Skills and opportunity pathways: Building an inclusive workforce for the future

Young adults working

Artificial intelligence and emerging technologies have enabled automation to scale and pose legitimate workforce threats. However, these innovations are creating new jobs and recreating old ones that together shape the building blocks of a future workforce. This dynamic opportunity engine is driven in large part by a fast expanding innovation ecosystem that combines a bevy of thriving, scaling, and nascent startups and their emerging workforce needs.

As the geography of innovation continues to evolve, the signals emerging from innovation clusters around the country provide crucial opportunity signals that policymakers should harness rather than ignore. Intriguing horizon workforce opportunities, for example, are embedded within this dynamic tapestry of startups and job creation. However, deliberate policies are required to ensure that underrepresented groups are fully included.

The U.S. must consider what innovation and new jobs mean for marginalized groups as innovation changes employers’ demands for workforce talent and shapes the geography where new opportunities are most likely to emerge.

This report presents a framework that engages education policymakers and workforce planners in innovative ways. It assesses the scale and breadth of emerging trends across local job markets and intersects these data with regional innovation hubs to enhance the capacity of policymakers to design data-driven policies tailored to the strengths of individual ecosystems. Highlights include discussion of:

  • New innovation cities: New innovation cities are making a grand entrance on the innovation hub scene and offer promising opportunities for startup pipelines and new job creation.
  • Skill combinations and transferability: Innovation jobs and the skills required of an innovation workforce will be markedly different from those of the past. Employers are in the market for a combination of foundational STEM and tech-specific skills along with non-STEM skills, the portability of which offers workers opportunities to enrich their skill portfolios without starting over.
  • New policy lenses: Increasing visibility into skill portability opens new policy lenses for identifying skill-based entry points and meaningful pathway progressions to quality jobs.
  • Targeted interventions: Solving the STEM pipeline problem requires a multi-pronged approach to level the playing field, including shifting from generic STEM policies toward targeted interventions.

The report, “Skills and Opportunity Pathways: Building an Inclusive Workforce for the Future,” is available for download here.