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Responding to technology disruptions: The Future Workforce Now initiative

August 01, 2019

young female engineerDisruptive technologies – such as robotics, big data, artificial intelligence and 3D printing – are creating new and diverse work opportunities worldwide, but they are also threatening traditional jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and health care. In the United States, the Southern Regional Education Board estimates that 18 million adults in the southern and mid-Atlantic regions may be unemployed or in low-paying jobs by 2030 if they do not acquire necessary education and skills.

Given the rapidly evolving marketplace, state leaders and governments are questioning how to realign education and training systems to better prepare their current and future workers. To help states navigate this transition, FHI 360, in partnership with the National Governors Association and the Fab Foundation, is leading a new initiative, Future Workforce Now Reimagining Workforce Policy in the Age of Disruption.

The current landscape offers a unique opportunity to reconsider state workforce policies, education and training. A constellation of federal policies – the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – has been reauthorized, allowing states to tap into federal resources to develop different policies and practices.

To understand the factors reshaping the labor market and identify promising responses, FHI 360 and its partners convened three roundtables of state policymakers, educators, thought leaders, researchers, technology innovators and employers to address critical questions:

  • What are the disruptive technologies and how do they impact different industry sectors that are important to the economies of the 50 states?
  • What do these disruptions mean for education and training delivery institutions and how do they adapt?
  • What are the policy themes, directions and actionable recommendations needed to prepare the future workforce for success?

The roundtables produced important findings, such as the need for flexible, nontraditional approaches to education and training. In the future, states should have continuous, lifelong learning systems. One of the challenges to achieving a lifelong learning approach is developing systems that adapt to unpredictable short- and long-term workforce needs. Developing such new systems will require profound changes in state policies and practices related to how education and training institutions operate and cooperate. The current and future workforce will also require new options for financing, information and credentialing.

A State Leaders Policy Forum for Action will be held in October 2019 for governors from the 50 states and their delegations, which may include legislators, educators and employers. During the forum, states will identify promising solutions and policies as well as strategies to achieve them. A toolkit will also be developed containing actionable policies, best practices and real-world examples to help guide states as they continue to respond to the technological disruptions in their local labor markets.

Photo credit: BulentBARIS/Getty Images