Anticipating that the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time employee will impact work and readiness over the coming decades, we face critical uncertainties about the impacts of these drivers of change – and critical decisions about what strategies we might pursue today to ensure that all learners are ready to thrive in the future employment, civic and social landscape. From today’s vantage point, it is unclear to what extent, and at what pace, increasingly sophisticated and widespread automation could displace or change the work that people carry out. It is also unclear whether the societal response will be systemic and intentional or market driven.
While the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time employee are affecting the broader employment landscape, they aren’t playing out the same way in every region or community. Some aspects of them might feel more, or less, relevant where you live. Additional factors are probably also affecting the future of work and readiness in your area. The “Exploring the Future of Work” activity in KnowledgeWorks’ community conversation guide, Shaping the Future of Readiness: A Discussion and Facilitation Guide©, invites groups to:
- Explore the drivers of change from our redefining readiness paper
- Identify additional trends, drivers of change, current efforts and potential disruptions that could impact what work looks like
- Project possible futures of work reflecting one or more of those factors
- Reflect on what those possibilities might mean for their organizations and local areas.
It can be hard to see long-term forces of change at play when employers state that that they’re having trouble filling today’s jobs or, conversely, when significant numbers of adults are already struggling to find work. Whatever the issue in your area, immediate needs and pressures can overshadow the longer view. But we need to take that view to find local leverage points for responding to the changes on the horizon in ways that will enable individuals and communities to thrive.
Opportunities to Shape the Future of Readiness
The ways in which stakeholders will choose to balance the near- and long-term perspectives on readiness and employability will vary depending on their objectives and local realities. Examining future possibilities through a local lens can help identify opportunities to shape the future of readiness in your area. For example, in hosting such conversations in three Ohio regions, we heard workshop participants flag opportunities such as those listed below.
- Empower educator and curricular innovation so that the knowledge, skills and dispositions that will help people thrive in the future workforce —including metacognition, social-emotional skills and self-direction — can receive greater emphasis in the design and assessment of learning experiences.
- Develop a networked approach to lifelong learning so as to provide people with new and varied types of education, training, reskilling, mentoring and social support as they cultivate critical readiness attributes across their lifetimes.
- Treat readiness as a social issue, taking coordinated action to adjust social infrastructure to reflecting changing realities so as to prevent an increase in disparities and inequities and to protect and expand the middle class.
Exploring the future of work in your context can help identify what opportunities and action steps promise to help create equitable, productive and vibrant futures in your area. We must not simply wait for the future of work to emerge. We need to begin retooling and reimagining our education and other readiness approaches now.