From Manufacturer to Coder: How Is The United States Preparing Its Workforce For The Professions Of The Future?
October 09, 2017
By Juan Diego López Rodríguez
With this prospect for the U.S., the audience has turned to the education sector to inquire how it is preparing its workforce for the jobs that students will hold in the future. This is a difficult task, when it is uncertain what professions, jobs, or even skills will be needed.  Although projections changed in terms of what skills will be necessary for the future, it seems that digital literacy will become more important, that teachers want to be trained in it, and that it will improve business.  This motivates the question of what are public and private initiatives doing to embed digital literacy in schools and training programs. Although the push for apprenticeships of the current administration might seem troublesome for preparing its labor force for the future—if these are mostly in the manufacturing sector—another public-sector initiative, the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, has yielded positive results in digitalizing more classrooms and teaching, having students become comfortable with the use of technology. Furthermore, there is a predicted rise in private sector education-technology investment, which will give more opportunities for students to develop digital literacy.
The model of the economy influences the type of jobs that become available for students. The past two administrations expanded funding for apprenticeships, which last usually for two years or longer and give on-the-job training. This might be worrisome since, as Thomas Friedman has pointed out, going to school for a few years and be prepared for the next 30 is outdated.  Currently, the most common professions for apprenticeships are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and construction workers. Last year the investment was $250 million and this year, there was an increase of $200 million in new funding for apprenticeships in fields like healthcare, information technology and manufacturing.  Although apprenticeships are becoming more involved with technology to what extent are they preparing workers for rapid technological advancements, where the competencies that they have might not be useful in less than a decade?
Enter basic education initiatives. The 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP) has promoted the use of technology for education in the U.S. There has been an increase in the number of schools that have access to broadband in their classrooms, in a greater variety and lower costs of technology, on data security and digital citizenship, in the arrival of new research on the use of technology by early learners, and professional development for teachers in technology before they enter the classroom.  All in all, the NETP aims at preparing future high-school graduate to be more attuned with technology than they were years ago, which will make it easier to adapt if professions require the use of digital literacy. Another big player has been private initiatives, where there has been surge in investment in education technology.
The graph above demonstrates the increase in investment that educational technology has experienced in the past decade and a half.  There was a surge for PreK-12 and Post-Secondary Learning Technology in 2015, and forecasting seems to say it will increase in the near future.  It is supposed to grow $252 billion globally by 2020.  These investments have developed personalized and adaptive technologies, solving the renowned problem of providing individual feedback so that students can be taught differently. Some of these personalized improvement practice programs have increased productivity significantly.  In general, again, the idea is to get students to be more attuned with technology.
In higher education, an initiative from the private sector to incentivize the entry to technology apprenticeships has been the “skills-based” approach in hiring. Supported by Microsoft, the idea is that employers don’t hire over college degrees, work history, or personal references, but over skills. These websites train workers on specific skills, and also filter employees based on this.  In IBM, for instance, a third of the new hires don’t have four-year college degrees.
Both the public and private sector are reacting to the demand of digital literacy in education. Apprenticeships for technology have increased, more technology in the classroom is already a reality, and new training for teachers on technology is a way in which digital literacy will continue to improve to prepare workers for jobs for the future—If jobs exist in the future.
Student Blog Disclaimer
The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.
It is estimated that one individual organ, eye, and tissue donor can save up to 75 lives . Currently an average of 22 individuals die each day waiting to be matched for a transplant . Donated tissues and organs both have lifesaving potential, but unlike donated organs, donated tissue is also purchased by biotechnology and cosmetic companies for research purposes. Most donors, however, are not aware of the differences between organ and tissue donation, including how it is removed, used, and regulated . Even fewer are aware that by registering for organ donation, they have become tissue donors by default and that their tissues can be sold for up to $80,000 to profitable companies . In order to increase transparency and not lose informed consent of donors, registration for tissue donation and organ donation in the United States should be separate processes.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple — these companies have become household names, and the world today heavily relies on their services. To many, the benefits of cheap and easy connection to information are obvious, ranging from increased educational and career opportunities to an increased rate of technological innovation. However, as the pace of this progress accelerates, two distinct issues have remained concerning: the use of these technologies and access to them. The topic of this article mostly focuses on how people still lack access to the Internet. This lack of access to and of use of the Internet is known as the “digital divide.”
Leo drives a mid-2000s Acura TSX and arrives at the pickup point in front of a train station in Trenton, New Jersey. I’m headed home from New York City for the Thanksgiving holiday. Leo gives me a hand with my suitcase, and in under a minute, we’re off, driving Interstate 276 West most of the way there. The 26.66 mile trip takes 45 minutes. It costs me $34.68 on one of the most popular rideshare platforms, of which Leo receives about $25, minus the cost of gas, tolls, and vehicle mileage. Leo is a pretty talkative guy, and the subject turns to the various driving platforms, like Uber and Lyft. Leo is a young guy, and he tells me he’s one of the approximately 1 in 4 drivers who does not have health insurance.
Many young Americans leave home and never return. In particular, this trend can be seen in rural America. 1,350 counties “non-metro” counties have lost population since 2010. Since the mid 1990s, rural population growth has been significantly lower than urban areas. The movement of people has resulted in national economic growth, but there are consequences. Behind these numbers lie worrisome consequences.
Caffeine has been heralded as the world’s most popular drug. However, as more people want their coffees to go, the industry has failed to confront the waste from single-use cups. In the last two decades, the United Kingdom has seen a 400% increase in the number of coffee shops. The sheer volume of waste affects both the environment and the country’s waste management infrastructure . In the UK alone, people throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year . The scope of this problem is magnified by the difficulty of recycling wax-lined paper (the most common material for coffee cups), with only 0.25% of these cups being reprocessed . In order to combat the growing practical and environmental effects of throwing away single-use cups, UK lawmakers have stepped in, and are considering instituting a “latte levy,” a new tax to influence on-the-go coffee drinkers.
Pharmaceutical drug price hikes have now become a common feature in American news. From Martin Shkreli’s infamous Daraprim price hike that saw a $737 increase to the chemotherapy drug Cosmogen that currently sells for $1,400 in the U.S. compared to $20-30 overseas, the problem is clearly systemic . Many important cancer drugs, including Gilead’s Sovaldi, Merck’s Keytruda, and Vertex’ Kalydeco all cost over $80,000 for a course of treatment . Often prices increase are unrelated to any new research and development done. There is a clear need to address such drastic drug price increases in order to prevent these dramatic hikes and create a more stable biopharmaceutical market.
The state of American infrastructure figures prominently in current national policy discussion, prompted by poor report cards, energized political campaigns, and recent executive initiatives. Severe underfunding of needed infrastructure projects has prompted proposals from both sides of the political aisle, with public-private partnerships (P3s) featuring prominently. This article evaluates and offers perspective on different types of P3s, examining their benefits and costs and the Trump administration’s plans.
Nuclear energy has the potential to assist nations in tackling climate change and sustain a rapidly growing world population. In the first part of this series on nuclear energy, I analyzed why nuclear energy is superior to other energy sources in achieving this end but also why current market forces prevent its growth. However, even if US legislators decided to pass legislation that aggressively expanded the country’s nuclear infrastructure, there are three primary non-market challenges with current U.S. policy, or lack thereof: a hostile public, the absence of a centralized nuclear waste disposal site, and concerns with proliferation and the imperilment of U.S. national security objectives. In order to responsibly expand nuclear energy capacities and prevent proliferation to hostile states, policy-makers have an obligation to address these issues. Not doing so may bear worse consequences than wantonly enlarging the United States’ atomic sector.
In 2015, Seattle legislators signed a bill to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees will still have until January of 2024 to deal with the full ramifications of the act. However, businesses that do not provide medical benefits and employ over 500 people were forced to pay their workers $15 dollars an hour starting this past January . Since then, two major studies have been published on the effects of the act, one concluding that it has had a positive effect on economic activity and employment and the other stating that it has made the labor market far too rigid.
Today private prisons house about 126,000 federal and state inmates . Orders issued under the Obama Administration to phase out the use of private prisons are now being reversed under the Trump Administration, which has caused some debates over the efficacy of private prisons to resurface. Chiefly, this reversal has sparked controversy over the economic benefits of private prisons in America, as the most avid dissidents highlight problems with the economic argument for private prisons and even moderate objectors point to inconclusive data as a poor indicator of their advantages.