A Field Guide to the Terms and Ideas Shaping the World of Work
America’s workforce is undergoing unprecedented change. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated impact on the labor market, workers and job seekers are finding themselves empowered to demand more from their employers—and business leaders are making renewed commitments to supporting their employees. Despite this shift, there are still many people facing barriers to economic mobility, with millions out of work as the country navigates a rocky road to economic recovery.
The seismic effects of the pandemic have generated increased media attention on issues of workforce development, economic mobility, and opportunity. But as is so often the case, the more prevalent a given issue becomes in the national narrative, the muddier the terminology used to describe that issue becomes. Today, there is a lack of a strong, clear definition for many words in the lexicon of workforce development.
To address that challenge, a collaborative team of stakeholders and subject matter experts from several workforce-related organizations has developed this new field guide, which serves as an overview of key terms and concepts related to workforce development.
The guide is divided into thematic sections, each of which includes a number of terms related to workforce development. We hope it fosters a better understanding of preferred terms and how to use them with clarity.
Our goal is not to prescribe definitions that will always apply in every case. Rather, it is to shed light on the way that critical terms are (and are not) used, so that journalists, analysts, and advocates can move toward a shared lexicon for an increasingly critical issue in the national discourse.
In addition, this is a living document, and one that draws on the great work and advocacy of organizations like JUST Capital that have also promoted the need for more precise language around workforce development. We look forward to continued feedback, input, and critiques that can help make this document as helpful as possible.