A Data Strategy for Jobs

Donald Trump had the absolute right idea when he recently convened technology luminaries from Google, Facebook, Microsoft (now owner of LinkedIn), Oracle, Palantir, Apple, and others to discuss the future of work under his incoming administration in 2017, and beyond.

I'd go so far as to say the convening was brilliant – though it appears to have been a missed opportunity for both the world's most profitable companies and working Americans.

Amidst the reported tactical talk of vocational training and H1-B visas at the summit, there appears to have been little discussion of one of the most powerful ways Silicon Valley companies can create jobs: adopt a data-driven strategy to job creation.

Silicon Valley is recognized as the epicenter of global innovation, particularly around software and data-driven services. Companies like Oracle, Google, LinkedIn/Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook – already among the most powerful, profitable, and valuable on the planet – have structured, stored, and analyzed more employment data than ever thought possible.

Consider the recent headlines that speak directly to these companies fast-growing interest in digitally mapping and monetizing the trillion-dollar jobs market:

"Facebook threatens LinkedIn with job opening features"

"Facebook and Google Invest More Deeply in Job Search"

"How Google's new Cloud Jobs API uses machine learning to help companies fill jobs"

Indeed, LinkedIn has 430M+ (largely American) jobseeker resumes digitized, networked, and optimized to help people find work. They have already done much with their Veteran's initiatives to help those Americans who have risked their lives for our country to find a place in the professional world.

Google also recently looked to the American government's O*NET job classification system (an invaluable, but largely unusable digital index of job families and skills) to apply machine learning via their "Cloud Jobs API" to enable better job matches and recommendations on career sites like Dice and CareerBuilder (two other Silicon Valley leaders who can serve as valuable allies in a national data strategy for jobs) .

Oracle, through its Peoplesoft franchise, alongside firms like SuccessFactors (IBM), and ADP manage more granular data on workers than most anyone, LinkedIn included – but the data remains locked in silos, seen by only a few talented data scientists in the Valley. 

It's time to put all our data and world-class talent to work creating jobs for all Americans.

Here are four steps Silicon Valley companies can take in concert with our government to do what we do best – innovate – and in the process, catalyze a new era of economic growth and prosperity across America:

1) Crunch the numbers. LinkedIn and Google (to name just two) have stored and structured more public employment data than anyone in history. It's time to combine and apply machine learning to these data sets to identify realistic career paths for displaced workers (drivers, manufacturing workers, and others in declining trades), and systematically start putting Americans back to work in high-paying jobs. These same services should then provide personalized, AI-powered recommendations to local education and training resources (community colleges, union apprenticeships, etc) to ensure every American has a clear path to their next job using the phone in their possession today.

2) Standardize and open-source employment data. Government has to play its part, too. It can start by passing legislation that requires federal, state, and local agencies to frequently publish standardized employment data (unemployment rates, prevailing wages, top local employers, etc). Google, LinkedIn, and others should provide technical guidance to these government agencies, and venture capitalists should commit capital to "gov-tech" and other companies that can further augment, operate, and monetize this employment data – it's a trillion-dollar opportunity hiding in plain sight. America uniquely publishes detailed economic data (you can't do this in China) – lets capitalize on this advantage, reaffirm the transparency of our government, and catalyze cross-sector innovation to create a win-win-win for American workers, companies, and government. 

3) Retrofit our high-tech infrastructure. President-elect Trump has promised investment in infrastructure. Lets go big. With interest rates rising, the Federal Reserve is clearly telling policymakers that the time to act is now. With Republicans in control of both houses, we can push through a trillion-dollar investment package focused on three critical high-tech areas – energy, education, and logistics – that will position America at the forefront of economic growth for generations to come. This package will create millions of good jobs at technology companies both inside and outside Silicon Valley – at cleantech and energy companies who want to retrofit their businesses to be more profitable and sustainable. Educational institutions are the corridors to high-tech, high-wage jobs – lets build more schools and training facilities in our communities, connect them to high-speed internet, digitize their course schedules (class times and credentials received) to make it convenient for workers to get the training they need (can Google/Microsoft create an AI scheduling assistant to automate this process?), and ensure every American can succeed in the 21st century. Last, ports and logistics hubs need to be retrofitted and connected to high-speed rail and roads that serve high-growth American businesses. The global economy moves faster every day – we need to retrofit our digital and real infrastructure to stay ahead, and in doing so, create jobs nationwide.

4) Put Silicon Valley's talent to work, from sea to shining sea. The knowledge workers employed across Silicon Valley are our most valuable asset, and they are increasingly disconnected from the world around them (we see this daily in San Francisco, where income inequality and indifference are rampant). Create a rotational training program that places high-tech workers outside Silicon Valley to help other industries (agriculture, manufacturing, logistics) benefit from the data analysis, lean operating, and machine learning skills we've mastered at the world's most successful companies (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, etc). Not only can we reinvigorate workers by cross-pollinating ideas and personnel while growing American businesses, but in doing so, we can reaffirm and extend Silicon Valley's position of moral leadership in the world by showing that we do care about more than just data and profits – we care about people, too.

These are just a few ways Silicon Valley can lead with a data-driven strategy focused on creating good jobs that will make America great – there are undoubtedly hundreds more.

The time is now for us to act together, with purpose, if we are to remain the most innovative, prosperous country on earth.

Lets get to work.