The numbers cover different angles of the same story: America’s workforce will be facing tremendous challenges in the coming decades, that will require a massive training - and retraining - effort. Two different reports published by the McKinsey Global Institute tell the tale: by 2030, as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14% of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work. And for those occupations that won’t be eliminated, there will be a change in the way work is organized, as within 60 percent of jobs, at least 30 percent of activities could be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.


Any way you crunch the numbers, there are a lot of workers currently in the job market who will need reskilling.


Growing technology offers a silver lining as well. Besides the need for a new wave of workers in the STEM occupations needed to support the rise of AI and digitization, technology is being employed in new ways to help match employees with existing skillsets with new opportunities, and provide insights into the taxonomy of education needed to map educational with economic opportunities. This is especially important as job seekers at all stages of their career are often left guessing as they “try to map out an education, training, and career path.” Harnessing this data could help individuals make more informed decisions about how to prepare for the jobs of the future, whether they are already in the workplace or preparing for post-secondary education.


For example, the goal of Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) is to apply data to the skills marketplace. EMSI’s goal is to “inform and connect” job seekers, employers and higher education through data. EMSI works to “match displaced workers with growing occupations that utilize compatible skills and require similar education credentials—even some with the same or higher median wages.” These platforms can also identify the skills gap and ultimately guide workers to training programs that will bridge that gap.


Midcareer workers especially need practical solutions to bridge the training gap that minimize disruption to their earning capacity. Digitized platforms that provide short, flexible courses that follow the boot camp model, teaching new skills in weeks or months can fill this important need.


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It’s such a waste.
Millions of people cannot find work, even as sectors from technology to healthcare struggle to fill open positions. Many who do work feel overqualified or underutilized. These issues translate into costly wasted potential for the global economy.
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For example, EdTech providers such as Udacity and Coursera are built in part by identifying needed workforce skills and offering highly targeted courses to provide those skills.


Udacity’s mission is “to power careers through tech education” and Coursera reports that it “has expanded to reach more than 48 million people and 2,200 businesses around the world.” These EdTech companies provide another piece of the puzzle: solving for the misalignment between the skills needed by employers and the skills being pursued by students through traditional education.


Udacity partners “with leading technology companies to learn how technology is transforming industries, and teach the critical tech skills that companies are looking for in their workforce” while Coursera provides “online courses, Specializations, certificates and degrees from 200 world-class universities and companies, including: Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Google, IBM, and more.”


These online learning centers can fill what has been identified as a need to shift the way we think about education, from completing education in the first 20-25 years of life and earning a college degree, to a continuum of lifelong learning. Ravi Kumar, President of Infosys, proposed this shift in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, where he suggested that technology can play a role in effecting this shift. “It is no longer enough to rely on just classroom teaching,” said Kumar. “Relevance, application, micro-sized knowledge-modules, adaptive-to-context and technologies like augmented reality to amplify this are important aspects of lifelong learning.”


Preparing the American workforce for the workplace of the future requires collaboration across private and public sectors. According to Kumar, “re-skilling human capital is a joint responsibility of educational institutions, employers and the employee. Governments, too, “want to participate in this ecosystem”, and many are integrating workforce training programs with their broader economic development initiatives.


On the employer side, some companies are adopting an interesting approach that marries workforce training with their corporate social responsibility platforms. For example, Google has underwritten the Grow with Google initiative, focused on expanding skills training and job opportunities. Grow with Google is partnering with the American Library Association to provide digital training and provides online introductions to using Google products for growing businesses. The McKinsey study documents that grants have gone to establishing digital career accelerators in 126 Goodwill locations nationwide; providing IT training and career coaching to veterans; connecting military spouses with work-at-home opportunities; and piloting technology programs in 50 underserved middle schools. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have provided grants to the California Community College system, Code for America, and edX.org to create flexible online micro-courses for adults.


A coalition of large U.S. employers employing approximately 2.2 million Americans, Rework America Business Network focuses on developing more innovative hiring and training practices, sharing best practice and exploring how companies can better utilize a skills-based approach when it comes to learning and development.

Collaboration across multiple sectors and stakeholders along with the rise of digital educational opportunities can help prepare the American worker for the workplace of the future.