This interview featured Beth Cobert, Chief Operating Officer, Markle Foundation. JB and Beth discuss the importance of skills-based hiring, training, and education practices through innovative cross-sector collaboration in the digital economy. Much like the Partnership's Capital CoLAB, it seeks to bridge the skills gap between employers and educators.
Hosted by JB Holston. Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez.
Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.
About our guest:
Beth Cobert is the Chief Operating Officer of the Markle Foundation and the Chief Executive Officer of Skillful, a Markle Foundation initiative, to create a skills-based labor market that empowers all Americans to succeed in the digital economy. Cobert is leading Skillful’s efforts to convene employers, educators, workforce centers, state government, and others to help job seekers and workers keep pace with the transformations automation and technology are bringing to the workforce landscape.
Her deep experience in talent management and partnership development, as well as her acumen for harnessing the constructive potential of new technologies, uniquely positions her as an ideal leader for Skillful as the initiative seeks to foster skills-based hiring, training, and education practices through innovative cross-sector collaboration in the digital economy.
Previously, Cobert served as Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) under President Obama. During her tenure, OPM not only embraced new technology to improve customer service and cyber security but also championed recruiting, development and advancement practices to support a talented and diverse federal workforce amidst rapid technological advancement. Before joining the Federal government, Cobert worked for nearly 30 years at McKinsey & Company as a Senior Partner in their New York and San Francisco offices, where she worked with clients across a range of sectors, including financial services, health care, real estate, telecommunications, and philanthropy.
Cobert is currently a member of the Board of Directors of CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBG) and the Princeton University Board of Trustees. She has served as both board member and board chair of the United Way of the Bay Area, and as a member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council. Cobert received a bachelor’s degree in economics with high honors from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University with honors.
Beth Cobert 0:00
I think there's a real opportunity to take a hard look at what you're doing inside an organization and say, How can we get more talent? How can we bring in the diverse talent that we've been missing? And how can we invest in our employees in a way that build their skills and capabilities and build their ability to contribute to the organization?
Nina Sharma 0:25
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.
JB Holston 0:46
Beth, thanks so much for joining us.
Beth Cobert 0:49
So happy to be here.
JB Holston 0:51
Great. Beth. Before we started, I thought I'd give folks a little bit of background about you in case they don't already know you. Beth is Chief Operating Officer of the Markle Foundation, and Chief Executive Officer of skillfull, which is a Markle Foundation initiative. And of course we'll talk about both those. Also, Beth helps to lead Marco's we work America Alliance, which we'll talk about as well opening opportunities for millions of unemployed and low wage workers to move into good jobs, particularly people of color who've been disproportionately impacted by the current economic crisis. Beth prior to joining Markel, Beth was acting director of the Office of Personnel Management under President Obama before her time there she served as Deputy Director for Management at OMB at the Office of Management and Budget that began her career at McKinsey and Company. She's a member of the Board of Directors of the CBRE group and Princeton University. And we share that both of us have an MBA from from Stanford University. So Beth again, welcome. It's great to have you on the on the program. Delighted to be talking with you. Great. Well, we'll start off with that with something easy, which is now both you and I share. Also having spent quite a bit of time because both in Denver and in the district so just top of mind, the Capital Region versus Colorado, right.
JB Holston 2:14
Pros and Cons which is better who wins what?
Beth Cobert 2:18
Wow, I am. I've enjoyed my time in both. So let's let me start with Denver. Great things about Denver, the mountains, I am an avid skier and hiker and having mountains that close is amazing. 300 days of sunshine, a great farm to table Food scene. A great entrepreneurial spirit in the community. A cons running at altitude is not as much fun. The district's you know the sense of history in the places just palpable and the sort of global international nature of the people great global food, running along the Potomac and in Rock Creek Park. As a con I think for me, and probably most people in the Greater Washington region, summer humidity, can't stand it. But both were are fantastic places to work and actually were fantastic places to have. I found I lived in the heart of the city in in both places. And I found it actually really easy. And one of the things I liked most was being in the middle of a city but a very livable thing.
JB Holston 3:27
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. The the new census data indicates that Colorado was the sixth fastest growing state and DC would have been the seventh if and when it becomes a state. It speaks to the attractiveness of both I think Beth might turn a little bit to to Markle to the foundation into skillful and rework. If you could explain a little bit about what Markle does its history as well. And then let's talk about both skillful and rework and how those relate.
Beth Cobert 4:05
So Markle is a foundation that really over its history has focused on bringing together collaboration of all sorts of organizations to tackle some of the most challenging and vexing problems facing the country, typically with problems where the intersection of technology and big social issues and economic issues come together. Historically, it's a small foundation that's really like punched above its weight. And so as long as we tackled kind of an issue at a time to say, how do we build a coalition? How do we get momentum and how do we move something forward? It played an instrumental instrumental role, for example, in things like the response to 911 and how to reframe the national security, environment and context it played a big role in the creation of electronic health records, whether it's a blue button at the VA or a system for electronic health records and how that got built into the Recovery Act of the Obama ministration. Marco has been focused for quite some time actually on this issue of workforce and how the changing economy both changes the nature of opportunity, but also the importance of thinking about how we use that change, to create real economic mobility for workers so that they can participate in it. And frankly, companies can have the talent they need to grow. That started back in like 2013 ish, and that has evolved over time. So Mark was the umbrella and under that umbrella created a set of initiatives. One of those was scuffle, which was launched in Colorado, in 2015, with Governor Hickenlooper, and was really saying, How can we get a focus on skills as a way to translate this gap in the in the economy as change? How can we use that as a way to create more opportunities for workers and we've been strongly focused on the two thirds of the workforce that doesn't have a college degree but has enormous talent and capabilities, and potential to do more. So we took skillful, we expanded it to Indiana, we expanded it through our scalpel state that works to 30 states and the District of Columbia. So the district crumbly at a minimum is in the scuffle state network. And, and then when that pandemic hit, we, like so many others stepped back and said, This is a huge problem. And we have to think about how to scale things differently. How can we scale things faster? And how can we really, you know, as you all know, the pandemic also really exposed the structural deficits in the economy, its disproportionate impact on low wage workers, it's disproportionate impact on people of color. And so how could we build a response that attacked those issues. And we did it in the way the Markle Foundation does. We built a collaborative, that collaborative is the rework American Alliance. And its goal is to really help millions of unemployed, particularly people of color, particularly those with less formal education, get access to good jobs and create an inclusive economy in the course of the recovery. So that's what we built skillful tools and capabilities, and relationships are part of that. But it is really about this and fantastic organizations that have come together in the Alliance.
JB Holston 7:17
It's great. Thanks for that. Thanks for that explanation. That's helpful. Sure. If you look at the sort of a year ago, the federal government was arguably absent, actively absent, I'd say, on all these issues, we now have a new administration that clearly cares about some of those same issues that you mentioned. But you know, as you look at the American families plan, there's there's a great deal of funding proposed for, for example, making community college free. A couple of questions that and then I want to get back to the scaling question, because you and I have talked a lot about that as an inhibitor. The questions are, is he if the plan proceeds, does that affect the work? In other words, you know, if Community College suddenly becomes free, as proposed, broadly, does the 70% Does it work for the 70%? Shift?
Beth Cobert 8:22
So we are excited to see investments and things that enable people to build skills, create talents, and so that's a piece but not the whole answer, right? How do we do all this in a way that we are getting people what they need, in the way they needed, and at the same time, changing the way that employers view those credentials and skills and opportunities? And, frankly, the capabilities of those individuals? So it is an important element, but not enough, right? How do you think about making sure that folks can really afford that training and going there even free? The importance of things like support services for childcare and transportation? How do you make sure that the skills people have built through their work experience or life experience are recognized as they go into that program? So they're getting what they need? And not going back and doing the things they don't need? How do you make sure that that curriculum that is intended the parts that are intended to really prepare them for work are connected to what employers need? I know that's been a big focus of yours, but things like CO lab, and we actually had discussions with the CO lab team, when they were getting started a great example of making sure that what's learned is relevant. How do you get employers to support this kind of training, both in their workforce and through those partnerships? So how do you make sure that outcomes from these programs you know, aren't are equitable and equivalent across different cultures? Unity, there's been big gaps in both, you know, not just access to education, but attainment through education things after, for people of color. So as we do those things, you've got to keep all of that in mind. And so a big opportunity, a big opportunity to make investments that will pay big dividends in people. But we've got to think about those elements as we go through that. But we're excited to see that coming and excited for lots of forms of training, from apprenticeship programs that help people with, with lots of different kinds of careers, things that help people work and earn at the same Learn and Earn at the same time. There's a whole variety of things here and is broad scope of supporting that investment in people and recognizing the talents, the real talents that people with different experiences bring is incredibly important. Yeah,
JB Holston 10:50
I would agree that, you know, I was struck, it's a little orthogonal, but that's how I was struck that some data came out yesterday that community college enrollment for this spring among black and Latin X, male males is down 20%, from a year ago. So to your point about the support system required beyond just whatever the cost may be, particularly as we think about inclusive recovery. It's, it's not it's, it's important, but particularly for those populations that have been that have been the hardest hit. Let's let's go into talk about the question of scale. You and I have talked about this. And one of the things that I think we hear from higher traditional higher ed, as well as from the biggest employers is great that there are all these new, different pathways. We agree, you know, we need to know, a bigger, broader, more diverse workforce. And they don't have to come with through the traditional mechanisms. And yet, they're, they're waiting for someone else to scale the solution. It seems. Would you agree with that? What what? What's missing to really get some of these things to scale?
Beth Cobert 12:07
Sure, this question of scale is one that that vexes all of us. And I think it's critical. And we've taken this approach and building the Alliance. I'll talk about that for a minute to think about how do you scale but how do you still retain the critical neck connections to communities and community institutions, you've got to actually operate at both levels at the same time to make a difference, you've got to think about how you can use technology to help with scaling. We've seen what technology can do in the last year. But also do it in a way that doesn't lose that critical personal touch that is important for individuals, and also, frankly, addresses the challenge that not everybody has equal access to technology yet, or technology skills. So as we built the alliance and thought about the Alliance, one of the things we really focused on was scaling. We thought about that in the way we constructed our partnerships, right? The Alliance is a group of 30 plus organizations, including some of the countries including some of the Greater Washington partnership members, by the way, McKinsey has been playing a critical role in helping us do the analytics and helping support the effort. Microsoft, who's been a partner of Marco and skillfull, since the beginning has been a fantastic resource in so many dimensions. So that's just a couple of your members who are involved. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, real insight, a group of national worker serving organizations who we're working with to start things in local community, but then using their networks to think about scaling. So the National Urban League nidos, US goodwill, rural LISC, our model is working with them to say how do we start in place a, but do that with a goal that we're going to take it to play A, B, C, D, and E. We've got other great employers like IBM and Google CVS, Boeing, who are helping us think about sort of things national employers need, but making it real in their communities. We've got some great educators and we've got the skillful state network in that group of governors. So I think you have to say, how can you do things at national reach men? How do you get them to communities? The other part that I think helps us recognizing that many of these efforts build on a same foundation. And for us, some of that starts with skills, right? When you have an apprenticeship program, you're thinking about how is somebody going to build their skills and move in this organization? That's the same thing that leads to different kinds of hiring programs. It's the same thing that leads that you can use for programs like colab. So how do you make those the same? And how do you build practical tools that can be delivered in different ways to support this and we focused on creating tools that people can adapt and correctly for us. I think one of the keys to scale is saying, I don't need always to create new delivery mechanisms. I need to deliver capabilities to organizations and communities, I think that's part of what you do with the partnership, it is fundamental to how we've structured the alliance in McKinsey, or it's a b2b model that says, mi casa in Denver, has incredible understanding and depth and relationships. In the Latin, Latin X community here, we can't read, we don't need to rebuild those relationships, we need to empower them with what they need to activate those things. And that's the way we're trying to do it. So I think this sort of how do you empower testing organizations, there's a really important key to scaling.
JB Holston 15:33
Yeah. Well, thank you, one of the things that we found is that the more employers we can get around the table to agree on Kshs, knowledge, skills, and attributes, and then through this, what we're calling the employee signaling system, the more resonance all that has.
Beth Cobert 15:50
And I think also, as you've learned, right, that, and we, when we talk to the colored folks, right, that's a great starting point for the next group of employers someplace else, they will want to touch it, it would be a little different in Atlanta, and in New York, but it's really not fundamentally different. You don't want to start from scratch. So we're a big fan of creating tools, sharing best practices, sure, they need to be adapted, but in like, there is no reason to start this from scratch. There's so much innovation and good work going on that finding ways to, you know, creatively copy, and then share back will make everybody's efforts move better.
JB Holston 16:36
Yeah, I agree with that. One of the one of the things that we found that's been a surprise, a really good surprise is that the educational institutions when they look at those k essays, and they get those signals from the employers say, oh, okay, I can I can fit that into my curriculum in the following fashion. And it's been interesting, because, you know, we haven't had to be prescriptive, in that it's more, you know, here they are, and then they'll come back and say, great, well, you know, we had this new, this new offering that we're now offering it, you know, whatever the level may be around this, so that we had, you know, we give credit for these two courses. And while we're all we're all good. Let's talk about it. I did want to ask one specific question about rework and one of the companies and and I only because I don't think a lot of companies know, I think it's called, is it true?
Beth Cobert 17:26
To her house? Yes, sure. Yeah, for sure help.
JB Holston 17:28
Any? What do they do, because they sound intriguing. And
Beth Cobert 17:34
so they are a fantastic partner, you should get bond to come and talk about this. It is really trying. It's an interesting partnership with KP, and the SEIU and others say, How can we create more opportunities for these jobs that are really valuable, that are good jobs, and good ways for people to advance in parts of the healthcare arena where people often have started but frankly, gets stuck. Right? So how can you have innovative ways to create very focused programs, some delivered online that can help these individuals move into those good jobs in an effective way? How can we provide training? How can you provide support to people in those? And how can you do it in a way that people know there's a job at the end? So really innovative and nimble, they started in California, they're starting to expand. And they've also been really creative and thinking about what are some of the new and emerging good what we call a gateway roll, right? Whether it's healthcare IT, whether it's, you know, some of the things that have emerged from the pandemic, how do you make those available? How do you recruit a diverse workforce in and make sure not only they get that first job, but they've got the ability to get to the second job, and the third job and the fourth job, which is often where things break down?
JB Holston 18:47
Yeah, that's great. Well, thanks. Thanks for that. The, it's not it's not a very well known organization, and in some circles, but they're doing some really innovative work pretty
Beth Cobert 18:55
new, and they're moving fast, and they're fantastic. That's great.
JB Holston 18:59
Yeah. Well, thanks. Let's talk a little bit about the companies again, one of the things that we let me actually ask the the flip side of that, the traditional educational establishment, if you look at higher ed, many of the organizations, particularly the four year, are trying to move very aggressively into particularly after the pandemic and online learning. You know, as you know, that was there was a lot of skepticism, a lot of concern about dealing with OPM and other kinds of providers. There were early, early movers, etc. But But now you're seeing more and more of these institutions. Many of those students that take that, you know, what was used to be called continue to add are non traditional. And these may be students interested in completion, they may have been students who just need to skill up, etc. When you think about what's needed to scale these solutions, how do you think about the role of the traditional higher ed institutions?
Beth Cobert 19:57
So when I think about the pace of change in the economy, I see an increasing need for people to learn, and have opportunities to learn. But to do that, over the course of their lifetime, in more accessible, affordable, modular waive, the need for learning and institutions that can both teach actual skills that can teach what we call foundational skill, so that you can keep learning is increasing, in my mind, not decreasing. And I think it is a real opportunity for institutions of, of higher education of all kinds, to find ways to adapt. I think we've seen that in some cases, doing things in a virtual environment can work really well, I think we've also seen the limits of it. I think we've also seen that, for that to work. individuals need to have actually some fundamental both access capabilities, devices and broadband. But they also need some degree of digital literacy, frankly, to learn and also for their job, right, we did a report through the rework America Business Network, a little while back, called the Digital blind spot, which was really trying to say, what are the core digital literacy someone needs for a job. We work with a great set of employers on that, because 80% of jobs require some degree of digital fluency, literacy, right? Like, if you are a home health aide, you are probably reporting back either to the person for whom you're caregiving, you're reporting back information through a mobile device, if you're a facilities person, you're probably getting your work orders through some device, if you're working in a restaurant we bought to the extent we can now walk, at least hear us and walk to the outdoor part of the restaurant, the person greeting you is probably typing you in on an iPad, or a surface or some other tool to say, you know, someone's here that requires digital literacy. So if we're going to help people learn to digital means they have to have the ability to have access in a way that works. There's some great things you can do on our phone, but not everything. So they have to have access. And they have to have the basic skills. Because as we've all learned over this last year, technology is great. But you know, sometimes it doesn't work. And without that, we are going to create more of a divide. And we've got to make sure that we recognize that and we aren't exacerbating divides when we move to these new modes.
JB Holston 22:37
Let's talk a little bit about certification or validation or proof, whatever you may think there are programs that are doing a good job providing some of that skills training to populations. But the other side of that is sort of corporate hiring, you know, still very much has the Hey, show me the credential. And arguably, the algorithmic methods of LinkedIn or other are exacerbating that, you know, if you don't, if you don't have the right, if you don't, if you don't come up through the filters appropriately, you're not even gonna get in the get in the door. Do you see that as an issue? Because there are, it comes up as a prospective constraint. But it's not clear that it necessarily is.
Beth Cobert 23:23
So I think there is an enormous opportunity. This is one of the core focuses of our work, to support employers of all sizes, in moving from a credential model to a more skills model that explicitly embeds a focus on diversity and inclusion. And the reason is, because you get access to a much broader pool of talent that can help your company grow and thrive. So it's not just hiring, it's hiring. It's advancement, it's opportunity creation. We think that that is sort of fundamental. Because otherwise people won't have the talent they need to succeed, they won't have the a workforce that understands their customer base. All the good reasons for doing that. And we think it is something that's doable. The first piece I think, starts with getting companies to really think about what it is they actually need for a particular goal. For all of us who've had time sort of writing job descriptions to hire people, it's it's usually a pretty painful process. And so one of the things we built that scope will actually early on that you can find is called the skillful job posting generator. And it you put in a role and it prompts you with a set of skills that says, okay, for that role, these are the skills that start both technical skills and other skills and which ones are really required and which ones are a great example of this in Colorado. One of our favorite examples is precision lens manufacturer that's operating up north, that kept not being able to fill a role for someone operating a very technical machine. Fundamentally, their job description was such that the only way you could meet it was if you'd actually worked at that company for 10 years. But like, that wasn't a place, you could find entry level talent, and there weren't that many other companies. So when they started breaking down what they needed, they realized that what they needed was thing, someone who had really great manual dexterity, because while it was a computer controlled machine, you still needed that. You needed someone with great attention to detail, they got to get it right, it's expensive. You needed someone who was willing to kind of do the same thing over and over again, because that's, in fact, what made you good at it. And you probably didn't spend a lot of time talking to people. So you needed to be a flying communicator, but you didn't need to be great. And it turns out, as they learned and broke this down, that one of the great sources that they find talent now is actually people from foodservice. And people were working in that as Medicare personnel forums. Right, that would never have occurred to them. Had they not thought about skills. So how do you get people to focus on skills? How do you get we and how do you start to make that happen? It seems like a big challenge, our goal, and our approach is say, let's start in a few places where this matters, let's make it work from how you post the job, how you interview to focus on skills, how you bring somebody on board, how you think about what you can train to, because it's frankly, the specifics of your company anyway, versus what you want them to bring to the party. And that can make a big difference in how companies act.
JB Holston 26:43
Yeah. Wraparound services, one of the conversations that comes up a lot is, look, it's all super if you've got, you know, 5g, high bandwidth access to the right kind of curriculum. And however, you know, for many of these populations, there's there's so much need for a broader range of support. Maybe this speaks to your local partner provider question, but are you seeing that as constraints and what are approaches that can that can help?
Beth Cobert 27:21
So creating environments for people to learn creating environments where people can work to the center doing work, remote work, are really, really important. It is something we hear from our partner organizations all the time, as I said before, it's not just the tech, it's the knowledge of how to use the tech. And we got to think about as a country, how we make sure that accurate access to that is actually much, much more equitable than it is now we are limiting people's potential and their ability to contribute. Unless we have a way to make that more available, broadly, and equably, especially the communities where it doesn't exist today. It's critical, and it's that support, but it's also the other kinds of support, right? Who are the things you're not doing? You know, how do you have enough childcare a place to do this? So you can actually focus? Right, we've all seen that this year, last year, as you know, how do you deal with transportation issues if you need to get to training? Right, all those things are really important and critical for people to to make that training, even if it's affordable, accessible?
JB Holston 28:35
Yeah, we're one of the things that a lot of large employers here are, are concerned about is the impact on the central cities have a new, more hybrid return to work, where, you know, you're going to have some proportion of folks who used to go into town not do that, or at least not as frequently, and then the knock on effect on the small businesses and the people that those traditionally employed or who traditionally owned them. And therefore more acute need to position to provide what those people are going to need in order to find an alternative pathway. It's, I think, no one quite knows how that's all going to unfold, but there's a lot of concern.
Beth Cobert 29:22
Yeah, that's a big transition problem, right? I, I miss my office, I miss my interactions. But I do think we've learned about some things we can do in different ways. And it is about trying to make sure that people also recognize, you know, that that will create change, and people who were in in those other roles before have great capabilities. What are the customer service capabilities that they have from one of those small businesses? You know, think about the things they've done to build and sustain relationships so that you come back to that shop every time. You know, that's a set of skills that could be really effective in a different kind of role. But if you've got a really recognize that someone who built a real loyal clientele has sales skills and customer service skills that are relevant for different kinds of occupations. And that's the mindset shift that employers need to think about. Yeah,
JB Holston 30:13
I would agree with that. women who've fallen out of the workforce in large numbers here, does that seem like a temporary phenomenon once we get vaccinated, schools open, work reopen?
Beth Cobert 30:31
I'm sure some of it will come back as childcare comes back. But it is a fundamental problem. And particularly that impact has been very disproportionate for women of color dropping out of the workforce at a much, much higher rate. I think it illustrates how important issues like child care are for the economy to function successfully. And we also have to make sure that when people come back, there's a recognition for what they done while they were gone. Right. They actually did accomplish things and do things and manage things. And so we can't want to have to bring them back. But we also can't let that be such a big setback, in the mindset of, you know, what might have been a typical hiring process, right? You got it, you got to think about that differently. So we can get that talent back in and get it to report it needs to come back in.
JB Holston 31:26
Yeah, I agree with that. Definitely. Someone raised the question. And we've heard this too, you know, is digital literacy truly an issue? Or is it just generational? It's a way that I would phrase it, you know, it's the next generation sort of sufficiently literate, and the devices are so sufficiently easy that you don't necessarily need.
Beth Cobert 31:46
So what are the things that we looked at in the digital blindspot report was trying to be more specific about what we mean by digital literacy, and I would call this employment digital literacy skills. So having a starting point that enables you to, you know, use a smartphone, that's fine. But, you know, you need some kind of Office suites, you know, word processing, spreadsheets, customer relations, CRM type skills, presentation skills of whatever brand you'd like, those are different than using your phone for social media. And so what we tried to do in the digital blind spot report actually, was to say, what are the the digital literacy skills you need for employment. And that helps some of those work on a phone, some of them you actually need something with a keyboard, right? It's quite different. So I think it's important to distinguish, you might have a different attitude towards technology, but it is, it is a different set of skills, to, to what need to function and really be able to deliver in a work context and what you might need for your social interactions. And we need to recognize that one doesn't necessarily come with the other, either in terms of the tools you know, how to use and the devices you can operate, right, a keyboard and a phone are different.
JB Holston 33:16
Yeah. Are these skills, I look forward to reading the report, but what, how much educational background do the people who can embark on that path need to have?
Beth Cobert 33:31
So I think we need to make that capability fundamentally accessible to all it is, as I said before, it is hard to think about a role a job today in this country, that doesn't involve some interaction with a digital device, including this up this report was so focused on it, including many that you would think about typically. So I think we have to find a way to make that available and accessible in many different forms. And not think of it as a nice to have it's, it's a requirement.
JB Holston 34:10
Yeah, it's, um, it's interesting. So most of the conversation within the traditional Academy gets towards things like AP Computer Science, right, which is, which is great and important for that slice of those who, but But you know, there's overkill, you know, for what you're discussing.
Beth Cobert 34:29
And this is where I think computer science, network administration, basic cyber skills, cyber skills, those are all incredibly important. Those are different than what a those are sort of developers and tool builders and all those things. And we need a lot more of those. And by the way, there's lots of way to do that. Where you can do the training in chunks and build it over time. But the other piece is around technology users. And that's the place where I'd say it sort of goes to this, this fundamental level and those technology users exist in every industry across the greater Washington area and across the country.
JB Holston 35:10
Yeah. I recall, in high school, the most highest ROI course I took, this is how old i am, was typing. Because it turns out, I can type in over 100 words per minute. Therefore, I could get that first job.
Beth Cobert 35:25
I took typing to I'm not sure after 100 words a minute. So I'm very grateful for spellcheck, because I may be able to move quickly, but I don't move them accurately.
JB Holston 35:35
Yeah, yeah, me too. Except when I don't check the spellcheck, then I'm not as grateful for it. You know, two other questions from me, if you think about access for your work, and then success in this area a year, three years from now, what does it look like?
Beth Cobert 35:57
We are moving in the Alliance from building capabilities to starting to deploy things nationally and locally and for us success is connecting hundreds of 1000s of workers to better jobs, and changing the practices so that momentum can be sustained. That same way, and we're going to do it in a way that is going to address racial inequity. And we're going to do it in a way that's going to be sustaining that success for us.
JB Holston 36:25
If you were talking to one of our other Stanford business school grads, if he was the CEO of General Motors, and I'm only picking on it could be any large company, but the CEO of one of the largest employers in particular, maybe a firm like that, where they're now there is a electrical vehicle, future, etc, that he's gonna rely on different technologies, etc. What should organizations like that be doing faster now, to address all this?
Beth Cobert 36:52
So I think General Motors is actually in Mary Barra are doing a lot of the things you need to do. I think, exactly. No, I they're, you know, they're engaged in some of these efforts at the Business Roundtable to change practices nationally, I think there's a real opportunity to do to look, take a hard look at what you're doing inside an organization and say, How can we get more talent? How can we bring in the diverse talent that we've been missing? And how can we invest in our employees in a way that builds their skills and capabilities, and builds their ability to contribute to the organization. I believe that that kind of investment in a workforce, and our recognition of their capabilities, pays off big time, in terms of performance, you get employees who don't leave, you get employees who are more productive, they get better safety, you get better satisfaction, you get better employee engagement, all those things come from having a workforce that has what they need to deliver for you. And that has an economic future for themselves.
JB Holston 37:58
It's, there still seems to be a fair amount of dissonance out there just about the data between the data that would imply that, you know, those who are college educated, do better. And by lots of measures, versus those who aren't. How do you how do we reconcile that with this, the fact that we've got to find more pathways for that 70%, etc.
Beth Cobert 38:23
So what I would focus on in terms of the data is, again, is that differential that we've seen a function of what they've learned, or the function of how we view pedigree, right, and so, as we open more opportunities, to individuals, who may not have a college degree, but have great skills, either learn through work or learn through alternative settings, we, you know, we can see things close. If you look at countries like Switzerland, or Britain, where there's actually a well established apprenticeship system, you see those people rising to all parts of organizations. So if we put the limiter on it, it's not about the people, it's about the opportunities that they've gotten access to. And the way they've been supported to do that. And so I think that's what we're going to see. And the reality is that, you know, especially we focus on working adults, right, so people are, where they are in their life through a whole set of circumstances, you know, that were and systems that had that were imposed on them. We can start creating opportunities for those people now, by changing these practices. And we can start creating opportunities for companies to have a talent pool, a diverse talent pool that really can deliver for them. So I think we can do that. Starting now.
JB Holston 39:49
Yeah. Well, it seems like it's gonna be even more of a priority. I think, coming out of this to drive through inclusive recovery to inclusive growth. We're going to have to find ways to accelerate opportunity for a lot of people who've had a really difficult year, and for whom the notion of just going going to a four year college is the solution is, or even even a two year to the point that we were talking about before, is not going to look like a like a path, a path forward. You mentioned we talked about some programs that you folks run, and then organizations that are part of rework if you think about other organizations or establishments that are doing particularly innovative work, work that strikes you as worthy of holding up as potential examples, what what else comes to mind?
Beth Cobert 40:40
There are so many organizations and my biggest fear about this question is I've got this somewhere. So there are many, many organizations doing great work, who we've had the option to partner with some of them, you know, in the rework, America Alliance, whether it's the worker and training programs of mitos, and goodwill, and the Urban League preschoolers, another really great worker serving organization who's done some different things. Microsoft has made some really interesting commitments with LinkedIn around going through a number of new initiatives, Career Connect, and other things. They've done, IBM and there's skills book program and tools that they've got available. So there are, you know, there's folks engaged in apprenticeship work, whether it's career wise, has been a long standing partner of ours in Colorado, and I know is doing some work now in DC. focused on youth, different different population. You know, there's there, there is no shortage of great organizations doing great work. It is about connecting them and getting them to have more opportunity. We I could go on opportunity at work, who's part of the Alliance? There's some really interesting things Boeing is starting to do around cyber as well. I mean, I could just keep going.
JB Holston 42:01
That's great. No, but those are, it's helpful. I think it's helpful folks to hear some of the folks that you know, that are doing work that matters. And then, and then we can follow up. Last couple of questions from me, Beth, I might, you mentioned our mutual friend, the former governor of Colorado, the Governor Hickenlooper, what is the role of state leaders? What's the role of governors in all of in all of this?
Beth Cobert 42:29
By the way, before I answer that question, there's one group that I omitted in my previous list. There's a lot of really interesting things that labour is doing. You know, H cap is one of our core partners in the Alliance thinking about health professions tuturro and their partnership, that is another critical lever. And I would be remiss if I didn't, I didn't say that.
JB Holston 42:48
SEIU I think is a big partner for Turo, as you mentioned. Right.
Beth Cobert 42:51
Exactly, exactly. So. So, back to Governor Hickenlooper. Governor Hickenlooper has been a fantastic ally of ours. When he was here in Colorado, as you Jeb probably know, his personal story of having been trained for one thing, being a geologist and turned into a bartender and Brewmaster. And then politician. He believes in his heart that people have skills and are going to have to reinvent themselves over the course of their lifetime. And I think one of the things we've seen with him what we've seen with the other governors in our skillful state network is that, you know, when you're a governor, you got to get things to work for people. And you've got to work with, you know, with lots of different kinds of organizations and you've got the scalpel, you can bring them together. Right. Governor Hickenlooper did that in Colorado with a whole suite of partners of companies and nonprofits and the community college system. We work really deeply in Indiana with Eric Holcomb, who's got some fantastic programs under his leadership of creating a workforce cabinet by the way, an idea he partly stole from Governor Hickenlooper, but has moved and done some other things about sort of how they're supporting employers, particularly small import employers and providing training for in demand jobs, how they're using some innovation around their community college system, how they're working with business. So I think governors like Governor Hickenlooper Governor Holcomb, Governor polis now and the rest of the folks who committed to the state network, see themselves as the people who have to make this stuff happen. And they are the ones who can bring the resources, the focus and the leadership to do those in an environment where people feel connected to each other and therefore have a stake in each other's success. Kind of like what you try to do and, you know, the greater Washington area.
JB Holston 44:46
Yeah, well, appreciate it appreciated. Federal government and I will really make this one of my last two questions but obviously spend time in the federal government. It does seem that the talent portfolio broadly read He's really broadly distributed there. And I know he's been talking about potentially position that in different places. How do you how do you think about that?
Beth Cobert 45:09
So, my experience in the federal government was amazing, right? My job at as the Deputy Director for Management at OMB was sort to make the federal government work better, which is, you know, something that is a challenge every day. And, and then when I got to go, lead the Office of Personnel Management after the big cyber breach in 2015, it put even more attention on the federal workforce, there are so many amazingly talented people in the federal government, who deeply care about their work, and who, frankly, in an environment that is very challenging, right, when I was there, nobody knew what their budget was going to be for the next few months, much less of the next few years, to be able to do any planning, right. And so I think there's enormous talent there that can be unleashed. And I also think there's an enormous imperative to bring more talent into government. And to help do that in a way that has a Federal workforce that reflects the talents and richness of the American people that has opportunities to innovate, that has the flexibility to do what's needed to get the job done, but still sticks with the incredibly important concept of the civil service in the merit system principles. It's a huge opportunity, and also a very big challenge.
JB Holston 46:35
Yeah, yeah. Well, Beth, it's been great talking to you today. We're, as a, as I know, you and I have discussed, the partnership here is really framed as work around inclusive growth, those of you that if this region, which is extraordinarily diverse, as you know, if it can become the most equitable and inclusive, it will be the most innovative and fastest growing as well. So, you know, we're, we're looking forward to continuing to work with you, with our former governor who's now here, too, or at least part time here to I'll have to get together on these opportunities, because it's a more acute need now, I think, than ever.
Beth Cobert 47:12
No, I couldn't agree more. And I think, you know, bringing together the kinds of collaborations that you've created in, in the greater Washington area, that mix of public sector, private sector government, creating things that are innovative and then trying to scale them looking to learn and create, I think that is the model by which we will get to the goal you've articulated. We've got to do it intentionally. But I think that's the way we're going to get there. So great to be part of this conversation.
JB Holston 47:45
Great, but my guest has been Beth covert who's the Chief Operating Officer for the Markle Foundation and the CEO of Skillful, which is an initiative with Markle, Beth has been great talking to you today. Say thank you so much for your time.
Beth Cobert 47:57
Thanks so much. Great to see you.
JB Holston 47:59
All right. We'll talk to you again soon.
Nina Sharma 48:07
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb. Justin Madison Turner, Christian Rodriguez and Nina Sharma. If you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington partnership.com.