Time to ‘Fix’ the Labor Market?

When it comes to evaluating job candidates, a college degree is often an over-used and overrated criterion that screens out otherwise-qualified people from good jobs and contributes to a worsening talent shortage.

So suggests the Rework America Task Force, a new organization that’s got some heavy hitters on its roster, including Siemens USA, Microsoft, IBM and Princeton University and is chaired by former Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Rework America’s stated goal is to “fix America’s broken labor market” by transforming it to a “21st century, skills-driven model.”

“The current labor market fails job seekers, workers and businesses,” says McDonough in a press release announcing the new organization. “Many workers have the skills employers are looking for to fill open positions, but don’t know it because too many job listings are written in a way that excludes qualified job seekers rather than attracting them.”

This includes requiring credentials such as a four-year degree as a proxy, McDonough says, instead of listing the actual skills needed for the job. That’s a problem, he adds, given that nearly seven out of 10 Americans don’t have a four-year degree, although they may possess skills that are actually relevant to the job.

Rework America is based on the Skillful Initiative, a partnership established last year between the state of Colorado and companies such as LinkedIn that helps companies use tools and data to create a skills-based hiring process that lets job candidates demonstrate the skills they can bring to an organization. Microsoft recently donated $25 million to Rework America’s parent organization, The Markle Foundation, to enlarge and expand the Skillful Initiative to another state.

A recent study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte finds that six out of 10 production jobs remain open because of the talent shortage. Given this sad state of affairs, it will be interesting to see whether Rework America’s program can help fill this gap and ensure people with skills can find meaningful work.