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Policy Implications for Equitable Skills

Employers, education and training providers, and technology partners are turning to skills-based learning and hiring to improve transparency, reduce bias, and increase equity in the talent marketplace. Policy development and experimentation is how they attempt to stay in sync and coordinate their efforts across the local, regional, state, and federal levels. The recent Open Skills Network (OSN) Skills Summit sought to examine the movement and challenges within the policy work begin conducted on the skill-based hiring and learning landscape.

The nature of employment is changing rapidly. There is a growing need to think more broadly about skills-based practices and how to implement them in structural practices to improve processes. OSN seeks to set the foundation to deliver the level of data required to answer core questions that persist in an ever-changing world of technological progress. A world where change has only been intensified by the pandemic. This work seeks to illuminate better the needs of both talent and commerce in the process of skills-based learning and skills-based hiring. It is essential that collaboration and open communication exist as the cornerstone of the partnership of industry, corporate organizations, educational institutions, and government.

Work is underway to address and grow these partnerships on both the federal and state level with the ultimate goal being the expansion of good jobs and economic mobility. Last year, an Executive Order was issued that sought to reassess the educational requirements and assessment practices of hiring for federal jobs. Currently the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology is examining how to build a more equitable economy by recognizing skills-based practices that are worthy of investment. For Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the newly elected Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), the focus rests on state based skill development and training with the with emphasis on moving towards skill-based hiring. The belief is that skills can become the differentiator in an educational and workforce alignment. To that end the NGA announced an expansion of the Workforce Innovation Network, of which Western Governors University is a member. The Executive branches aren’t the only one making strides. The US Congress has seen movement on two bills addressing skills, the Skills Renewal Act and the Skills Investment Act, both of which examine different economic approaches to lessening the financial burden of skill training and development for people.

The challenge in all this policy work is to stay aligned and aware. The OSN seeks to create a space where different parties can dialogue and collaborate on creating a shared skill language via open-sourced skill libraries, experimenting with approaches to designing portable interoperable records of skills, learning history, and work history and to develop trust and understanding in different approaches, best practices, and implementation challenges.

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