Workplace Needs Are Increasingly Automated but Strategic Policies Can Help Humans Thrive Professionally in Post-Industrial World
In recent decades, technology has impacted various aspects of our lives in ways we never could have imagined. Whether we’re shopping, eating, playing, communicating, driving or working, technology has essentially “reprogrammed” our existence—think The Jetsons. While it’s easy to take some of these technological advances for granted because they have become such a part of our lives, others are harder to ignore given the potential to disrupt our work lives and, in some cases, displace us from our jobs.
With ongoing technological leaps, robotics and the advent of AI, it becomes increasingly important for educators, job creators, policymakers and stakeholders to fully appreciate just how different the workplace of today is compared to the one of say the 1950s. Back then, jobs seemed more readily available. And, if you could get a job, you were likely to stay with that company until you retired. Staying with a company for that long, of course, meant stability which allowed you to buy a home, a car and take family vacations.
Today, that is certainly the exception, not the rule. There are a number of reasons accounting for that ranging from living in a global economy to chasing opportunities to reinventing yourself every few years. But, one overriding factor is technology. We live in a highly connected world where we have come to expect things to be done at the push of a button. This is also true for the work we perform.
Think, for a minute, about the automation that has gradually displaced bank tellers, grocery cashiers, car wash attendants and many others; these critical positions which require repetitive tasks have been at risk of TIDE (technologically induced displacement of employees). Against the backdrop of rising labor and regulatory costs, these and similar positions represent an opportunity to minimize costs while simultaneously gaining efficiencies in systems that are far from efficient.
The displacement of these workers should have served two purposes: one being a forewarning that other jobs and professions could soon be imperiled; the other as a wakeup call to start figuring out ways to keep people employed no matter how technologically advanced our society becomes. At the risk of sounding repetitive—one way you know this is not a robot typing this—we can ensure people are employable if they have the necessary skills and education to secure available jobs.
If we keep advancing and we cannot keep people employed—something that gives dignity to each one of us—than how far have we really advanced?
This question is particularly critical for minority populations. As we have seen recently, the economy has brought the unemployment levels down for both Hispanics and African Americans but that could easily change again if young people within these demographic groups do not have the tools needed to succeed in an ever-changing world.
As products of the public-school system and university graduates who worked a number of different jobs throughout our lives, we fully appreciate the opportunities and the learning that came with each job. Education really does open doors; however, we have to admit that not everyone wants to spend the money or time to get a university degree nor should they. Instead, they should have access to real options which allow them to pursue vocational degrees and participate in technical training, giving them a shot at making money a lot faster after graduating high school.
The bottom-line is this: students need real choices to adapt to a technologically-advanced society that will see an increasing number of workers get displaced from traditional jobs. If they have the right training and the right education, these workers can just shift into other jobs, perhaps even better-paying jobs.
The workplace challenges will not go away. We cannot bury our heads in digital sand, hoping for a different result, only to find “Game Over,” on the screen of our work lives.
We urgently need people with a successful track record of addressing technology, robotics and AI to convene job seekers and job creators alike; members of the educational establishment (high school, community college, universities); policymakers, community groups, associations and countless other stakeholders to come up with policies that will line up people’s work needs with our desire for progress.
And, it just so happens that a newly-formed group known as The Emma Coalition is making the difference by initiating a dialogue and engaging key partners. The mission of Emma is: to save American capitalism by reinventing the American workplace ensuring the 21st is the next American century. This is mission-critical, time-sensitive and long overdue.
Given the importance of education and our role in creating opportunities for Hispanic students to achieve their socio-economic potential, The Latino Coalition is thrilled to join The Emma Coalition as it tackles an ever-changing workplace. Because we are committed to helping our young people succeed, we have also implemented an apprentice initiative through our foundation which will certainly benefit from the joint work we’re now undertaking. Mentors are critical if we are to create a ready and capable workforce going forward.
The success of The Emma Coalition will ultimately translate into success for current and future job holders and that is something we can all rally behind. The Emma Coalition has taken an important first step by recognizing that the world has quickly changed and that the skills that students, young people and others need today—and will need tomorrow—are worlds apart from what they were decades ago.
Working together, we will look for ways to create a steady supply of jobs for our young and most vulnerable.
To accomplish this, we must work with companies representing an array of industries to determine what their current and future workplace needs will be. To stay in business, companies must innovate to beat their competitors. To keep people employed, we must identify potential areas of job growth and close the skills gap to quickly meet those needs with minimal job displacement.
This is how we program “No Disassemble” into our jobs. It will take leadership, vision and action to implement that plan now and we have every confidence that The Emma Coalition is already on the right track.