President's Blog

A New Year’s Musing

A New Year’s Musing

While listening to a story on public radio the other day about the plight of unemployed workforce members over 50 without more than a high school education, I was brought up short by the reality expressed by the commentator’s guest. Asked about the opportunity for these workers to upgrade their education or retrain for a different occupation, the expert replied, “As I think about members of the workforce 50 and older, whose last experience with math was probably in high school, I find it hard to imagine them going back to school now.  There is too much catching up to do.” As disappointing as it was, the expert’s response was also enlightening about the reality these workers face — and how our educational system, in hindsight, may have failed them. When they were in school, the goal for many of these workers was to get enough education to fill the manufacturing jobs available at the time, while a select group pursued higher education. We didn’t foresee the need to provide them with the additional skills necessary to adapt to a world that would change right beneath their feet. A recent feature on Bloomberg.com illustrates the dramatic shift in skills required in the new world of manufacturing, with a focus on people skills and problem solving rather than repetitive tasks — or even computer programming. The continued rise of technology will intensify pressure on existing occupations as automation replaces routine jobs, many of which we don’t think of as routine.  Working Nation recently released a video called Slope of the Curve, which brings this challenge to light. Today, thousands of dedicated... read more