Cross post by , Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
On Friday, I was part of the team from the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Office of the Vice President, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) who joined up with Baltimore’s Morgan State University (MSU) to "data jam" on how to get America’s youth connected to jobs and on the path to rewarding careers.
Labor force participation for America’s youth is at historic lows. Only about 1 in 2 people in their teens and early 20s are working or looking for work. While it is easy to point to increasing college enrollment as a reasonable explanation, the workplace offers the opportunity to gain skills to complement academic, career and technical training. The cost of young people staying out of the labor market is all too real. Failure to join the labor market means reduced financial self-sufficiency, lost opportunities to apply academic skills or gain occupation-specific experience, and acquire more general workplace skills such as teamwork, time management, and problem solving.
The Data Jam brought together entrepreneurs, technology leaders, and policy experts to explore ideas for tools, services, and apps for young job seekers to explore career options, training opportunities, and new industries. Technology can help young people find connections to the labor market; assess academic, career, and technical training information; and, simply learn more about the world of work. The proliferation of labor market and career information from federal and state governments and the private sectors can provide great content and inspiration for new tools and apps. So, it was fitting that MSU, with competitive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coursework and state of the art facilities, opened its doors to national technology experts, and regional and federal government leaders to connect young workers with the training and resources they need to identify and seize upon employment opportunities.
My goal in participating in the event was simple: to tell job seekers about available data sets, and offer a call to action to job creators to develop those tools over the coming months. Advancing that goal will require three overarching approaches from all parties in attendance: (1) identify ways to better integrate disparate, but highly relevant data sources that are often siloed at the federal and state levels; (2) build and/or improve tools that are easy and intuitive for the user; and (3) more effectively reach young job seekers where they are on the Internet—the most beautiful site or most effective tool is no good if no one knows it exists.
During the morning session, teams of technology leaders, design and user experience experts, and federal and state policymakers discussed the challenges facing America’s young unemployed population, and then brainstormed ideas for technological solutions. By early afternoon, the teams had refined their ideas and pitched them to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, myself, and the rest of the participants. Nick Sinai, OSTP’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, concluded the day by soliciting participant commitments to develop mobile apps and online tools that will enable young job seekers to explore career and training options .
The proposals will be further refined and teams will create prototypes to launch at a White House “Datapalooza for Job Seekers” this fall. Stay tuned to learn more about the diverse projects and ideas that came from Friday's jam!