Must Read Blog January 19, 2024

What Will It Take to Move the Needle in Solving the Job Skills Gap?

Last year at this time, I was thinking about catalytic capital and the power of philanthropic funder collaboratives to drive transformation in Future of Work and K-12 systems change. While the journey has started, it often takes years before evidence of success becomes apparent, and there is still considerable ambiguity – and possibly misunderstanding about the use of catalytic capital. I firmly believe that catalytic capital has a critical role to play in supporting organizations that educate and place individuals in sustainable careers of the future. However, other ingredients are needed and these are the ones I will be looking out for in 2024. 



There is a growing ecosystem of venture-backed impact funds focused on training individuals and connecting them to employers to fill the job skills gap. JFF Ventures is raising a Fund II while Strada and WES are supporting the launch of a new Techstars Workforce Development Accelerator. These are a few among a group spurring innovation in the sector and supporting often overlooked entrepreneurs. 

In addition, the burgeoning public and private movement to support apprenticeships is gaining momentum. Ryan Craig’s book, Apprentice Nation, lays out a compelling case for why this model is the answer to solving the job skills gap and addresses the structural and policy changes needed to lay the groundwork for success, as well as the narrative change that must go along with it. 


Public Funding and Policy Changes 

The December legislation passed by the House of Representatives, which would ensure short-form programs are Pell-eligible, could be a big step forward for those who believe that short-form programs offer a real solution to reskilling and raising incomes. While still a long way to go – and rife with contentious issues such as stripping Pell eligibility from certain wealthy higher education institutions – there are paths to compromise that could help with one part of the funding problem for short-course programs. 

The Inflation Reduction Act increased funding for apprenticeship programs in the clean energy sector, and states are beginning to take bigger steps, aiding the movement to have employers share the cost of training with the hopes of more rapidly filling the job skills gap and retaining employees and avoiding costly turnover and churn. 


Changing the Narrative and Starting Early 

Jean Eddy’s book, Crisis-Proofing Today’s Learners, makes a strong case for how we must begin earlier preparing kids for tomorrow’s world by changing the public narrative that the “only” path to success is a four-year degree. We must build a sense of agency, allow kids to be responsible for their learning, or “give kids their power back, ” and introduce work-based learning much earlier in a student’s academic career. Many organizations are working on narrative change; it will be interesting to see how/ when this movement gains more traction and captures the public’s attention in a meaningful way. 


As 2024 unfolds, I will be tracking these issues closely and I hope that we can work together to discover how to close the job skills gap. If you would like to talk further, please don’t hesitate to reach out at