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From Manufacturer to Coder: How Is The United States Preparing Its Workforce For The Professions Of The Future?

October 09, 2017
A well-known study by Oxford professors estimates that in one or two decades, half of the number of U.S. jobs will become automated. [1] The projections for job computerization have moved beyond production occupations and have entered service and other non-routine jobs that required cognitive tasks. Some have even claimed that, in the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will do everything better than humans. [2]

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. [3] 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. [4] 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worrisome since, as Thomas Friedman has pointed out, going to school for a few years and be prepared for the next 30 is outdated. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7] 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.Image: 1999-2016 Venture and Growth Capital Investment in Education Technology. Source: Arizona State University and GSV Acceleration Education Technology Summit

Image: 1999-2016 Venture and Growth Capital Investment in Education Technology. Source: Arizona State University and GSV Acceleration Education Technology Summit

The graph above demonstrates the increase in investment that educational technology has experienced in the past decade and a half. [8] 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. [9] It is supposed to grow $252 billion globally by 2020. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12] 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.

References

  [1] Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?” September 17, 2013.

http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

  [2] Arjun Kharpal, “Elon Musk: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge of A.I’s future is ‘limited,’ July 25, 2017.

 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/25/elon-musk-mark-zuckerberg-ai-knowledge-limited.html

  [3] The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Driving the skills agenda: preparing students for the future,” 2015.

  [4] Ibid

  [5] Thomas L. Friedman, “Owning Your Own Future,” The New York Times, May 10, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/opinion/owning-your-own-future.html

  [6] Paul Fain, “New Money and New Players on Apprenticeships,” June 14, 2017

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/06/14/white-house-apprenticeship-push-will-include-funding-and-focus-alternative-providers

  [7] Joseph South, “Updating the National Education Technology Plan — 2017,” Medium, Jan 18, 2017

https://medium.com/@OfficeofEdTech/updating-the-national-education-technology-plan-2017-42c850cb54b5

  [8] GSV Acceleration, “Capital Flows in the Learning and Talent Technology Market,” Spring 2017.

https://www.asugsvsummit.com/files/Its_a%20_Breakout_A_Review_of_Capital_Flows%20In_the_Learning_and_Talent_Technology_Market_2017-04-20.pdf (page 8).

  [9] Dana Olsen and Reilly Hammond “A second wind: VC investment in edtech is rising again,” June 26, 2017

http://pitchbook.com/news/articles/a-second-wind-vc-investment-in-edtech-is-rising-again-datagraphic

  [10] Laura Scott and Maria Loupa “Global Report Predicts EdTech Spend to Reach $252bn by 2020,” Market Watch, May 25, 2016

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/global-report-predicts-edtech-spend-to-reach-252bn-by-2020-2016-05-25-4203228

  [11] Thomas L. Friedman, “Owning Your Own Future,” The New York Times, May 10, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/opinion/owning-your-own-future.html

  [12] Steve Lohr, “A New Kinds of Tech Job Emphasized Skills, Not a College Degree,” The New York Times, June 28, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/technology/tech-jobs-skills-college-degree.html

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RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>