National Skills Coalition recently travelled to Silicon Valley to build bridges between those driving technological innovations associated with the “Future of Work” and current workforce policy debates in Washington, DC about how to respond to these disruptions. With the recent announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom about a new state Future of Work Commission, NSC wanted to learn how the state’s emerging discussions around Future of Work could inform the Coalition’s efforts to advocate for polices that will help workers and local companies prosper through these structural shifts in the labor market.
On June 12, 2019, NSC joined with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Autodesk Foundation to co-host a roundtable discussion with 40 representatives from leading technology companies – Apple, Autodesk and Salesforce – as well as community colleges, organized labor, community organizations , philanthropy, and the “futures” community. These included leaders from the Skills for California Network who recently released an agenda of workforce and education policies that could better secure a strong economic future for all Californians. Van Ton Quinlivan—NSC Board member, Institute for the Future fellow and former Vice Chancellor of the CA community college system—was instrumental in bringing together such a diverse group to discuss a set of actionable policies that could reskill millions of incumbent workers for a changing, tech-infused economy.
U.S. workers and companies face an unprecedented acceleration of workplace technologies, with broad implications for the “future of work” in America. By most estimates, at least 60% of today’s jobs will be impacted by digitalization, automation, and/or artificial intelligence. That means over 90 million working Americans may have to acquire new skills just to stay in their jobs, let alone to advance in their industries. An additional 10-20% of jobs are likely to be eliminated and replaced with new types of higher-skilled positions, requiring broad-based income and reskilling support for millions of impacted workers as they develop new careers.
While many conversations have focused on abstract solutions to address this impending shift, far less attention has been paid to actionable steps necessary to address the future of work…today.
Attendees discussed several key policy recommendations to best serve incumbent workers—particularly those most vulnerable to technological changes—to prepare for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the future of work:
- Update and scale education and workforce policies to support more rapid assessment and retraining of current workers at risk of technological impact.
- Increase both public and private investments in employee upskilling and target those investments at workers most vulnerable to tech displacement.
- Expand sector partnerships and technical assistance for local businesses to help them and their employees inclusively adopt new technologies.
- Launch a new comprehensive national workforce re-employment system that supports all unemployed workers, regardless of the source of their displacement.
- Align public and private workforce and labor market data to support better decision-making and equity across workers in this uncharted era.
In addition, Institute for the Future staff presented new innovations in the areas of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies that could impact the types of scalable training that could be made available to a range of current workers and future job-seekers who will need to continually raise their skills to keep ahead of the technological curve. IFTF staff also shared current thinking on the ethics of current technology deployment and the tech industry’s role in evaluating – and preventing – bias exacerbated by new technology in the workplace.
Participants agreed that there was great opportunity to continue working together to shape some of these policy discussions both in Washington and in Sacramento. National Skills Coalition looks forward to continuing to engage with businesses, worker representatives, and training providers to advance a set of actionable, winnable polices to help today’s workers and local businesses benefit from the technology changes that are already restructuring the U.S. economy.