December 6, 2023 – Future of Work

In case you missed it: Bottom-up solutions that bring together employers and workers


How can employers, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders work together to create opportunities for U.S. workers to reach their full potential? Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) Executive Director Ryan Stowers explored that question in a series of recent interviews with business leaders and lifelong learning innovators. 

Connecting overlooked talent with the employers who need them

Since 2012, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (Skills) has helped change the lives of thousands of individuals, placing them into quality jobs, providing strong recruiting in overlooked communities, and facilitating robust partnerships with local employers. Improving access, eliminating barriers to employment, and creating pathways to opportunity are the founding principles of Skills’ jobs-first model.

Stowers interviewed University of Chicago Medicine’s (UCM) Director of Human Resources Services Erin Mandel and Director of Talent Strategy Betsy Rahill about their partnership with Skills and how it helped UCM turn the organization’s inclusive hiring plans into reality. 

“We know we have amazing, talented people in our communities surrounding the University of Chicago Medical Center,” Mandel says. “Skills has helped us connect to them. Skills ensures candidates meet the minimum qualifications for the roles we are targeting and make sure the candidates are coached and ready for the interview process, which is key.”

Building sustainable cybersecurity talent pipelines from the bottom up

Stowers also interviewed Mark Thain, Americas Head of Citizenship at Barclays, regarding the bank’s partnership with Per Scholas. Since 2016, the two organizations have worked together to establish a cybersecurity curriculum tailored toward entry-level individuals wishing to join the field. 

The Per Scholas model benefits both companies and workers. Barclays has solved talent shortages, and the individuals filling these roles are positioned for success in a field they may not have considered or thought they could meaningfully contribute. 

“It was a win, win, win. It’s a win for Barclays because we were looking to expand our hiring pipelines in cybersecurity and find talent in new places,” says Thain. “And it’s obviously a win for the individuals going through the program — they get access to opportunities in places that otherwise may not have even been on their radar. Then for Per Scholas, it’s a win in terms of the new curriculum and being able to keep their learners up to speed on the latest trends, that are most relevant and in demand for roles.”

Helping employees self-actualize from anywhere

Tech jobs are no longer concentrated in Silicon Valley. They are everywhere. One America Works (OAW) is a nonprofit organization that connects the country’s fastest growing tech companies with the talent they need in the communities that can best support them. In doing so, the organization creates more opportunity and helps revitalize local economies.

As Stowers notes in his interview with founder Patrick McKenna, OAW saw a chance to take a bottom-up approach to connecting dispersed talent sources with employers. 

“To solve the problems facing companies in the innovation economy and the economy nationally, we need to broaden the scope of where we are looking for talent,” McKenna tells Stowers. “The subtext behind the name One America Works is when Americans work together, America works. The big idea is that we need to actually be integrating people in different places, different experiences to build a bigger pie.”

This series of interviews is part of a BrandVoice partnership that Stand Together, a philanthropic community that the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) is part of, has with to highlight the importance of lifelong learning and the value it provides to individuals, employers, and our society. Read more thoughts from Stowers here.