• E.B. Armstrong

And that’s a wrap! The third annual Future of Work Study Group concludes


Every Spring, the Project on Workforce brings together students from across Harvard graduate schools to build cross-sector connections, learn and share knowledge, and support projects related to the future of work. This year, we were thrilled to conduct the study group fully in person for the first time.


64 incredible students joined the study group to explore one of eight themes related to the future of work, led by many of Harvard’s top faculty and fellows in this space:

  • Regional workforce and economic development with Gordon Hanson, exploring the diverging trajectories of different places.

  • Reskilling, upskilling and lifelong learning with Matt Sigelman (CEO of Burning Glass), exploring the challenges and opportunities from shifting away from a K-12 educational mindset.

  • Technological change and the evolving nature of work with David Deming, exploring the past and future technological disruptions on work.

  • Economic justice and inequality (including DEI) with Rachel Lipson (Director of the Project on Workforce), exploring the implications of future of work trends on different demographics.

  • Gig economy, alternative work arrangements, and digital labor markets with Peter Blair, exploring new ways of thinking about an employee and, more broadly, labor markets.

  • Hiring practices and expanding access to opportunity for "hidden workers" with Joe Fuller, exploring biases in hiring and ways to address talent shortages.

  • Public education and career pathways (grades 9-14) with Bob Schwartz, exploring the role of the public education sector in providing workers with transferable skills for good, viable roles.

  • The role of data and mayoral leadership in cross-sector workforce development with Stephen Goldsmith, exploring how data and public sector decisions can shape outcomes at a local level.


The programming was divided into three modules. Each module was kicked off by a guest speaking event, featuring one or more influential thought leaders sharing their perspectives on the future of work. Then, the small discussion groups dove into the module, with a focus on the eight topics above.


In module 1, the study group explored how we got here. David Autor, a leading economist from MIT considered the “Academic Voice of the American Worker,” spoke to the group about how rapid technological change has contributed to growing US inequality and wage stagnation. However, he emphasized that these outcomes are not inevitable but, rather, a reflection of institutional choices that countries make.


In module 2, the study group explored where we are headed. We welcomed a panel of three leading experts: Ajita Talwalker Menon (President and CEO of Calbright College), Katherine Newman (System Chancellor for Academic Programs, UMass), and Ryan Craig (Managing Director of Achieve Partners). They discussed the changing models of learning and work and the role of higher learning institutions in a post-pandemic world.


In the final module, the study group members explored leadership in the future of work to help them discover where they themselves can have the greatest impact. We were privileged to host three leaders representing the social, private, and public sector respectively: Dwight Powery (Partner, Advisory Services, Grads of Life), Christine Cruzvergara (Chief Education Strategy Officer, HandShake), and Congressman Jim Langevin from Rhode Island. Despite their different backgrounds, there were several common threads between all of them: (1) They did not expect to be in the position that they are now in, but they were guided by a strong conviction in a cause and a willingness to work across sectors; (2) They were motivated by other like-minded, inspiring individuals at their organization; and (3) There is still much more to do!


Below are testimonials of study group members:

Hope Allen, Ed.M. Candidate at Harvard University Graduate School of Education

During my time working in the labor statistics space, I saw how labor market mobility is largely influenced by educational opportunities and attainment – which are not equally accessible for all students and adults. Studying education policy and analysis at HGSE has been a dream, yet I quickly found myself eager for a space in which I could gain cross-sector knowledge in education and labor – and I’m so grateful that Professor Peter Blair shared with me about the Project on Workforce’s Study Group. Meeting students in other graduate schools can be challenging – and through the Study Group I was able to build meaningful relationships with students in other programs who have similar passions in shaping the future of education and economic and social mobility. The faculty and staff at PWF are incredible and built a space in which I was confident to share my own experiences and able to learn invaluably from my peers.


Furman Haynes, MBA Candidate at the Harvard Business School

The Study Group is an extraordinary opportunity for any student interested in education-to-employment. It’s a great way to keep in touch with a quickly evolving field. You get to interact up close with experts, including practitioners and top academics. And, even cooler, you build a community with other students across three different Harvard schools.


If you are a Harvard graduate student interested in getting involved in next year’s study group, please feel free to reach out to fowstudygroup@hks.harvard.edu.