The Job: Preparing Amid Uncertainty

Big Tech will share more about AI’s impact on jobs, while a new college council seeks equitable AI.

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A new consortium of major tech companies will share how AI is changing their workforces and occupations in tech. Also, a student success group wants to make sure lower-income students aren’t left behind on AI, and a new index aims to help states tighten connections between education and work.

Understanding AI’s Impacts on Jobs

Educators may feel like they’re flying blind as they prepare for the impacts of artificial intelligence. Despite all the noise about the technology, useful intel is hard to find on its promise for students, and potential pitfalls.

Determining how jobs will change is particularly difficult. Colleges and other education providers are relying mostly on fast-changing speculation as they seek to embed AI skills in education and training programs. And wealthy universities no doubt have access to better information than do community colleges or other institutions that serve low-income students.

“We don’t know where it’s going, but we have to be involved in the conversation,” says Linda Garcia, executive director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

Management consulting companies have published high-profile and meaty reports. But those projections can be heavy on theory and at times have missed the mark, as one analyst noted last week. Academics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University also have played a lead role in shaping expectations around AI’s emerging influenceon occupations, sometimes drawing on data from industry.

Employers themselves probably have the best sense of what’s actually happening. But while sources say every major company has gamed out what an AI-enabled future may look like, they’re not publicly sharing those analyses.

That may be starting to change, however. Nine of the world’s top tech companies today are formally rolling out a consortium that will map and describe how AI is reshaping jobs within their ranks, and more broadly changing occupations their training covers. The new consortium also will seek to identify related upskilling opportunities. 

Cisco is leading the project, reports Fortune’s Preston Fore. Also participating are Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, SAP, Accenture, Indeed, and Eightfold. Six advisors to the new AI-Enabled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Workforce Consortium include the AFL-CIO and Khan Academy, Fore reports.

The effort was inspired by talks of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Talent for Growth Task Force, which is co-chaired by Gina Raimondo, the U.S. secretary of commerce.

In a statement to Fortune, Raimondo said the nine companies will help confront new workforce needs spurred by AI. “This work will help provide unprecedented insight on the specific skill needs for these jobs,” she said.

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Council on Equitable AI

The new consortium will recommend training and upskilling to ensure workers can adapt as AI takes hold. That information presumably will help educators to make better-informed decisions about preparing people for jobs, at least in tech. In the meantime, a few organizations are developing networks to help colleges get ready for what’s coming.

A notable example is Complete College America, which has been producing resources for colleges on how to use and cope with generative AI. The nonprofit’s recent efforts include the launch of the CCA Council on Equitable AI, which seeks to help colleges understand how AI will impact their campuses and students.

Complete College America focuses on improving postsecondary attainment and has had a big influence on state policies to reform remedial education. The group sees its foray into AI as an extension of its work on student success.

Community colleges, minority-serving institutions, and public, open-access colleges and universities tend to be left behind in student success movements and innovations due to a lack of resources and networks, says Yolanda Watson Spiva, CCA’s president.

“Without connections to tech vendors, opportunities to develop technology that’s responsive to the needs of under-resourced campuses will go overlooked,” she says.

A similar problem extends to the relative lack of leverage open-access colleges tend to have with major accreditors, employers, and state budget appropriators. Without a seat at the table, Watson Spiva says these institutions will continue to operate with technology that fails to keep pace with recent innovations. 

“This will prevent students from learning how to use the tools they’ll need to thrive in the workplace,” she says, which “risks devaluing the worth of degrees from institutions that are excluded from access to new tech.”

CCA believes AI could have benefits for students, particularly in building the capacity of college advising services. Watson Spiva says the technology’s applications could play a crucial role in offering better and more personalized student support with career guidance, mental health and wellbeing, tutoring, financial planning, and more.

Garcia agrees. Not surprisingly, the center she leads is particularly interested in the intersection of AI and student engagement.

“We need to put the student experience front and center,” says Garcia, who is a member of the CCA Council on Equitable AI.

Watson Spiva says her organization is aware of AI’s ability to replicate biases, as its machinery mimics realities of the world, including injustice, exclusion, and inequity. Even so, CCA sees the potential to miss out on AI’s benefits as the “greatest risk to the stakeholders we serve.”

The council will advocate for budget support for colleges to have the technology infrastructure in place to prepare students for an increasingly AI-centric world. 

“We also will provide guidance to those in the tech industry to ensure that their features, functions, implementation requirements, and price points allow for AI to be a tool for the many rather than the few across education and training ecosystems,” says Watson Spiva.

Other Networks to Watch: In early 2022—months before ChatGPT made its splashy public debut—the American Association of Community Colleges rolled out an Artificial Intelligence Incubator Network of 70 colleges around the country. The 18-month initiative was supported by Dell Technologies and Intel, and was a part of the latter’s broader AI for Workforce Program.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education is working to help colleges better understand and usegenerative AI. The group is hosting a web event today on this effort, which includes the creation of a framework for institutional-level policies for successfully incorporating the technology and an AI policy database.

Education-to-Employment Pathways

A new research-based framework seeks to help state policymakers and colleges see how they stack up on linking education and opportunity.

The State Opportunity Index from the Strada Education Foundation is about solutions, Nichole Torpey-Saboe, Strada’s director of research, said at an event this week. “This is not about ranking states,” she said. “This is about encouraging progress.” 

The first annual report sets a baseline for how states are doing in five areas: clear outcomes, quality coaching, affordability, work-based learning, and employer alignment. The index categorizes each state’s progress in these areas as leading, advanced, developing, or foundational. 

The foundation hopes the index will serve as a “roadmap” for states to make improvements, said Stephen Moret, Strada’s CEO. He said a big part of that ambition was to develop a “quantifiable set of measures.”

Another project in the works for Strada, several sources say, is to create a nonprofit to collect and disseminate useful data on credentials. The forthcoming Credlens will be rolled out in coming months, and likely will be spun off as a standalone organization.

John King, Jr., chancellor of the State University of New York system and a former U.S. secretary of education, praised the index for its focus on state-level policy and useful data. “It’s very difficult to improve something you are not accurately measuring,” he said at the launch event. (The foundation previously supported Work Shift and I served on an advisory group for the project.)

State policymakers can tap the index to learn from each other, said Aimee Guidera, Virginia’s secretary of education. And competition between states could help drive change, she and other experts said.

Guidera pointed to the importance of solid, just-in-time labor market data that’s linked to education data, like analysis produced by the Virginia Office of Education Economics, calling it the “Holy Grail” of efforts to tighten connections between education and work. She also stressed the crucial role of employer alignment, one of the priority areas in the index.

“If we do not get that piece right,” Guidera said, “we will never be successful at all the other pieces.”

Value and College Enrollment: Young adults are afraid of making the wrong choice when it comes to college—a fear that is contributing to declining enrollment in higher education, according to new research from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and HCM Strategists.

The project included focus groups and a survey of 4.8K current high school students and recent graduates who had opted to skip higher education. Those who were no longer in high school were more likely to see and hear negative stories about college, as they no longer received direct marketing from colleges and were more likely to rely on online search and social media.

Both groups of young adults said having more expert guidance—including programs that help students identify their skills, potential careers, and related college options—would be helpful. 

The surveyed young adults also saw shorter, work-based education as a higher value option than traditional college. In fact, among those who skipped college, courses leading to a license or professional certificate have gained value in the past year. 

The report argues that to rebuild confidence in higher education, students need both better information and support as they make college and career decisions.

“Students and young people are eager for influential voices to demonstrate the value of higher education, so their perception isn’t solely shaped by pain points,” writes Patrick Methvin, director of postsecondary success and interim director of pathways at the foundation’s U.S. program. “They are desperate for both the higher education and K-12 systems to provide the support they need to create the futures they want.”

Open Tabs

Industrial Policy
Congressional cuts to science agency budgets jeopardize critical funding for community colleges and their ability to expand access to good-paying jobs created by the CHIPS Act, write New America’s Shalin Jyotishi and the Federation of American Scientists’ Matt Hourihan. Likewise, local leaders must prioritize talent pipelines to fill semiconductor manufacturing jobs, writes Matt Gandal, president and CEO of the Education Strategy Group.

AI and the Middle Class
Artificial intelligence can allow more people to take on work now handled by experts like doctors, lawyers, software engineers, and college professors, David Autor, an economist at MIT, told Steve Lohr of The New York Times. If more people, including those without college degrees, can do more valuable work, they should be paid more, which would lift more workers in the middle class. Autor authored a recent paper about AI and the labor market.

Housing and the Middle Class
Roughly one-fifth of all homes sold in the Phoenix area late last year were affordable for a family earning the median local income, about $72K, Peter S. Goodman reports for The New York Times. The lack of affordable housing has led to a wave of evictions among lower-income households, and even workers with six-figure incomes are taking on extra jobs and longer commutes. The national housing market is the least affordable it’s been in 40 years.

Degree On-Ramp
The University of Virginia plans to begin offering an online, 12-course program this fall for healthcare workers, including access associates, reception teams, and billing and contract-center employees. Students who successfully complete the Enlighten program will earn 36 undergraduate credits from UVA and be eligible to apply to bachelor’s degree programs offered by the university’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Job Moves
Bijal Shah has been appointed CEO of Guild and joined the company’s board. Shah arrived at Guild in 2018 as its chief product officer and became interim CEO last year. Rachel Romer, Guild’s founder and former CEO, is recovering from a stroke. Romer is a member of Guild’s board and is expected to later become its executive chair.

David Socolow has joined the new Social Finance Institute as its head of policy. The institute, an initiative of the nonprofit Social Finance, officially launches next week. Socolow previously was commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. He also previously worked at the Center for Law and Social Policy and the U.S. Department of Labor

Sobriqué “Sorby” Grant has been named the next CEO of Climb Hire, a career connection provider with a focus on professional networks. Grant currently serves as the organization’s president and chief program officer. She will replace Nitzan Pelman, Climb Hire’s CEO, who will lead the new Climb Hire Labs, which will help disseminate the Climb Hire model.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what I missed? —PF

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