The New World of Work
The world is changing. Over the last 80 years, manufacturing jobs have dropped from almost a third of nationwide employment to below 10 percent. This drop is due in large part to technology increasing output per worker, allowing the US to remain one of the world’s largest manufacturers.
In addition to manufacturing employment changes, the US has experienced a significant reduction of middle-class employment opportunities. Over the last two decades, the proportion of middle-class jobs in America has declined by three percent. These trends are creating a polarized labor market, where job seekers have the most opportunity at both the high and low end of the skill and wage spectrum but fewer options in the middle.
The nation is at the edge of a new economic frontier —a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter life and the workplace. Technology that enhances human performance will certainly cause disruption, but the outcome will be creative destructive rather than simply destructive. While about 34 percent of workers in the U.S. work in industries and/or occupational segments with significant risk of disruption and job volatility, corresponding jobs will increasingly require the use of new technology or new skills and abilities.
The radiology profession provides a clear example of this transition. While algorithms have gotten better than radiologists at running through thousands of MRI images and identifying patterns, an algorithm cannot discuss the findings with another radiologist or a patient, nor can it discern the best options regarding treatment. In fact, demand for radiologic technologists—those who operate machinery and communicate with patients—is expected to increase by nearly eight percent between 2019 and 2025.
With 47 percent of occupations in the United States at high risk of being replaced by automation, we are challenged to update our education system to one that prepares our children for the future of work. Our modern educational system was designed to train a disciplined workforce that could maximize manufacturing productivity. However, a future of technological advancement, automation, and industrial evolution promises to render repetitive physical and mental tasks obsolete. The occupations least impacted by automation will be those that generally require persuasion, management of others, creativity, social awareness, emotional intelligence, complex technological or mathematical understanding, and/or critical thinking to tackle ambiguous challenges.
Technology-enabled the economic transition, and today, it is talent—human capital, authentic connection, and other non-technical skills that cannot be automated—that will fuel the new economy. We need courses that enhance STEM skills, creativity, and problem-solving while offering increased exposure to the jobs and technology of the future world.
WEST’s mission is to ensure that the Wrentham Public Schools have the resources to help prepare our students for this dynamic new frontier. To learn more, please visit: www.wrenthamwest.org.
The mission of the BW Research Partnership- located right here in Wrentham - is to understand and anticipate the world’s changes. Our work supplies communities with accurate and