April 10, 2014
The Future of Jobs in a Technological World
The Economist, in its Jan. 18–24, 2014 issue, had as its lead story, “Coming to an Office Near You,” and featured the briefing “The Future of Jobs: The Onrushing Wave,” both about the significant effect technology will have the future of jobs. According to the article’s subhead, “…no country is ready for it.” A headline-grabbing view comes from former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, who stated that while in the 1960s only one person in 20 between the ages of 25 and 54 was not working, 10 years from now that number could be one in seven. According to Summers, this is an indication that technological change increasingly includes “capital that effectively substitutes for labor.”
We have seen in the past the effects of technology on the composition of the labor market. Innovation always has cost some workers their jobs. The Industrial Revolution, for example, displaced many workers, but over time better jobs replaced those that had been lost to industrialization. More recently, the digital revolution has destroyed many of the mid-skilled jobs that enabled workers to provide for themselves and their families. The United States and other economies are still dealing with this outcome.
History shows that technological innovations have always yielded more and better long-run employment, but, avows The Economist, “things can change.” While retaining optimism that this historical pattern will repeat itself, the two articles note that the dislocating effects of technology on some workers will be immediate, whereas the new and better jobs expected to arise from technological progress will develop over time. In addition, in the short term, income gaps will widen, leading to massive social dislocation and changing political dynamics. And, according to The Economist, this process has “just started.”
Making the situation even more complicated is the fact that, while earlier innovations replaced workers who engaged in routine, repetitive tasks, new innovations enable technology to undertake more complicated tasks. The Economist refers to a 2013 study by two Oxford professors suggesting that in the next 20 years, 47 percent of today’s jobs could be automated. If anything close to this scale of change comes to pass, the social effects will be enormous. The victims of these innovative forces generally will be those in lower-level jobs and those earning median-level wages, which are expected to remain stagnant. Income gaps are projected to widen, and anger about rising inequality is expected to increase. Governments will find it difficult to deal with these consequences, posits The Economist.
As a means to a solution, The Economist favors more and better education that focuses on the creativity that differentiates people from machines. And yet, better education can mitigate only somewhat the byproducts of innovation. Human ability will remain unequal to that of machines and the world will become increasingly polarized economically. In this situation, many workers and potential workers will find their job prospects dimmed and their wages squeezed, especially in the short term. Perhaps these conditions of inequity in the new modernity are the biggest to which governments must respond.
Massachusetts Announces Pay for Success
Programs for Adult Education
In a landmark move to stimulate new approaches to funding social services, the Secretary of Administration and Finance of Massachusetts, Glen Shor, has announced a $15 million program for adult basic education (ABE). The state will use the Pay for Success (PFS) model to fund ABE services for approximately 3,000 students. Most students will be drawn from urban areas that are critical to regional economic growth but have struggled to attract investment and have high numbers of low-income residents. Johan Uvin, OCTAE’s deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives and the Department’s liaison for PFS matters, responded to the Massachusetts announcement by saying, “We are excited about the steps Governor Patrick and the commonwealth have taken to explore the use of Pay for Success to help solve the skills challenge our country is facing with evidence-based interventions. The Pay for Success model is one innovation that states can consider to expand opportunity and create access to proven programs for the 36 million low-skilled adults in our country.”
PFS is an innovative model of financing social programs in which private investors fund the operating costs of a social program that, if successful, has the potential to produce government savings or achieve another valuable goal. Then, if agreed-upon outcomes are met, the government repays the investor the initial principal plus a return. Early applications of PFS, social impact bonds (SIBs), and other forms of social finance are showing that the approach holds promise for promoting evidence-based practices, increasing resources available to serve vulnerable populations, and catalyzing innovation in service delivery, while reducing the risk to the government. MDRC recently released a report that describes New York City’s experience implementing the first operational SIB in the United States to fund a program to reduce recidivism among youths in custody at Rikers Island jail.
Massachusetts is in the vanguard of U.S. states that are using social innovation financing to bring new resources and a focus on results to address chronic homelessness and the needs of young people involved in the juvenile justice system. In 2012, the state legislature authorized the Office of Administration and Finance to enter into PFS contracts of up to $50 million and, to date, the state has put $7.5 million into a fund from which to make success payments. In addition, Massachusetts was awarded a $12 million Workforce Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that will use PFS to improve employment outcomes and reduce recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request provides up to $382 million for PFS efforts. This includes up to $82 million for PFS at the departments of Education, Labor, and Justice, and the Corporation for National and Community Service in the areas of job training, education, criminal justice, housing, and other areas to promote opportunity and economic mobility. Of this amount, $10 million would be set aside for PFS projects that focus on career and technical education. The president’s budget also proposes to establish a $300 million Treasury Department Pay for Success Incentive Fund to help state and local governments implement PFS approaches that generate savings in federal government programs.
Department of Labor Releases New Online
Tools for Workforce Success
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration recently released a new set of resources designed to build the capacity not only of workforce investment board members and staff but also of the wider workforce system nationally, with tools and databases to better serve adults at the American Job Center. Included in the new resources are “new research and guides on how to improve the administration and functioning of workforce investment boards, a compilation of best practices of high-performing boards, and tips on improving the delivery of employment and training services to workers.” Entities providing and coordinating services for adult learners may find these new resources useful to their work. To learn more, please access the Workforce Board Solutions website.
New Grants Announced for Libraries, Librarians,
and Digital Youths and Adults
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently announced nearly $300,000 in grants for projects at the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), the University of Washington Information School, and the American Library Association (ALA).
COSLA will use its funds to reinforce continuing education services for public librarians by focusing on “creating the infrastructure to leverage state library agency training resources, co-develop new continuing education programming, and engage in national partnerships.” The Information School at the University of Washington will apply its IMLS award to hold a national leadership forum on how people of all ages engage with digital technology and help shape it. The ALA will expand on this work by holding a national summit designed to “foster a broader, national conversation about the changing environment libraries operate in and to generate interest in trend watching to help libraries respond to and shape the future.” The ALA will follow up on earlier efforts that created the Center for the Future of Libraries, and release a report on its national summit on the future of libraries that will inform the center’s work during its first year. Adult education providers are encouraged to follow the work of each of the partners under this IMLS grant for potential application of the results of their work, and to reach out to their local libraries and state library systems to strengthen connections in their own communities.
Giving Credit for Military Experience
The American Council on Education (ACE’s) Military Evaluations program is holding two webinars concerning military evaluations and attendant credits. The program has reviewed and made college credit recommendations for military courses for years. Many higher education institutions recognize these recommendations as part of their procedures for deciding about granting credit for military experience. The first webinar will focus on ACE’s college credit recommendations review process, especially the quality measures it employs. It will be offered on April 18, July 11, and Sept. 5, at 2 p.m. EDT.
The second webinar will instruct on the usage of ACE’s new Joint Services Transcript (JST) and the Military Guide. It is a technical workshop examining transcript process steps for military persons, including veterans, as well as the processes at colleges and universities. During the webinar, sample transcripts will be presented, connections between the JST and the Military Guide will be explored, and future initiatives will be discussed. It will be offered on May 9 and Aug. 8, at 2 p.m. EDT.
Online registration is available here.