federal policy at the time. “There was kind of a bipartisan decision that training didn’t matter for low-income folks or folks who’d been laid off from their jobs or young people who were just out of high school.”

23 years into the mission, he says, he believes that there is a consensus that training is integral to economic mobility and prosperity.

Here is some of what he told me:

“I think there’s bipartisan agreement. The dynamic around why it is that we, as a country, should be investing in working people and why we should be looking particularly at folks who are not in that traditional high school-to-college full-time pipeline has changed dramatically.

“We have a labor market that is desperate for skilled people to fill a bunch of open jobs. Even coming out of recession, we still have shortages of skilled workers in really key industries. Now, it’s just a matter of getting some consensus about what government can be doing in partnership with industry and education trading providers to provide that.

“It’s not that the private sector doesn’t understand that we need to be investing in training in order to stay ahead of the tech logical curve. We need to get industry to start to invest in some of the folks at their entry levels because those are skilled jobs as well. Those jobs are becoming increasingly skilled, becoming increasingly digital.

“92% of the jobs today have some either explicit or implicit digital skill requirement. That’s basically every job in the economy. We are not investing in every worker to be able to be ready for all of those jobs. And I think industry needs to take that seriously and start to think about how to invest in their entry level and mid-level workers to help keep them ahead of the curve. And then government needs to do its part to make sure that we’re building a pipeline of folks who can move into those jobs.

“We’re going to have a whole $3 trillion worth of federal investment that’s going to be going into communities to finally rebuild our infrastructure in a number of different ways, which is going to create even more skilled jobs. I think everybody recognizes we’ve got a challenge and that we need to do something about it.”

Van Kleunen offers more specifics on these and many other aspects of the ongoing efforts – and opportunities – to upskill workers for good, family-sustaining jobs in today’s workforce.

You can listen to the full podcast here, or find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 278: Andy Van Kleunen, Founder & CEO, National Skills Coalition
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts

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