Top Priority as Emerging Tech Shapes the Workforce? Adaptability

As emerging technologies continue to shape the workforce – from displacement due to automation or a shift in skill demands in the workplace – economic and academic tech experts at the Brookings Institution today said that adaptability, resiliency, and policies that support shifting careers and creating portable benefits will be critical for American workers and legislators to consider.

With new workers coming into a more digital economy, Makada Henry-Nickie, fellow at the Governance, Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative, said that young people need to figure out what kind of work and tasks will be involved in future jobs, and tailor their academic pathways accordingly.

At the same time, Henry-Nickie said that employers need to better express to the emerging workforce what skills and values they’re looking for as their missions in development and use of technology ensue.

But since technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to shape the workplace in ways that can’t currently be pinpointed, Henry-Nickie and Cornell Dean of Computing and Information Sciences Greg Morrisett said that adaptability and gathering transferable and diverse skillsets will be critical for nearly all workers in the future – especially since being technologically savvy will likely become a requirement in nearly all industries as they adopt emerging technologies.

Making a more adaptable workforce also means creating the structure and policies to enable workers to become flexible, Morrisett and Henry-Nickie added.

Henry-Nickie said that unions should start departing from a protectionist model of preserving old jobs and instead support notions of shifting careers and creating portable benefits.

Meanwhile, Morrisett said that the U.S. education system could also restructure learning to prioritize transferable skills and reinforce life-long learning. He added that displacement of workers from technology will hit different populations and demographics harder than others, so policymakers need to create programs and laws to deal with the different layers of displacement.

Overall, Henry-Nickie said that the United States needs to develop a national strategy of some sort to deal with the inevitability of emerging technologies’ impact on the American workforce and plan to produce a “21st century workforce.”

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