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Adapting to the Future of Work 2022: Dream Up

Shiza Ranamagar is a JobsFirstNYC summer intern. She is a New Yorker and rising junior at Haverford College, studying sociology. Shiza is also a Questbridge scholar and highly involved in her college community. She has been part of the Summer Youth Employment Program since she was 14, and just completed a Ladders for Leaders fellowship at JobsFirstNYC.

“People are working together like never before,” Alan Momeyer, Chairman of the Board of Directors at JobsFirstNYC, told the attendees at the seventh annual JobsFirstNYC Adapting to the Future of Work convening held on July 14, 2022. In his opening message, Momeyer highlighted the positive strides that JobsFirstNYC has made with its partners in creating a better environment for young adults in New York City. 

The convening was the first of a two-day series with the theme Dream Up, and featured transformative thought leaders who discussed how to support young adults as they focus on adapting to the ever-changing future of work. Each year, the convening aims to:

  1. Raise awareness across nonprofits, government, philanthropy, employers, and other stakeholders about the pressing issues facing the workforce development field and the people they serve. 
  2. Share the latest data on the conditions of young adults and examine the challenges being faced in the labor market. 
  3. Reimagine how systems can better align and integrate to prepare young adults to become financially self-sufficient. 

“The original purpose of the Adapting to the Future of Work convenings was to come together to uplift the voices of our partners and young people and to reflect on our current work so that we can collectively dream up new ways to enact transformational change,” reflected Marjorie Parker, President and CEO of JobsFirstNYC. According to Parker, there is an even more urgent need to expand the conversations now as “Our young people need us to include them in any equitable recovery solutions because they deserve a better future than the one they face. Our young people need us to dream up!” She emphasized our responsibility and the important role we play in shaping young people’s futures,

The theme of Dream Up was reinforced by various speakers throughout the event. “When we talk about dreaming, your imagination has to be rooted in your experience and exposure.” said Sheena Wright, Deputy Mayor of New York City for Strategic Initiatives, in her keynote conversation with Alison Omens, Chief Strategy Officer at JUST Capital and a JobsFirstNYC Board Member. Deputy Mayor Wright expressed her deeply personal connection to the theme of this year’s convening as she reminded attendees that creating access to opportunity will unlock the full realization of potential held within New York City’s young people, and emphasized that the government can’t do it alone, and expressed how crucial young adult voices are in laying the groundwork for the vision and goals that we set forth together. Deputy Mayor Wright stated, “When people get in a room and share what they are doing…when you enable people to bring people to the table to co-create with you, together, that builds a muscle that could be very powerful to break those silos [that we are all working in].” 

The first panel, Dream Up: Transformational Solutions for Young People, moderated by Nihar Suthar, Award-winning Writer, Storyteller, and Podcaster, exhorted attendees to transform existing workforce and education models to tear down inequitable systems and scale the positional authority of our younger people. 

Some of the key takeaways from this panel were:

Reuben Ogbonna, Executive Director of the Marcy Lab School, first brought our attention to the young people who feel disconnected: “They’re sitting on the sidelines because they don’t know how to enter into a place of power. It’s incumbent upon us to help the ones we work with to become the beacon of light. We must tell a different story about what it takes to succeed in this world.”

“We really encourage our young folks through our work to understand their agency, the inequities in the system, and to recognize that their voice is powerful. That is key,” emphasized Wesner Pierre, Chief Executive Officer of Partnership with Children. 

 “We have to focus on entrepreneurship as a pathway for young people and how education can support their entrepreneurial aspirations as they do dream up. Everyone doesn’t want to work for someone,” pointed out Dr. Michael Baston, President, Cuyahoga Community College, 

Justincredible, spoken word artist and author, returned this year to share two of his original youth-centric poems that underscored the value of young adults and the need to dream up an equitable and inclusive world for them. He ended off with an inspiring message, 

“Children of the ghetto, 

Keep your head up high. 

Don’t be afraid to cry. 

Don’t be ashamed to try, 

Because you were made to fly.” 

Redefining the Philanthropic Dream addressed the need to reimagine philanthropy today and made clear that approaches for just and impactful investing exist. It brought together progressive philanthropists who are elevating the dream of equitable fundraising and community-centered partnerships. The panel discussion moderated by Liz Faublas-Wallace, Award-winning Journalist, Founder and Managing Editor of Million$Pen, Ink, saw panelists invoking an urgent need to redefine equity in philanthropy, and to uplift young adults and those with lived experience in the decision-making process as compensated professionals. This conversation also highlighted the challenges with individualism and weaponized language, noting these systems should be dismantled.

“Philanthropy has to trust and empower the communities. They own the solution to the problems they face.” said Dr. Michelle Ramos, JD/PhD, Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS.

Philanthropy needs to be in a learning mindset. We need to share our data/metrics as well and be public about it and accountable” declared Dr. Angela Jackson, Chief Ecosystem Investment Officer at Kapor Center, who defined a “proximate leader” as someone who is a part of a disadvantaged community and has had to face the same struggles, as well as being guided by their values.“

A pivotal question on the mandatory involvement of young people in solutions came from Kia Jarmon, Agency Director at MEPR Agency, who asked, “Why aren’t young people considered leaders from the beginning? We don’t make any decisions about who decisions are being made for who are not at the table. People with lived experience have expertise. We need to compensate for where research comes from as well.” Jarmon also asserted  that “people will liberate themselves if we give them the space to do so.”

The Uncertain Pathway from Youth to a Good Job, a 2022 research paper published by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce was the focus of a discussion on career pathways. Based on the research from this eye-opening paper, the path to securing a good job has become longer and more arduous for young adults to navigate. Artem Gullish, Georgetown University’s Senior Policy Strategist and Research Faculty of the Center on Education and the Workforce, and Katherine Hazelrigg, Director of Strategic Communications and Production shared critical data and recommendations to address strong career pathways for young adults. Their findings depict that people with bachelor’s degrees have greater job prospects, yet there were three main barriers standing in the way of younger people’s success: the rising cost of education, limited access to work-based learning, and lacking career navigation services.

Key recommendations from the paper:

  1. Embrace diversity and reject injustice
  2. Apply an equity lens to policies and programs
  3. Provide targeted wraparound services
  4. Invest in programs treating education and labor markets as a single system
  5. Help young people pursue and attain education and career goals
  6. Create a transparent, data-based education and career navigation system
  7. Make college more affordable and more convenient. 

In addressing the findings of the Georgetown report, the Partnership Roundtable participants emphasized the need to advocate for institutional and legislative change to create more affordable education and training and was moderated by Amanda Rosenblum, Vice President Education, Evaluation and Impact at JobsFirstNYC. Both speakers underscored the need to collaborate, elevate and expand programs proven to break the mold and disrupt the system. 

“We need to continue to drive systems change so that we can move things from community to opportunity,” noted Kim Mitchell, Vice President of Strategy and Engagement at NPower, Inc. “What we could envision is changing culture in both post-secondary education and in the K–12 system. Cultural change will lead to advocacy, and that will lead to policy change,” said Sunil Gupta, Vice President of Adult and Continuing Education at LaGuardia Community College. Kim Mitchell and Sunil Gupta agreed that it is imperative for employer partners to break down persistent conventions built to exclude people. “Be love warriors–we want to help young people remember the past doesn’t have a future, but they do,” concluded Mitchell.

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