We created the Lightcast Connect Conference to create clarity in a complex labor market. It’s one marked by the twin disruptions of scarcity and velocity, with millions of workers missing from the labor force, and millions more needing to adapt quickly to a fast-changing world of work.
“Scarcity is not just deep: it's persistent, it's pervasive,” said Lightcast CEO Chris Kibarian in his introductory keynote. “When I think about labor market data, I'm starting to look at the magnitudes of numbers, not just the percentages. Because each one of those numbers is a person. It's a person missing and it's a skill set missing. It's a drain on our economy, it's a drain on our organizations, it's a drain on our communities, and we have to solve it. It's not someone else's job to solve it: it's up to us.”
By bringing together leaders and professionals from each market Lightcast serves—businesses, communities, and education providers—we wanted to foster a space where everyone could learn from the others. Together, we sought to better understand where the labor market stands now, where it will go in the future, and what we can do to adapt.
It went better than we could have hoped.
Close to 250 attendees joined us in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along with over 75 Lightcasters. In the dedicated Lightcast Connect app, those combined groups sent 3,229 messages, shared 246 photos and videos, and created 104 posts on community boards. Offline, attendees took part in dozens of meet-ups, including many hosted by Lightcast and several that sprang up organically as new connections developed into new conversations about ways to succeed in the future.
These interactions were not just about networking; they were a testament to our shared goal of driving progress. Every conversation, every shared story, and every collaborative idea contributed to a deeper understanding of how we can refine our products and services to meet the demands of the labor market.
Those conversations were shaped around three key themes, which also served as the three tracks for our sessions at the conference: the future of work, skills, and AI.
Skills: The Labor Market’s Operating System
At Lightcast, we stand for skills because they’re the clearest, most efficient way for workers and employers to articulate exactly what they can provide and exactly what they need in the labor market. Anything else creates an unnecessary layer of abstract confusion. In the first keynote of the conference, Chris Kibarian said “The world needs an operating system for the labor market, and skills are that operating system…it makes all the tools work.”
In an education session featuring Tim Herbert of CompTIA, Michael Lorenz of Purdue Global, and Dean Kahler from the University of Idaho, the panelists discussed how to engage faculty and help convince them to adapt their courses in order to better align with the skills students need in the labor market. It’s not always an easy task, but labor market data can play a crucial role by providing real evidence in a way everyone can understand. The panelists also spoke about using microcredentials within degree programs to give students a way to actually articulate the skills they learned during their time at school.
In another session, education and workforce expert Paul Fain said that skills-based hiring is something that everyone across the political spectrum can agree on—”It’s red, it’s blue, and it’s purple.”
Speaking on a panel featuring state workforce development, Fran Valentine from the Indiana Governor’s Workforce Cabinet spoke about how skills are being used to create new opportunities for those who have been incarcerated.
“We're really taking a multipronged approach bringing in underserved people, or those with barriers to employment, into the labor force,” she said. “We have the HIRE program in Indiana, where individuals are actually gaining credentials and skills while they are incarcerated, so that they can be released and have the skills to be employable immediately.”
The Lightcast Approach
The Future of Work: Inclusive and In-Demand
Skills are just one force shaping the future of the labor market, and their ultimate use is to connect real people with good jobs. That means opening the door to make sure everyone has those opportunities: Peter Rumsey from the people analytics team at Nike talked about how they’ve used Lightcast data to meet their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for 2025—and now they’re looking ahead to 2030.
Candice Dixon from the tech-education organization Npower spoke on their Command Shift coalition, which focuses on bringing more women of color into tech, using job posting data to understand where they can find their best fits in a dynamic sector.
“Right now, Black, Latina and Indigenous women only represent 6% of the computing workforce,” she said. “That's something for us that has to change. The technology industry is one of the most impactful industries of our time and for this demographic of individuals to not have access to the career opportunities, and the economic opportunities that come along with that, is a disservice.”
These transitions will only become more important over time as the scarcity of workers increases. Based on his Lightcast research on The Demographic Drought and Who Is Going To Do The Work?, senior economist Ron Hetrick shared in his keynote address that changing population trends are only going to increase the pressure as employers need more workers across a wide range of industries.
“We’re chasing a labor pool that increasingly doesn't exist,” he said. “We have skilled labor. What we don't have are people to take all of these other jobs that we do, the service jobs, restaurants, construction, manufacturing, retail, talking a million jobs in retail and restaurants right now that are open…We are in a situation where we have to start thinking about how this is going to play out. Everything that we're going to do in the future is determined by the actions we take now.”
AI: Leaning Into Disruption
Finally, as we sought to unlock new possibilities in the labor market for today and tomorrow, our third track was on AI.
Michelle Weise, a leader in designing resilient education systems and author of the book Long Life Learning, looked to the future and how AI showed us that everyone needs be ready to adapt as AI complements more and more of our day-to-day work, returning to the theme of velocity as a dominant theme of the labor market.
“What large language models have shown us is that we cannot sit still,” she said. “Research shows that 85% of the global workforce on LinkedIn is poised to see their work actually affected greatly, with 25% of their skills affected by this generative AI.”
Lightcast x AI
Ashwin Acharya from Accenture shared with us an understanding of what AI can do, and more importantly, what its limitations are—especially in its “hallucinations,” where generative AI tools present incorrect information as confidently as it does facts. He recommended using it like you would a human expert: accept the input it provides, but don’t let it do your job for you. Guru Sethupathy of FairNow had similar input; he compared generative AI to a four-year-old, taking everything in but expressing what it learns in unexpected ways. And like a four-year-old, you shouldn’t entirely trust your business to it—but you should be thrilled about its potential.
These insights, not just in AI, but for skills and the future of work, are especially significant because they go beyond just one facet of the labor market. Bringing together top experts and professionals from business, education, and community leadership created new connections to address real-world issues. In today’s dynamic labor market, the right data and the right people make all the difference—and at Lightcast Connect, we were able to put them together.
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