A Conversation on the Skills Mapping Academy with Keri Faulhaber, JobsFirstNYC

This feature focuses on the Skills Mapping Academy in partnership with SkyHive and how A.I. is positioned to revolutionize workforce development.

This week, Stephanie Birmingham, Director of Community and Operations at NYCETC sat down with Keri Faulhaber, Vice President of JobsFirstNYC to discuss their Skills Mapping Academy in partnership with SkyHive and how A.I. is positioned to revolutionize workforce development. [This interview was edited and condensed.]

Editor’s note: This feature was originally included in NYCETC’s NYC Workforce Weekly newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers’ inboxes every Wednesday with trends and top stories about workforce development in New York City. Subscribe here.

Stephanie Birmingham, NYCETC: I was so excited to hear about your recently launched second cohort for the Skills Mapping Academy! I first became aware of this project when you and Alison Lands, Director of Strategy at SkyHive spoke at our conference last year. Can you update for our readers who might be unfamiliar with the project?

Keri Faulhaber, JobsFirstNYC: JobsFirstNYC launched the Skills Mapping Academy in partnership with SkyHive, pioneers of Quantum Labor Analysis for the rapid reskilling of workers and communities worldwide. Skills Mapping uses real-time labor market intelligence to understand the skills people have, the skills they need to succeed in the workforce – now and in the future, and how to bridge the gap. By analyzing and mapping the skills of individuals and neighborhoods and matching them to needs across jobs, sectors and industries, we can tackle the traditional barriers impeding job searching, recruitment, and pathways to career opportunities for those with varying qualifications. 

Skills Mapping provides a tool for workforce development practitioners to use technology to distill individuals’ experiences down to specific skills. This way, job seekers are compared based on their skills, rather than educational or professional backgrounds. It is an approach that levels the playing field, removing biases tied to education or work history. We created the Skills Mapping Academy with the goal of teaching workforce practitioners how to utilize SkyHive’s technology for this purpose.

Birmingham: And we know skills-based hiring is beginning to gain traction with employers in New York City.

Faulhaber: Yes, our Skills Mapping initiative is about that, as is our work with OneTen. And employers are making the pivot towards skills-based hiring with acceptance, understanding, even a recognition of the “double bottom line” improvements of skills based hiring. It’s good for business, and it’s good for people. What we all in workforce development have been advocating for for more than 20 years, right? Recent data from Bain and OneTen shows hiring based on skills is five times more predictive of future job performance than educational background. And two and a half times more predictive than work experience.

Birmingham: What have you found since holding the first Skills Mapping Academy?

Faulhaber: Cohort one and the individuals they work with have open access to the platform through August and are still using it, but early learnings show that initial mapping is strong – 3,500 skills were mapped across nearly 700 participants with the support of 15 community-based partners! We are seeing that durable skills are more commonly mapped and are the skills most demanded in the labor market, which tells us that underrepresented neighborhoods and people may be an untapped source of talent for New York City employers. 

Birmingham: How do you address the apprehension that providers have in using AI tools like SkyHive?

Faulhaber: JobsFirstNYC’s work – and the partnerships we establish – are built on a foundation of data and information. Looking at the conditions we are addressing together creates a space where we can align and collaborate around solutions, where we can do more, serve more people, and change systems collectively. It’s similar with eliminating apprehension around A.I. Artificial intelligence can change the nature of work for many jobs. But if we look at it from a benefits perspective rather than the negative impact, like the ability to more quickly move with the labor market, workforce development providers will be proactive about embracing change.

Birmingham: Yes, I’m using A.I. to transcribe our conversation right now.

Faulhaber: Exactly, and it changes the nature of work for many jobs, allowing us to focus on higher-value, higher-touch tasks that often require interpersonal interactions, which are key for effective workforce development programs and skills training. If we can increase and improve the way we serve people, because one part of our job is automated then everybody wins. Addressing apprehension is the easiest part of that once we all understand and see the benefits.

One of the fears of A.I. is that it will do away with so many jobs, but we don’t really don’t know that will happen. Just a few decades ago there was that same skepticism about the Internet, yet the technology created millions of jobs and is now 10% of the US GDP. A.I. is predicted to create even greater growth. Will it change the skills people need to be competitive in the workforce? That is likely. And that brings opportunity to the workforce development ecosystem – workforce development as a solution to reskilling and upskilling needs.

Birmingham: More generally, can you speak further on the need for democratizing data within the workforce development field?

Faulhaber: While we often use this term “democratizing data” within a single organization’s context, we can expand it further to how data is shared and used across the workforce development ecosystem in New York City. Skills mapping offers a comprehensive understanding of the labor market’s skill requirements, identifying training gaps and providing real-time insights into the economic development of job opportunities across sectors.

Through this data-driven process, we gain a granular view of where skills are in demand and where they are lacking, enabling us to allocate resources more strategically. 

Right now we’re launching three Sector Networks focusing on the green economy, healthcare, and tech sectors. These Networks strengthen collaboration among workforce training providers and employers to improve program design and skills training, leverage knowledge and resources, and increase access to higher-quality jobs. Integrating skills intelligence into the approach of each Network enables them to collaborate in a way that enhances the quality training already on offer, expands upskilling opportunities based on sought-after skills across the sectors, customizes training to meet the needs of employers, and increases employment opportunities. To continuously do this well, we must understand the skills required for open roles across these three sectors. Skills Mapping, and its role in democratizing data, is the tool that enables us to do so. 

Birmingham: Let’s talk about the record high unemployment numbers for young adults who are out of school and out of work in New York City. Can you expand on how this tool can build better bridges for young people trying to find their first job, and employers seeking talent in their community?

Faulhaber: The current unemployment crisis among young adults highlights the urgent need for innovative solutions to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers. The Skills Mapping Academy offers a powerful tool to address this challenge. By focusing on skills rather than degrees, the Academy empowers young adults to showcase their talents and capabilities, regardless of their educational background. 

This viewpoint is particularly significant within the context of the three sector networks – green economy, technology, and healthcare – which are pivotal for the future workforce landscape. Emphasizing matching skills to employer needs within these sectors fosters a stronger connection between young job seekers and local businesses. This approach drives economic growth and ensures that young adults can access training pathways and employment opportunities aligned with their communities’ demands. 

Understanding the skills needed to thrive in the green economy, technology sector, and healthcare industry is paramount for workforce training providers to craft programs that align with real-time demand and consistently evolve to serve job seekers better. These sectors represent the forefront of economic growth and innovation, shaping the future of work. By precisely mapping the skills required in these sectors, providers gain a direct line of sight into the evolving landscape of employment opportunities and employer expectations, bridging the gap between jobseeker, training, and employment at the community level. This knowledge empowers workforce providers to design training programs that are agile, adaptive, and in sync with industry demands, resulting in jobseekers equipping themselves with relevant skills that lead to meaningful careers. 

The synergy between the innovative skills mapping approach and the overarching goals of the sector networks creates a robust framework for reshaping the workforce development landscape — building those bridges between young people trying to find their first job and employers seeking talent in their community in a completely new way. 

Apply to the Skills Mapping Academy

Complete the Request to Participate Form here by September 8, 2023. This capacity-building series is free of charge, and priority access will be given to JobsFirstNYC Partners.