June 7, 2023 – Future of Work

Tribal leaders, CKF grantees build talent marketplace for Navajo Nation jobs


The Navajo Nation is one of the largest Native American tribes in North America, but tribal members are moving away from the community’s land at an astonishing rate. More than one-third of members no longer live within the Navajo Nation’s borders and, each year, about 3,500 high school graduates relocate. Structural barriers to economic opportunity cause individuals to seek schooling and employment elsewhere even though there are thousands of unfilled Navajo Nation jobs.

Like in many U.S. communities, there is a mismatch in the skills employers are looking for and the number of people who have those skills. Two Charles Koch Foundation-supported organizations are solving these challenges.

Talent Marketplace will match workers with Navajo Nation jobs

With the guidance and support from Navajo Nation leaders and tribal agencies, the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) and Aspire Ability Inc. have launched a two-year initiative, The Navajo Nation Talent Marketplace, to identify available jobs, the skills needed to fill them, and the postsecondary programs that can help Navajo Nation members gain those skills. 

Through the marketplace, individuals can be matched to open jobs within the Navajo Nation that best fit their competencies or, if the job seeker needs to upskill for a job, the marketplace will link them to programs that provide that learning. And, for the first time ever, the Navajo Nation will have a central repository of all the in-person and remote jobs available on the reservation.

Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said, “My administration looks forward to the day when all Navajos who are seeking employment can find a thriving wage job here at home. The Navajo Nation Talent Marketplace … is the first step in building an economy that supports living in hózhóó now and in the future.”

A competency-based learning model for the Navajo Nation

The marketplace is rooted in competency-based education (CBE), which focuses on student learning and the application of that learning — what people know and can do — rather than time spent in class. It will replace the age-old resume/job-description model with tools that match job seekers’ competencies with the competencies required for specific jobs. Instead of traditional job requirements, employers will post job competency maps detailing the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for Navajo Nation jobs. 

Aspire Ability uses a combination of competency mapping and proprietary technology to connect learners to educators and employers. It also offers its own talent marketplace data to educators to ensure these community-based programs offer local learners the competencies they need to gain employment. C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts that supports stakeholders who want to embed competencies into existing programs or build competency-based degree programs.

The marketplace will provide Navajo learners access to scalable, competency-based pathways that result in the credentials necessary for their chosen career. C-BEN will work with Navajo Technical University, Diné College, and other local education providers to develop competency-based programs that align to the high-demand skills sought by employers. To ensure the education programs continue to focus on the competencies needed by employers, the marketplace technology platform will share job posting data with the colleges and universities.

“This tool will match people with a fulfilling career based on their unique interests or what they’ve already demonstrated they can do,” said CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “We’re proud to support Aspire Ability and C-BEN as they work alongside tribal leaders to create talent marketplace that addresses the jobs mismatch that exists in too many communities and that keeps individuals from reaching their full potential.” 

Read Aspire Ability and C-BEN’s full announcement. Listen to the Working Nation podcast episode featuring The Navajo Nation Talent Marketplace and check out a recent interview Ryan Stowers conducted with Aspire Ability’s John Mott.