Building Networks for Frontline Worker Advancement - Digital Promise

Building Networks for Frontline Worker Advancement

September 25, 2019 | By

The labor market is changing rapidly. According to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, an overwhelming 60 percent of jobs are expected to be automated in the near future, leaving many workers across service industries — such as healthcare, retail, restaurant, hospitality, and manufacturing — uncertain about their futures.

Today’s technologies make it possible for adult learners to develop skills for career advancement, but the lack of coordination across education providers, employers, and career service centers often makes it difficult for learners to navigate professional growth opportunities.

A lot of time is wasted on job applications, because every time you apply to a new store, you have to write in the same things you just wrote for the last store.
Connor Pennell
Retail Employer

From Connor Pennell’s perspective, a current retail employer in the Boston area, “a lot of time is wasted on job applications, because every time you apply to a new store, you have to write in the same things you just wrote for the last store.” Connor notes that it would be really helpful for employees, “especially people who are trying to advance their careers, while also working full time,” to be able to present their skills in one place, in a way that multiple stores and managers could see and understand.

With funding provided by Walmart, the Adult Learning team at Digital Promise has launched a new research project to explore the potential impact of data interoperability, that is the ability to exchange information between applications and online systems in a seamless, safe, and controlled way, on career advancement for frontline workers, those who deal directly with customers, delivery services, or hands-on manual labor or manufacturing.

This project builds on findings from Tapping Data for Frontline Talent Development around data sharing and use in the adult learning ecosystem that serves frontline workers. As part of this work, we are interviewing workers, employers, adult education and workforce training providers, higher education institutions, government representatives, and nonprofit leaders. We will also be conducting case studies to highlight the ways that regional stakeholders are already collaborating to advance career pathways for learners.

This fall, we will continue to collect qualitative data through interviews and focus groups with workers and employers from service industries–if you or anyone you know may be interested in participating, please reach out to us through this brief form.

When we think about data interoperability, we have to think about workplace readiness and job readiness across the whole value chain
Erin Mote
Co-Founder and Executive Director of InnovateEDU

After collecting data, we will use findings to create a shareable strategic plan and interactive final report, in partnership with our expert advisory committee. Our ultimate goal is to promote strategies to connect workers to better education and employment opportunities by generating demand for stronger partnerships and more effective data sharing practices among stakeholder groups.

Preliminary findings reveal that data interoperability, in and of itself, will not solve the challenge of connecting talent to employment. But, it could be an integral part of the solution. The need to establish cross-stakeholder partnerships that lead to life-sustaining career pathways in competitive sectors with and for today’s workers is the first step toward data interoperability, which remains largely a human task.

Receive project updates by signing up for the Digital Promise Adult Learning Spotlight, including incredible stories of collaboration from our case study communities, in 2020!

To refer a worker, employer, or other stakeholder representative for an interview or for general information about the project, please complete this brief form or contact Sarah Cacicio, Senior Project Director of the Adult Learning Initiative, at

Sign Up For Updates! Email icon

Sign up for updates!