Catching up with the Future of Work Collaborative

In a time of rapid social and technological change, how can we make sure the future of learning helps young people prepare for the future of work? Catch up on how readiness is being redefined with Marita Garrett, lead of Remake Learning’s newest working group, the Future of Work Collaborative.

One thing learning helps us do is prepare for a productive and rewarding life in the workforce. Career readiness is not the only goal of education, but it is an important target for learning. How educators, learners, and partners work towards this target is an open question these days, as social and economic forces rapidly reshape the future of work.

Reports like Inflection Point from the Allegheny Conference and Capturing the next economy from the Brookings Institution show what future of economic opportunity looks like. New and growing demand for high-tech, high-skill jobs are expected to drive demand for the future labor force, while a wave of retirements and relocations will create a shortage of some 80,000 qualified workers.

Meanwhile, periodic surveys of employers like Fulfilling the American Dream from the Association of American Colleges and Universities point to the so-called “soft skills” as those most in demand by executives and hiring managers.

And as the second annual Pittsburgh Equity Indicators report showed, chronic racial disparities in household income and access to economic opportunity continue to impact the quality of life for Black residents.

Clearly, the future of work is complicated. Fortunately, members of the Remake Learning network have been working for years to meet these challenges and seize the opportunity to ensure each and every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Workforce immersion programs for high school students like those led by Partner4Work and the Consortium for Public Education expose young people to real-world learning. Training providers like New Century Careers and the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center are designing outreach programs to help young people explore careers in growing fields. Dual Enrollment at the Community College of Allegheny County helps young people earn college credits while still in high school. And schools are revitalizing interest in career pathways, like Avonworth’s Pathways to the Future initiative, Nazareth Prep’s corporate internship program, and Career & Technical Education at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Marita Garrett

In 2017, Remake Learning convened in education, workforce development, and business at the Reimagining Career Readiness Showcase to spark new cross-sector collaboration aimed at enhancing the way young people in our region are supported on their journey to adult employment.

In 2019, these efforts coalesced in the formation of the Future of Work Collaborative, Remake Learning’s newest working group. Charged with building greater alignment between the region’s rich educational ecosystem and the needs of the modern workforce, the working group is led by Marita Garrett.

Where does the Future of Work fit into Remake Learning?

No matter what industry or field or organization you’re a part of, the strength and diversity of the workforce impacts everyone. It’s not just something educators or industry leaders need to concern themselves with, it impacts all of us.

So the Future of Work fits Remake Learning’s mission to make learning more relevant to the future today’s students are preparing for. And it fits Remake Learning’s strengths as a connector and convener of stakeholders who might not naturally come together.

How is the working group building on past efforts?

Our community is rich with resources and programs to support workforce development. What we have an opportunity to do with the Future of Work Collaborative is to bring everyone together to take a holistic look at the landscape, including taking hard looks at its challenges, so that we can create a shared roadmap. We want to support what everyone is doing individually, while building our collective capacity to take workforce readiness to the next level in the region broadly.

How is the meaning of “readiness” evolving?

We used to think about career readiness as “OK, get them ready for post-secondary education,” but now we’re thinking more “OK, get them ready for post-secondary life.”

I think this means educators and employers are going to take more active roles in preparing students for the world of work. A lot of times, it’s been about putting ownership and accountability on the students: “Study well, show up, do good on tests, get into a good college, and eventually you’ll find a job.” But now we’re putting more emphasis on getting adults more consistently involved as guides on students’ roadmap to their future.

Even for kids who want to go for a four-year degree, they can still benefit from learning workforce skills and having workforce experiences in manufacturing, business, and medicine.

By providing students all of those options and opportunities to take their first few steps down the path, you’re making sure they have enough information and real-life experience so that once they leave high school, regardless of where they go first, they’re informed and prepared to guide their own trajectory.

So hence the “future of work” and not just “career readiness”?

That’s right. Future of Work is intentionally broad. We’re not just preparing people for college or the trades. We need to be maximizing students’ potential for success, no matter what work looks like by the time they get there.

You recently hosted the first official meeting of the working group. Can you share some highlights?

We had a great first meeting. Very engaged and diverse group of participants. We had people from foundations, K-12 school districts, community colleges, and representatives from Mayor Peduto’s Office.

We started with some level-setting to make sure we could all have a productive conversation together, then we broke into smaller groups.

One of the things that was cool was that each of the breakout groups addressed equity. That let me know that everyone understands that there is more that we all need to be doing to reach out to under-connected students. There’s a general understanding that we are not equitable right now, but that we’re committed to seeing it and making it happen.

Another takeaway that stood out for me was the emergence of the fine arts and humanities in the conversation about readiness. Employers are talking about soft skills and the group really gravitated toward the arts and humanities as one of the ways to help develop well-rounded students. Because regardless of the field they try to go in to, students will need those social skills.

Where is the Future of Work Collaborative headed?

We’ll get together again in November for a session co-hosted with the Pittsburgh Technology Council. At this next meeting, we’re going to start exploring what the group can do together. In light of the ideas and questions we came up with at the first meeting, what kind of tangible product could we make together over the next year?

One thing I’m working for is getting more industry people and more teachers in the room. We have workforce developers, but we need actual employers in the room. And we have school administrators, but we need actual teachers in the room.

How can people learn more and get involved?

Head to and sign up for the newsletter. You’ll learn more about not only what we’re doing in the Pittsburgh region, but how the future of work is emerging nationally and globally. Plus, you’ll get invitations to our working group meetings so you can come out and connect with your new partners.

Published October 24, 2019