Skills on the National Stage

skills on the national stageWe are excited to see the emergence of a national conversation on the importance of using skills to build the workforce, improve hiring outcomes, and increase opportunities for success. In the past few months we have seen a focus on rebuilding America’s infrastructure, products Made In America, and helping workers rebuild their skills to increase opportunities for success in the workplace.

There have also been recent efforts on behalf of some foundations to direct tens of millions of dollars to see if philanthropy can build a system to create a stronger workforce.

In just two years, the SkillSmart platform has been used by more than 20,000 job seekers, to assist more than 30 employers to hire more than 1,000 people for jobs paying between $35,000 and $80,000 annually. 

By using a skills-based model for hiring, SkillSmart increases transparency in the hiring process, improves hiring outcomes for job seekers and increases employee retention. We have demonstrated that a skills-based focus on hiring is not just a good idea, it’s good business.

We have real data from working with employers and communities to focus on skills to build stronger workers, increase job retention, and improve efficiency in hiring. Most important, we’ve found this can be done with a scalable technology solution with the market paying for these outcomes and without relying on philanthropic dollars.

Skills-based hiring is not a charitable activity; it’s a real-world, market-based solution to close the skills gap and grow our economy. And we’re supporting the movement by continuing to identify new clients, in new communities, and new industries.

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The Future of Workforce Development: A Sit Down with Innovate + Educate

Three Questions With Ryan Craig, Jason Green, and Jason Palmer. Interviews conducted and compiled by Susanna Williams of Innovate+Educate. Edited for length.

1. How do you see work changing?

Jason Palmer, General Partner at New Market Ventures:

People are going to have more different jobs and careers than ever before.

Jason Green, Co-Founder of SkillSmart:

This is part of the evolution of work. We have to understand the regularity with which people change jobs- as many as 16 times over the course of their lives now. Jobs are much less defined- instead of rigid jobs you could go to school for, we’re seeing all sorts of new jobs that use skills in new combinations.

Jason Palmer:

People are getting much smarter about figuring out what skills and credentials they need that will ladder them up their career path, but it’s still a complicated world out there and people have to self-navigate. We’re seeing more companies popping up to reduce friction and help people get the credentials they need. It’s really exciting as an investor, because it’s messy out there- and innovation thrives on building new structures in the messiness.

Jason Green:

Right, but there’s still an asymmetry of information. The employers hold all the information. Skills based hiring is a more transparent process that’s helping to democratize hiring, but that means employers also have to become more engaged.

Jason Palmer:

Someone recently said that technology jobs are the blue collar jobs of the 21st century, and I agree with the general point. You can become technology literate and get yourself a middle class job much faster than you can get a college degree. All jobs are becoming technology enabled- after all, Uber drivers need to use technology to pick up riders- and tech really is driving almost everything.

Ryan Craig, Managing Director, University Ventures

Particularly for entry level jobs. Whereas a decade ago those might have been more freewheeling and unstructured, today they are much more mediated through software like Salesforce. And that is a talent supply issue that traditional universities haven’t yet caught up to and don’t particularly seem interested in getting involved in.

The real challenge is that most employers have given up on the notion that new college graduates will have experience with that platform and have imposed experience requirements on jobs that used to be entry level. It is a fact that entry level sales reps probably don’t require the four years of the developmental education that college requires.

Mission U is a one year bachelor’s alternative. It’s the first degree that’s explicit about being a replacement degree. There is no tuition. It’s an income share agreement– 15% of your income for the first three years of work. A good number of their first cohort were enrolled in elite universities and left after their first year to enroll in Mission U.

A decade ago, you’d get a lot of reasons for why students enrolled in college. It used to be about half were focused on getting a job afterward. Now it’s north of 90%. They’re very focused on that first job and faster and more efficient pathways to that first job are going to see enormous growth in the next few years.

None of us want less education in aggregate or per capita. What’s important is that colleges and universities develop very clear secondary and tertiary pathways. It can’t just be about the four-year or two-year degree.

Jason Green:

We have to acknowledge that people engage in skill development in places that are outside traditional educational institutions and we have to find a way to quantify that skill attainment, regardless of where or how those skills were learned.

Ryan Craig:

The real question is which colleges and universities will be able to make that leap away from the four year bundle to a faster and less expensive pathway. The key to that change is the connection to the employer. Any college can change their curriculum, but where I’m struggling is with the question of employer connectivity. If you see the level of connectivity that many of these last-mile intermediaries offer, at a minimum they’re getting direct input from employers, which is anathema to traditional faculty. Some are co-locating, some intermediaries are hiring the student directly and not charging any tuition. I think lots of colleges will try to do it but I don’t know how many will be successful.

Jason Green:

Workforce development is no longer limited to job training programs. All programs are going to have to be more accountable and engaged with industry. Providing a relevant curriculum will lead to having engaged learners, better persistence, completion and, importantly, attainment of the skills needed for employment.

2. What are the biggest challenges facing employers in hiring?

Jason Green:

Employers are starting to deal with their over-reliance on technologies they no longer have confidence in- job descriptions and resumes. Job descriptions haven’t changed all that much in hundreds of years, even as work has. And resumes are a limited two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional person who may or may not be a fit for jobs that are increasingly four or five or six dimensional. We’ve used degrees as proxies for skills, but we’re getting to a point where that’s no longer satisfying our talent identification needs.

Ryan Craig:

[University Ventures] spends as much time with employers as we do with higher ed. The top of the funnel is broken, specifically at the intake. Filtering overweights technical skills because those are easy to identify, but jobs are more than technical skills.

Jason Green:

Absolutely. The current system is based on a crude filter.

The ease of the application process is actually becoming a hindrance to identifying a qualified candidate. These technologies have created a situation where we are getting 100 applications for every job posting.

One of the biggest shifts that we’re going to have to make is in the psyche of human resource professionals. They’ve held on to a volume mindset as a metric of success, but the problem is not about getting more applications, it’s about finding the right person for the job.

Ryan Craig:

We’re starting to see the emergence around the world of microassessments assessing cognitive skills that are given at the outset of the hiring process which will then determine whose applications are seen by a hiring manager. These are proliferating everywhere but the US because of an adverse regulatory environment fostered by the EEOC.

If you actually do shift from the current pedigree and degree based hiring to microassessment as your first filter, you increase diversity a lot. The problem here is that EEOC accepts on face value degree based hiring, which is actually replicating inequality, and focuses all of their enforcement activities on assessments. Instead, employers should be measured based on their hiring outcomes, and given safe harbors to experiment.

Jason Palmer:

Smaller and medium sized companies are already ignoring the rules.

Qualified is being used to qualify coders by proving you can solve coding challenges. They’re working with Andela to place sub-Saharan Africans as remote coders, as well as hundreds of American companies. Lots of people without college or even high school are training up and demonstrating that they can do these jobs.

Ryan Craig:

70% of micro-assessment usage is for clients outside the US. In a world where we are very focused on making sure US employers don’t offshore jobs, not having access to hiring tools like this is a very strong incentive to not hire American. If we could unlock this barrier, we could give millions of low income Americans meritocratic access to these jobs.

It is so important to look to other markets, like the UK. Apprenticeships, competency based hiring have almost become government policy to encourage shorter pathways to jobs.

We want American employers to invest in American workers. Revature is running free coding bootcamps. They offer guaranteed jobs, staff their students out for two years. Students often then get hired by the companies themselves, making this their first and second job.

Jason Palmer:

We’re seeing pretty serious traction in middle and even elementary school with the teaching of computer science and technology and coding. Computer science courses now count toward graduation in 23 states. There are companies offering full-course solutions in elementary schools. Rhode Island and Washington state are leaders pushing this envelope. These companies do extensive professional development with math, science, and music teachers to train them how to teach computer science. They initially looked for just math and science teachers, but now 10 – 20% of the teachers they work with are from the art and music domains.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing job training programs and the workforce development sector?

Ryan Craig:

It’s a different universe. I agree with Secretary DeVos- simply making small changes to the Higher Education Act (HEA) is not the way to go. We need to rethink our higher education system in order to solve a problem- how do we take students from the point they finish K-12 and move them into a good job in the growing economy? We have balkanized our system of higher education and put up on a pedestal one pathway– the degree. All of these systems would do better to work together in a more coordinated way.

We’re looking at a separate Department of Labor pool of money that is separate from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds that is disconnected from the apprenticeship process. We need an integrated system that offers a much greater diversity of pathways to a good job.

Jason Green:

We certainly need a different kind of thinking- and that starts with letting go of old filters. At SkillSmart we have developed an alternative means for evaluation based on the lived and learned skills which allows employers and workforce agencies to relax their grip on traditional resume based evaluation.

Jason Palmer:

Employers need to adapt. If employers can find people who’ve held a job for two years, but don’t have a college degree, they’re worth hiring and they can be trained up with the the specialized skills they need. Small companies are popping up to onboard and run internship and apprenticeship programs.

Ryan Craig:

I agree with Peter Cappelli – employers want the perfect candidate and aren’t going to sully their hands with training. The market is coming up with solutions– we’re seeing the emergence of small private lenders who are lending on what you’re likely to earn in the future, so-called income share agreement models. This significantly reduces the risk for the students. We’re also seeing innovations in staffing models- a try before you buy kind of approach, which reduces risk for students and employers.

Jason Green:

We hear from a lot of employers who are willing to go along with the status quo even though it isn’t meeting their needs because they don’t want to take the risk of trying something new. Those of us who can see the bigger problem need to do a better job of articulating what inaction looks like, because there is a real cost to not changing the way we’re hiring and training and educating.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SkillSmart Selected for Village Capital’s Education: US 2017 Program

SkillSmart has been selected to participate in Village Capital’s Education: US 2017 program focused on helping higher education providers, private companies and other initiatives invested in workforce development initiatives.

According to a 2013 Gallup report, only 11% of employers think that graduating students have skills that fit their needs, and studies find that up to 96% of employers are unhappy with their labor pools and new hires. Comparatively, job seekers and employees want to build the right skills for the job, but struggle to identify the skills they already have, where to go to fill in the gaps with the ones they need and how to prove mastery to employers.

Village Capital and Lumina Foundation, along with an ecosystem of partners, will support each Education: US 2017 participant by:

– Supporting and investing through its collaborative venture development program
– Facilitating partnerships between startups and strategic partners
– Providing analytics, financial and technology resources

Companies selected as Education: US 2017 cohorts are focused on career skills building and validation, or intend to expand their services to fill those gaps, specifically companies that:

– Bridge the gap on credentialing and skills-based learning for students in higher education and adult education
– Focus on rethinking credentials and qualifications in order to better match careers and build skills
– Provide innovative solutions to skills and training for workers in order to help them get their first job, move up in their career, or start a second career

For further information, read more from Village Capital or contact Jason Green at 240-498-4492 or


About SkillSmart
SkillSmart is a skills-based, tech-enabled platform that helps growing organizations and industries find the talent they need by matching job seekers to employment opportunities based on skills and abilities. To accomplish this, SkillSmart partners with companies from a variety of industries and provides access to their proprietary technology to allow them to search and filter through a pipeline of qualified candidates. SkillSmart’s mission is to end the skills gap that employers face in filling various roles. 
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SkillSmart Streamlines and Improves the Effectiveness and Experience of Hiring

SkillSmart is twice as effective at identifying qualified talent for hire than its online counterparts. Watch why SkillSmart has been successful helping brands across the country like MGM Casino & Resorts, Milwaukee Bucks Arena, Purple Line Transit Partners, and others with their large-scale hiring efforts.

“At no point along the way do we want the job seeker to say ‘I don’t have that,'” says Mike Knapp, CEO and Founder of SkillSmart. “We want them to see ‘I don’t have that, but here’s the next step.’ And so we try to continue to link them.”

More, SkillSmart helps community training and education programs tailor their courses to teach the skills employers need. Doing so significantly increased targeted enrollment and resulted in greater outcome of people getting hired upon completion in one recent hiring effort in the DC Region.

SkillSmart streamlines the talent recruitment and hiring by focusing on the skills needed, improving the effectiveness and experience by both employers and job seekers.

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Do you really need a 4-year degree for an entry level job?


One of the ongoing themes of these weekly blogs is the fact that the current college system is broken.

This system not only limits those who chose not to attend a university, but also a significant portion of those who graduate. The fact that employers tend to favor college graduates over those who did not attend university has not only saddled a large segment of the population with debt, but has also caused businesses to overlook many skilled employees.

There have been countless case studies and surveys conducted which have shown that in many cases graduating college alone does not properly prepare an individual to complete tasks at their job. There is no significant difference between the skills of someone who graduates from a university and a high school graduate in entry level positions.

Within the Bloomberg article “Do You Really Need a College Degree for That Entry-Level Job?” Peter Coy compares the job experiences of college graduates to high school graduates.

Because employers tend to respect candidates with college degrees more, graduates have an easier time receiving a position that high school graduates. However, 49% of recent college graduates indicated that they “didn’t have to go to college to acquire the skills they needed for their current jobs.”

This data might cause one to reconsider the college process altogether. If college does not prepare a young adult for an entry level position, then why are they placed at a premium?

The article’s second case study further proves that a college diploma may be overvalued. A new research algorithm (funded by the Rockefeller Foundation which was created to test employee skills) indicated that 83% of high school graduates without college experience performed at a level comparable with the average entry level employee at various businesses.

While we can all agree that there are several benefits to attending university, perhaps it is time for us to stop placing so much importance on it.

What do you think?

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Empowering You to Find a Job Doesn’t Sacrifice Your Happiness


The Smart Talk weekly blog posts and online job seeker articles are atypical from the common job advice you might receive from your parents in the past. Perhaps this reflects the changing mindset of the modern job seeker.

In the past, jobs were seen as a career, so you have to work hard to impress future employers knowing that this business could probably be your place of employment for life. However, the combination of distrust of big business, and the importance of happiness at your workplace has led to a new modern mindset.

Twenty years ago you may have gone into a job interview looking at the experience as a one-way relationship, now the you’re more likely to observe how you are being treated within the interview process.

While bill collectors wait for no one, and some still view the job interviewer as the party with all the power, a growing segment of the younger generation looks at employment as a mutual relationship: I provide a much needed skill, you provide me with respect and happiness.

Therefore when you read our weekly blog posts, we want you to read about more than just techniques to please your interviewer, or the right words to say during an interview. Here, you’ll find employee empowerment pieces. You will read about signs you should look for during an interview process, and what you should gather from them.

The current generation changes positions at a faster rate than previous generations, and if some continue to rush into positions specifically for a paycheck this trend will only continue.

So keep following us, and stay tuned for more tips and guidance on how you can prepare for a job that meets your budgetary requirements as well as your happiness ones.

Do you have any suggestions our other readers can benefit from?

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Don’t Discard that Liberal Arts Degree


Students majoring in Liberal Arts fields are often undervalued. Relatively speaking, these degrees do not carry the same weight as medical or engineering degrees.

In an uncertain job market some look at these graduates as individuals who do not possess a certain skill to do a particular task. These are not graduates who can do an open heart surgery or write code for a Fortune 500 company, therefore finding a job after graduation for these students can be rather problematic.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers “only 32.6 percent of philosophy majors in the class of 2015 secured full-time employment by January 2016, compared to 65.7 percent of business majors” within the same timeframe.

However, this mindset may be on the precipice of change. Recently, Forbes contributor Renee Morad wrote an article titled “Why Mark Cuban Believes Liberal Arts Is The Future Of Jobs” in which the Dallas Mavericks owner is quoted explaining why Liberal Arts majors may be in demand in the near future.

Cuban theorizes that as technology advances some skills may become redundant. Cuban believes that society will give machines more of the tasks which we attend college for today.

This change will cause freethinkers to play a more integral role in the workforce.

Commonly overlooked skills such as communication, foresight, and critical thinking will be needed because these are skills which machines can not possess. This information would be welcomed by colleges, who in recent times have attempted to add more skills based courses to their Liberal Arts curriculums in order to secure more job prospects for their students.

What are your thoughts? Does this make you re-think your liberal arts choice, or reinforce that you made the right one?

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SkillSmart Announces Partnership with The Pierite Group; New, Unique Workforce Solutions Coming to Indian Country

Image Credit: The Pierite Group

SkillSmart, a for-purpose technology company with a skills-matching platform, announced a partnership at the National Reservation Economic Summit with The Pierite Group, a strategic economic development tribal advisor, to deliver workforce solutions to Indian Country with the overall goal of overcoming significant barriers to meaningful employment.

The native employment rate is nearly 14% lower than the national average. High school graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation, and the odds of Native Americans being employed are 31% lower than whites. Using the SkillSmart platform for skills-based training and hiring, combined with the economic development expertise of The Pierite Group, can help to reverse these declining employment statistics.

“This partnership is important to implement our mission of mobilizing community resources for major economic impact across the country. Marshall Pierite, CEO of The Pierite Group, along with his team, have demonstrated their commitment to diverse economic strategies to rejuvenate tribes. With SkillSmart’s success at increasing employment outcomes and retention, this unique partnership will create a workforce solution in Indian Country. Key deliverables will include meeting the specific needs of Tribes, expanding on skill levels of tribal members, and allowing for Tribal Councils to diversify through economic development,” said Jason Green, SkillSmart SVP Business Development. These initiatives will serve as valuable resources to expand economic development beyond gaming.

The Pierite Group was founded by CEO Marshall Pierite with the express goal of providing guidance to businesses, Tribal governments, local governments, and non-profit entities in their pursuit of financial independence. “We are excited to join forces with SkillSmart to create workforce opportunities for Native Americans. This partnership will allow us to identify individual job skills to match with potential employers, with the goal of aiding economic diversity across Indian Country,” said Marshall Pierite.

The Pierite Group offers access to a broad range of professional resources and provides the necessary tools and expertise to ensure long-term success and sustainability. Located in Central Louisiana, the TPG’s philosophy is to build locally, while thinking globally.

Founded by Jason Green and Mike Knapp, SkillSmart is a tech-enabled, skills-based platform that helps growing organizations and industries find and develop the talent they need by matching job seekers to employment opportunities based on skills and abilities. SkillSmart creates a pipeline of qualified workers and helps prospective employees gain the skills they need.

Recognizing the challenge that many employers face when seeking qualified and skilled talent, the SkillSmart platform directly connects the three key stakeholders of today’s workforce via employers, job seekers and educators; thus, creating transparency in the talent acquisition process and enabling job seekers to better understand the various cybersecurity opportunities and pathways. In return, employers can identify a stronger pool of candidates.

Current partners leveraging the SkillSmart platform include MGM National Harbor, MGM Springfield, the Milwaukee Bucks, Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, MA, and the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council, in addition to others.

For further information about SkillSmart, please visit or contact Jason Green at 240-498-4492 or


About SkillSmart
SkillSmart is a skills-based, tech-enabled platform that helps growing organizations and industries find the talent they need by matching job seekers to employment opportunities based on skills and abilities. To accomplish this, SkillSmart partners with companies from a variety of industries and provides access to their proprietary technology to allow them to search and filter through a pipeline of qualified candidates. SkillSmart’s mission is to end the skills gap that employers face in filling various roles. 
About The Pierite Group
Established in 2015 in Marksville, LA., The Pierite Group specializes in advisory and strategic consulting, project management, governmental and political relationship building, organizational and structural development, and community outreach.
The Pierite Group is Native American owned and operated by CEO and founder, Marshall Pierite. With more than 30 years of governmental experience in Indian Country in public and private sectors, TPG is committed to providing its clients the necessary resources to achieve financial and socioeconomic independence through economic development.
For more information about The Pierite Group, please visit
319 Center St, Marksville, LA 71355, 318-597-8981. 
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Position Yourself for the Job You Want

As job seekers we have all experienced this feeling before, you see an attractive opportunity but your previous work experience does not match up with anything needed for the position.

So, you end up doubting yourself, and ultimately do not pursue the position of interest.

During the question answer session titled “I’m Qualified For The Job — Just Not On Paper” Forbes contributor Liz Ryan explains how to apply for a position which you not seem – to the naked eye – qualified for.

First, Ryan asks her readers to do some research. If you can figure out who’s in charge of hiring the staff, you can connect with them directly. Next, you must brainstorm challenges that the prospective employer may have and is attempting to solve by hiring new staff.

Researching these points can be done by examining the company’s LinkedIn page or latest press releases. After you identify these issues, you must use your prior working experience to show how you have experienced similar issues at your last position in order to prove your worth to the new recruiter.

The personal experience does not have to be exactly the same, but must show that you used the same skills or thought process to solve the issue as you would use to solve the new company’s problems as well.

Then create a human voiced (first-person) resume, put your thoughts and research together within the form of a pain letter and submit both the letter and resume to the employer.

While you may not receive this particular position, the research conducted and thoughts compiled will only help you draft an even better letter the next time you see a position you want to pursue.

These are all growing pains on the road to achieving a new position of interest.

Here’s to finding a job that makes you happy!

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Is it ever okay to leave an interview abruptly?


As job seekers, we are sometimes too eager to settle for any position. This mindset can be destructive to future success and happiness. Usually before we accept an opportunity there are several signs that this position might not be the right fit, but we choose to ignore it.

A huge indicator may be how the interview process goes. While a positive interview process does not guarantee a positive future work experience, a negative interview process can be a tell tale sign for a negative working environment. So the question is “Why do individuals normalize, and stick through a negative interview experience?”

During Liz Ryan’s latest article “Ten Reasons To Get Up And Leave A Job Interview,” Ryan theorizes about this question, and provides her audience with several reasons that would justify leaving an interview.

Ryan’s basic premise is that individuals simply do not know how to remove themselves from a negative interview. Therefore, Ryan informs the job seeker that it is not disrespectful to simply excuse yourself from an interview if it is not what you expect. Ryan also states that if you do not feel comfortable abruptly leaving an interview, you can call the office, or send an email shortly after declining consideration for the position.

Ryan’s article explains more than how to end a negative interview, the article is multilayered. Ryan provides job seekers with several acceptable reasons to leave an interview prematurely.

While these reasons include everything from aesthetics to safety, most of her talking points revolve around a lack of respect exhibited by some interviewers.

If an employer continuously questions the legitimacy of your resume, perhaps this is not the best working environment. This can be a sign that you are not being taken seriously, and possibly will not be treated with respect.

If your interviewer arrives late, disorganized, or ill prepared, this may not be the best place to work. This behavior may be a microcosm the company’s overall shortcomings.

Remember it is better to pass on a bad opportunity and allocate your time looking for a better fit than to settle for the position at hand then find yourself leaving it shortly after.

Here’s to finding a job that makes you happy!

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