Business & Lobbying

Obama’s chief of staff joins foundation with focus on jobs

Denis McDonough, the last White House chief of staff in the Obama administration, has joined the Markle Foundation.
The organization is putting a focus on boosting employment opportunities and expanding job training for Americans, it said.
McDonough is coming to Markle as a senior principal, where he will help broaden the partnership between the foundation and other organizations, including governments and public institutions, aiming to “transform America’s outdated labor market to reflect the needs of the digital economy,” according to the organization.
“In his role as chief of staff to the President of the United States, and during his years of work in Congress, Denis gained unparalleled insights into the profound changes the digital economy has ushered in,” said Zoë Baird, Markle’s president and CEO, in a statement.  
“He understands that while there has been enormous growth and prosperity for many, millions of others have experienced years of flat wages, or worse, they’ve seen their jobs disappear as automation has transformed sector after sector,” she added. 
Markle has a public-private initiative called Skillful, which helps workers gain new skills through certificate programs, online training, community college and college courses. Founded in Colorado last year, Skillful is looking to expand and needs a CEO.
McDonough will work to build up Skillful’s partnerships — which already include LinkedIn, the state of Colorado, Arizona State University and others — and develop a strategy to grow the organization nationwide.
“Denis is a highly regarded leader who has managed complex problems and diverse partnerships. His contribution will be invaluable as we work to provide access to opportunities for all Americans, and to create impact at a national scale,” Baird said.
Skillful provides workers with “transparency … around the skills they have or the skills they need, and where they can find the training and support to be competitive,” according to the release .
“Traditional categories of employment, ways of getting training, and the relationship between employers and workers are continually evolving, and we need to connect Americans to the jobs where trained workers are in demand,” said McDonough, who also worked as the deputy national security adviser in the Obama White House, in a statement. 
“If more Americans are to succeed in today’s economy, we need new ideas,” he added.
In addition to expanding Skillful’s partners on the national and local level, McDonough has been brought on to help select a CEO for Skillful. He will not, however, be working full-time at the charity. The gig is among many projects he is taking on in his post-public-sector career, including signing with the Washington Speakers Bureau, a prominent group that organizes high-dollar speeches.
McDonough’s resume includes time on Capitol Hill, where he worked as a senior foreign policy adviser to former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and as a legislative director to former Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who later became Obama’s secretary of the Interior. 
As an organization, Markle has also concentrated its technology expansion efforts in other areas, such as national security and healthcare. It has worked to modernize national security information sharing in the federal government and how healthcare data is shared among physicians and patients.
— This post was updated at 10:09 a.m.
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