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Steve Preston. Photo: Goodwill Industries International

“We are going to see a very different economy down the road, and ensuring that we can tool people to move into those better jobs will be essential, ” Goodwill Industries CEO Steve Preston tells Axios.

Why it matters: Today’s labor mismatch isn’t just about COVID fears and unemployment insurance. Steve Preston would know — as the CEO of Goodwill Industries, which runs more than 650 career centers across the country, he’s been on the front lines of getting people back to work.

State of play: The demands of the labor force were changing — skewing more digital and higher-skilled — even before the pandemic hit.

  • COVID turbo-charged that shift.

Companies’ labor needs are different now. “I think it's something we don't talk about right now because we feel this big disequilibrium,” Preston says.

  • “The shift is going to continue — and existing jobs will require upskilling even more now,” he adds.

Between the lines: Goodwill's career centers lean in to digital skills training. In a partnership with Google, for example, it offers a five-tier program starting with the basics of computers, all the way up to programming.

Of note: The private sector should be hands-on in upskilling the workforce — as demonstrated in the Google partnership, Preston says.

  • “It's not just that [Google] is helping us fund programs. They're giving us curriculum, helping us understand what people need, and they've hired people from our program,” he says.

Employers should also expand the definitions of who is qualified for certain jobs — some companies require a degree or certificate for jobs that don’t actually need them, he says.

  • Widening the net also applies to considering formerly incarcerated individuals for jobs, he notes. Goodwill trains — and also hires — people who have been through the criminal justice system.

The bottom line: The current jobs transformation is not a problem belonging to just the jobless.

  • “This affects who we become as a country ... It affects our global competitiveness because a tooled labor force, with the right skills, will help us compete in a global economy.”

Go deeper

Food and hospitality industries still recovering from pandemic shock

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Rising pay isn't bringing in enough restaurant workers, adding to the strain on current employees.

A survey of 4,700+ former, current and aspiring restaurant workers found many employees aren't leaving the workforce — just restaurants.

A tale of two jobs reports

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Whatever you think about the economy, you’ll find something in this morning’s conflicting jobs report to reinforce your views: America's job market is white-hot and the labor market is anemic.

Between the lines: The conflict comes from the two separate surveys the government uses to compile the report.

Dec 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Distilling disparate job numbers

Two storylines have emerged from the latest jobs numbers. Far fewer jobs were added to the U.S. economy in November than economists expected, yet the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2%.

Erica Pandey is joined by Washington Post economic columnist Catherine Rampell to dig into these numbers and how two very different economic indicators can coexist — and how they could influence Federal Reserve officials.