On January 25, members of the nationswell council gathered for an in-person salon in New York City to discuss the future of work — the solutions and programs being considered at all levels of learning to better prepare students for successful careers; what organizations can do to build untraditional pipelines to the middle class and beyond; how to navigate a new hybrid work landscape in a way that balances individual flexibility and seamless collaboration while simultaneously mitigating burnout; and much, much more.

The conversation was warm, inviting, and generative, and sparked a flurry of great ideas and new chances for collaboration. Below are just a few key highlights from the discussion:

  • The future of work starts with students — and with how we ensure that they’re being prepared not just for the careers of today, but also to make family-sustaining wages. By partnering with large companies, community colleges in particular have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about designing curriculums that equip students with the real-world skills and connections they’ll need to land in-demand jobs. Micro-credentialing, upskilling, and financial literacy conversations — happening not just with students, but with corporate executives as well — can also help to create a climate of preparedness that will give applicants a competitive advantage.
  • Building a more equitable workforce will require us to take a more realistic look at the current set of challenges facing marginalized applicants. Taking into account the realities of violence and trauma that disproportionately impact some communities, companies looking to increasingly onboard new hires from nontraditional backgrounds will increasingly need to reevaluate their cultural competency training and provide more mental health, wellness, and wraparound support systems for future employees. 
  • To get more economically diverse applicants in the door, we will first need to “tear the paper ceiling.” Far too often, internships, fellowships, and other entry level opportunities require levels of experience or credentials, like a four-year college degree, that exploit and exacerbate existing societal inequities. In order to combat this and level the playing field, leaders will need to put out a clarion call to executives and hiring managers challenging them to reimagine their selection systems and hiring practices.
  • For those struggling under unreasonable credential requirements and barriers to entry, credential stacking could be a helpful pathway towards success. One way around this is through the stacking of credentials: building transferable skills through extracurricular experiences that count as elective credits, which can be immediately added to a resume in real time.
  • The pandemic has permanently reshaped our understanding of what counts as a “good job.” While there will always be a premium on the ability to earn a living wage, millennial and Gen Z workers have expectations of their employers that differ significantly from their predecessors. Interest in policies like unlimited paid time off and an increasing demand for health policies that respond to concerns about Roe v. Wade signal that, more and more often, people are choosing jobs and employers that align with their values.
  • Anticipating the challenges of the next 25 years will be critical in training the next generation of leaders. The challenges that young people will inevitably be forced to reckon with in the coming years are nothing short of enormous — not just in the world of work, but also involving climate change, globalization, wars, and growing social stratification. The question of how to develop and train young people as leaders in a more holistic way will be critical to anyone working with the next generation, and a particular premium will need to be placed on the “3 Cs”: connectedness, creativity and curiosity.
  • The interconnectedness of all people will continue to emerge as an important theme in the near future. Acknowledging those global challenges that young people will undoubtedly be facing will also require us to develop the deeper mindset that ‘my fate is interconnected with yours’ — not just in the U.S., but globally. Preparing young people for work will, increasingly, require us to grapple with an even bigger set of global challenges.

The NationSwell Council community brings together a diverse, curated community of bold individuals and organizations leading the way in social, economic, and environmental problem-solving. Learn more about the Council here.