There’s More than One ‘Future of Work’: National Skills Coalition sponsors series to bring more perspectives into the Washington discussion

January 25, 2019

Everybody in Washington wants to talk about the Future of Work (FOW), but they don’t necessarily want to have the same discussion—nor should they. That’s why National Skills Coalition is sponsoring a series of events in our nation’s capital—and streamed to the rest of the country—to unpack how different industries, different groups of workers, and different sized companies will each face unique challenges as automation, artificial intelligence and digitalization redefine skilled work in the U.S. As our nation’s leaders assess policy options proposed to respond to these changes, they need to pay attention to these various FutureS of Work that often go unaddressed by popular one-size-fits-all FOW solutions.

Representing a nationwide network of workforce development experts who have been dealing with the impacts of technology and changing skills needs in America’s labor market for years, National Skills Coalition wants to bring some of that hands-on expertise into Washington’s assessment of these issues. Community colleges and community organizations, unions and labor-management partnerships, leaders of both small and large businesses across a range of sectors—manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, construction, energy, retail, and agriculture: Each of these brings real-world insight into how a tech-driven economy has and will impact different workers and workplaces. They’ve also seen where government policies have worked and where they have fallen short in supporting the most effective local strategies for upskilling millions of American workers to meet changing economic demands.

NSC hopes the following events bring some additional depth to the Future of Work discussions in Washington:

Register for these Events

  • Uneven Prospects for Different Groups of Workers: February 6th, 2019, 9:00-10:30 AM. Hosted by National Skills Coalition at its 2019 Skills Summit, Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St NW, Washington, DC, 20008. (Conference registration required to attend in-person.)

    Technology associated with the Future of Work will impact workers in every sector and at every level in the U.S. economy—but those impacts will not be borne equally. Research indicates the majority of job losses from automation will be borne by workers earning less than $20 / hour with a high school degree or less; many of these will be workers of color. Mid- and late-career workers with less developed digital skills than their younger counterparts are likewise vulnerable, as are a range of other experienced workers if they’re at a workplace that is not willing or able to continually invest in their re-skilling. How should public policy respond to the FOW impacts felt by these different groups of working Americans? What complimentary role can private industry play in these responses, and how can public policy better leverage those investments for workers most vulnerable to these changes?

  • Tech’s Workforce Impact Across Different Industries: February 28nd, 2019, 9:00-10:30 AM. Hosted by Microsoft at the Microsoft Policy and Innovation Center, 901 K Street NW, 11th Floor, Washington, DC 20001.Popular discussions about technology and the Future of Work often reference robots in manufacturing as the prototypical demonstration of automation’s likely impact on future workers. But automation’s 20th century introduction into modern U.S. manufacturing—and the role that national policy played in that tech diffusion—is distinctive and likely quite different from how new technologies will be introduced into other U.S. industries here in the 21st century. How will the introduction of AI, automation, and digitization look different between different sectors, based on their contrasting operational structures and workforce compositions? As national policymakers think about how to respond to these changes, is there a need to consider some industry-specific policies that need to be developed around workforce re-skilling to complement other more universal policies to assist workers and firms across industries? Industry workforce experts will share their thinking on these issues.
  • Small Companies versus International Firms: Date, time & location TBD 

    The introduction of new workplace technology is a significant capital expense that company operators have to weigh against prospective increases in productivity and profitability. That math is often going to play out differently depending not only on the relative cost of the technology, but also upon the relative ability of a firm’s workforce to take full advantage of the technology. As such, smaller firms—despite the availability of new productivity-enhancing technologies—will often introduce technology at a slower rate, or perhaps not all, even as larger firms in their industry are leaning ahead. In industries in which the predominant number of firms are smaller companies, what does that mean for the uneven pace of technology adoption in the Future of Work? Should there be different type of policy interventions considered to assist firms of various sizes within the same industry, including how to help their workforces re-skill to make use of these new tools?

Register for these Events

A final culminating event in the series will be scheduled for late spring, in which a number of emerging and actionable policy options will be presented to Washington policymakers and other experts, developed in consultation with the stakeholders featured during the event series. the course of the three prior events.

National Skills Coalition is excited to bring these additional perspectives into the national FOW policy debate. Click here to find out what National Skills Coalition is doing on future of work and related workforce skills and employment issues.