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  • Writer's pictureProject on Workforce Team

Kerry McKittrick | Team Profile

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Kerry McKittrick is the Co-Director of the Harvard Project on Workforce. She leads the Project's policy, strategy, and engagement agenda, and spearheads research focused on building better education pathways to economic mobility.


Prior to joining the Project on Workforce, Kerry was a senior manager in the Executive Office at Jobs for the Future, where she worked closely with the CEO and Chief of Staff to develop and oversee cross-organizational initiatives and publications. Before that, she served as a Senior Policy Advisor on education, labor, workforce development, and child welfare policy to Congressman Jim Langevin, co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus and champion of the 2018 reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. She started her career in politics, serving as the successful campaign manager for Massachusetts State Representative Ken Gordon.


Kerry holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Brown University and a master’s degree in education policy and analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she was distinguished as a Leadership in Education Fellow.



 

CONTENTS

 

Selected Research & Projects

The Workforce Futures Initiative is a collaboration by the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Harvard Kennedy School Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. The initiative aims to develop concise and actionable reviews of existing research for federal, state, and local policymakers. Since August 2021, the group has provided a forum for researchers and practitioners to discuss policy ideas, evaluate evidence, and identify priorities for new research on the future of work and the public workforce system. Focus Areas include: Workforce System Fragmentation, Sector-Based Trainingm, Community Colleges, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Program, Effectiveness, Dislocated Workers, Data Integration, New Entrant Worker Training, The “On-Demand” Economy, Labor Market Information, Special Populations:, Veterans, Youth, Neurodiverse, and Automation and the Future of Work.

The Project on Workforce has partnered with Education Design Lab's Community College Growth Engine to enhance community colleges' use of real-time labor market information (LMI) and emerging technologies for student economic mobility. Research underscores community colleges' pivotal role in regional economies. Lack of access to real-time LMI hampers colleges' ability to align programs with industry needs. This initiative aims to conduct case studies, design strategic micro-pathways, and develop best practices to modernize community college systems. Funded by Axim Collaborative, the project seeks to empower colleges to adapt to technological changes and improve student employment prospects.

The College-to-Jobs Playbook — Exploring the intersection of higher education and the workforce

This playbook provides a framework to help college better deliver on the American Dream by creating a coherent, comprehensive taxonomy of the landscape of college-to-jobs programs and policies through a review of the existing academic research according to a set of common criteria. With a focus on public two-year and four-year colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, it identifies 13 “interventions” within the college ecosystem that could be used to ease the transition into good jobs in the workforce.

The paper examines the challenges faced by low-wage workers, highlighting stagnating wage growth and limited upward mobility opportunities. It conducts a comprehensive review of career navigation, identifying core drivers of success and several types of supportive interventions. Proposing 10 principles for equitable career navigation, it calls for collective action from policymakers, employers, educators, and philanthropists to build an effective and inclusive career navigation ecosystem. The paper also underscores the need for further research to address knowledge gaps and advocate for an ecosystem approach to empower individuals and foster economic prosperity.

The paper examines the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare labor market in Massachusetts, focusing on nursing, direct care, and behavioral health. It discusses the "Great Resignation" and subsequent staffing shortages, analyzing trends in job postings and wage growth. Data covers January 2019 to December 2022, sourced from Lightcast and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Unemployment Insurance.

The COVID-19 pandemic placed strain on the healthcare workforce, prompting emergency measures and innovative programs nationwide. This post highlights the impact of the American Rescue Plan Act and the subsequent stabilization of the healthcare workforce. While many states have suspended emergency funding, certain policy initiatives developed during the pandemic may offer solutions to future workforce challenges. The paper includes a table categorizing programs and policies adopted by states to address healthcare worker supply issues during the pandemic, offering insights for Massachusetts and others on effective recruitment and retention strategies.

The post discusses how employment growth outpaced college graduate growth in certain regions from 2014 to 2019, causing a misalignment between the labor market and higher education. It examines examples such as New Orleans and Laredo, TX, where employment grew significantly, but college graduates did not match this pace, leading to challenges in various industries. The analysis emphasizes the importance of aligning education with workforce demands and provides insights into specific occupations experiencing shortages. The College-to-Jobs Map is recommended for further exploration, with methodology details provided.

This report presents the findings of an analysis of promising state strategies to advance equity in secondary career and technical education (CTE). We examined state and territory Perkins V performance data, as reported to the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, across three indicators: post-program placement, postsecondary credential attainment, and work-based learning participation. We selected and interviewed states or territories in which marginalized student populations (including racially minoritized groups and special populations) are performing above the state aggregate level on these key indicators. We found that many states are just beginning to identify performance equity gaps, and data quality and collection systems are inconsistent. Nonetheless, we also identified several promising strategies from four states, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, which we highlight in this report. Common equity strategies include: deploying disaggregated data dashboards to illuminate equity gaps; conducting targeted communications campaigns to increase participation among underrepresented populations; convening diverse stakeholders to share best practices; braiding state and federal funding sources to support equity initiatives; and building cross-agency partnerships to facilitate data sharing and labor market connections. We conclude with recommendations for state and federal leaders to improve data quality and expand equity in CTE.

Selected Media

Each month, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions will take a deeper dive into the diverse, innovative, and effective workforce solutions its network is adopting to address local challenges across the country. This month, National Fund Director of Evaluation and Learning, Michelle Wilson Ed.D, is joined by Kerry McKittrick, Associate Director of the Project on Workforce at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, for a conversation about career navigation.

Joseph Fuller, Kerry McKittrick, and team highlight the importance of foundational skills amidst technological advancements, emphasizing the need for a career navigation system akin to a "Waze app." The current job search process lacks user-friendly interfaces and often excludes qualified candidates. The team advocates for partnerships between employers and educational institutions to address skills gaps and adapt benefits to meet evolving workforce needs. They propose four steps: creating new data sources, recognizing foundational skills, acknowledging changing worker needs, and leveraging generative AI for improved career navigation.

Harvard's Workforce Almanac project reveals the fragmented nature of workforce development in the US, prompting calls for better coordination. Buffalo exemplifies this need, with various training providers lacking integration. To address workforce gaps, Buffalo must align employer expectations with job seeker realities and ensure opportunities for underrepresented groups. Initiatives like CareerWise Greater Buffalo offer pathways to high-paying jobs, crucial for economic growth and equity. “There’s often this disconnect between the workforce sector and the economic development sector, so bringing those folks together to have a more cohesive plan that is both expanding opportunities, but also is helping the region grow as an economy is crucial,” McKittrick said.

Kerry McKittrick and Joseph Fuller weigh in on the new WIOA legislation, which seeks to modernize workforce training by emphasizing training expenditures, real-time labor data, and skills-based hiring. While viewed as a positive step, critics argue it falls short of the necessary overhaul, citing underfunding and system fragmentation. The bill's bipartisan support signals recognition of the need for change, yet some lawmakers advocate for more investment in wraparound support. Despite enhancements like sector-focused funding and flexibility grants, concerns linger over the efficacy of short-term training and data limitations. The legislation also addresses incumbent worker training and promotes skills-based hiring, but challenges remain in implementation and funding allocation.

Navigating Changing Careers | Harvard Magazine

In the face of profound shifts in the nature of work due to generative artificial intelligence, Joseph Fuller and Kerry McKittrick draws parallels to the Industrial Revolution and calls for better preparation of workers. A new white paper by Harvard's Project on Workforce and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions addresses challenges facing low-wage earners, focusing on career navigation to promote upward mobility. The paper highlights five drivers of career navigation success, emphasizing the importance of accurate information, skill development, and social capital. To address disparities in access to resources, the authors propose formalizing processes for obtaining information and skills and providing wraparound supports. They also advocate for leveraging artificial intelligence to streamline job searches and promote efficiency. Encouraging collaboration among stakeholders and philanthropic support are seen as vital for building a more effective career navigation system amidst rapid labor market changes.

To discuss the challenges and opportunities in preparing post-secondary graduates for the world of work we welcomed Joseph B. Fuller and Kerry McKittrick of Harvard University. Our guests and Dr. Ford chatted about: The importance of work-based learning experiences, such as internships and apprenticeships; The role of intermediaries, including workforce boards and social entrepreneurs, in connecting educational institutions and employers; The potential for AI to provide more accurate and comprehensive information about career pathways; The College-to-Jobs Map, a tool that allows college leaders to assess the alignment between education and employment in their regions; What constitutes a “good job.”; and the importance of identifying pathway jobs that lead to economic security.


Apprenticeships, traditionally associated with trades, are gaining traction in industries like education, healthcare, and technology. Programs combine on-the-job experience with classroom training, offering pathways to higher-paying roles. Kerry McKittrick, from Harvard's Project on Workforce, highlights the bipartisan support and government investment in apprenticeships. Colorado, in particular, has seen growth in apprenticeship opportunities, with Governor Jared Polis aiming to expand such programs further. While employers may initially hesitate due to administrative burdens, apprenticeships offer benefits for both employers and workers, promoting skill development and increasing earning potential. Although still a small portion of the labor market, apprenticeships hold promise for addressing workforce challenges and promoting equity.

A white paper from Harvard University's Project on Workforce reveals that colleges' programs for preparing students for well-paying jobs are fragmented, underinvested, and lack sufficient research. Kerry McKittrick, associate director of the project, highlights the need to shift focus towards the role of colleges in economic mobility due to rising student debt levels. The paper evaluates 13 career preparation methods used by colleges, including internships, apprenticeships, and cohort programs, assessing their impact on students' academic and economic outcomes. Surprisingly, while work-based learning programs like internships and apprenticeships show strong evidence of improving job prospects, popular options like job shadowing lack supporting evidence. The paper suggests integrating experiential learning into more courses, offering career training opportunities, and creating centralized resources for employers to partner with colleges. McKittrick emphasizes the shared responsibility of colleges, employers, and policymakers in creating effective pathways from college to careers, underscoring the need for collaboration and data-driven decision-making. Additionally, the project developed an interactive map to help stakeholders identify mismatches between graduates' skills and local job markets, facilitating informed decisions and collaboration among educators, policymakers, and employers.

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