Future of Work: Can private companies reskill better than the government?

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Noorjit Sidhu, future of work investor at Plug & Play, reached out after seeing my LinkedIn post about joining Catalyte and how reskilling ties to my parents’ immigration story. He wanted to connect over the future of work. We jumped on a fun phone call and Noorjit followed-up with a list of questions for me. Being the (proud) nerd I am, I’m excited to write up my answers and share them with you in a Future of Work Series. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

NS: Public reskilling programs provided by the government have been around for a while and largely perceived to have failed. Why is that? And do you think private sector entities can be more successful in reskilling workers or can private companies reskill better than the government?

LT: It’s not a perception, governments have failed at reskilling workers; even the Labor Department said so after seeing the Workforce Investment Act Gold Standard Evaluation results.

Government worker reskilling initiatives have not succeeded for many reasons, including public-private relationship dynamics and commitment levels. Point-blank, the U.S. government cannot address the reskilling challenge alone and they haven’t quite figured out how to work well with the private sector. Government investment is just not there for workers who need reskilling. According to a White House report, most spending is focused on training for people under 26 years old; and, to make things worse, per the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is second-to-last in taxpayer-funded training investment amounts, relative to all other developed nations. This is unfortunate because not investing in the workforce will hurt our economic growth and our level of global competitiveness, but that’s a topic for another day.

Between the public and private sector, in my opinion, the tech-enabled private sector will prioritize reskilling workers and have better success at it — mostly because of the economic incentives. Every company will become a tech company if they’re not already, and they will need tech talent. The problem is basic economics: there is a high demand for tech talent but only a low supply exists. This means that with every incremental unit of tech talent demand, the supply of it becomes that much more expensive. This expense eats into a business’s ability to make higher margins on the products or services they sell. So, when companies reskill workers in technical skill sets, they will be better off economically. The unexpected benefits of reskilling will include having an edge (over their competition) and giving many workers an opportunity to uplevel their social-economic status. The alternative to reskilling is losing billions in layoffs, restructuring and hiring new people.

All that said, if the public sector supports private sector initiatives, I do believe that as a country we can reach higher levels of reskilling success for both companies and individual workers.

NS: How are private entities learning from mistakes made by the government in their reskilling efforts?

LT: I’m not sure that private entities are necessarily “learning from the government” but rather keeping tabs on what government initiatives can be helpful for them. The private sector has its own point-of-view and approach to reskilling the workforce. And many enterprises are starting to focus on it.

Companies want to do what’s best for their customers, investors, and stakeholders. And they understand that in a tech-centric world, they need tech talent to satisfy their customers, which in turn will satisfy their investors and stakeholders (the people who want to see the companies grow the business and make money). That, in combination with a growing demand from consumers and workers for companies to have a positive social impact, is making it particularly important for companies to figure out their tech talent gaps and reskilling initiatives in a socially responsible manner.

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About Lolita Taub
Lolita Taub is the chief of staff at Catalyte, a TEDx speaker and an AI enthusiast, with a venture capital and enterprise tech background. She is a Venture Partner at NexGen, an LP at Portfolia’s Enterprise Fund and a former VC at Backstage Capital and K Fund. Lolita holds nearly a decade of enterprise B2B software, hardware and services sales experience at IBM, Cisco Systems and in Silicon Valley. She has a BA from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the IE Business School. Lolita has been recognized for her work on Forbes, Inc.com, The Huffington Post and Entrepreneur.com among other publications.

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