Achieving data interoperability without the inclusion of the worker is not possible—or even beneficial—to the workforce system at large. Our research makes clear that a single organization or entity cannot fully understand the needs and interests of a community or employer. Rather, stakeholders must come together to share needs and design collective, collaborative, and data-driven solutions with workers. Collective impact efforts such as Digital US, a coalition of national stakeholders committed to building a digitally resilient workforce, indicate that a network approach is powerful, achievable, and leads to impact at multiple levels.
Today, leaders in government, education, and industry are exploring technology-based solutions to more efficiently match individual skill sets to opportunities, such as digitally-referenceable career standards, interoperable data systems, open job data resources, and the adoption of interoperable learning records (ILRs). These efforts hold promise for frontline workers, but in order for them to access, navigate, and use these kinds of technologies, research and development (R&D) must involve workers themselves. It is critical to recognize that all frontline workers do not share the same needs, experiences, and advantages in the workplace. Involving workers in the development of systems and programs to support their advancement creates opportunities and also can strengthen and promote racial, gender, and digital equity in frontline sectors.
As we have seen time and again, solutions that are pitched and implemented without consulting those who are directly impacted fall short of their potential. Moving forward, we need to design systems that are worker-centric, worker-informed, and worker-driven to coordinate our efforts, advance workplace equity, and guarantee greater impact. We recommend implementing an Inclusive Innovation R&D process to collaborate with frontline workers as co-experts in designing solutions to thrive in a skills-based economy and achieve mobility.