How Robots Show Us The Workplace Skills We Will Need, Yet Foolishly Resist
By Dan Kadlec
October 18, 2017
Even as Education Secretary DeVos makes a priority of STEM classes—science, technology, engineering, and math—and financial literacy advocates highlight the importance of schools teaching modern workplace skills, Americans display remarkable resistance to workplace change.
Workers are understandably concerned about a future where automation claims more and more jobs. Some 85% of adults want to restrict further automation to work that is dangerous or unhealthy, Pew found. More than half want the government to prevent jobs from being automated and to provide guaranteed income for those displaced by a machine.
This is like trying to hold back the tide. Technology will never stop moving the workplace towards machine labor. Some protections make sense, especially for older workers. But the way to beat this trend—and make an education pay—is by preparing for modern workplace needs.
While being considered for Labor Secretary in March, Andrew F. Puzder spoke of the virtues of robots over humans: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.” Folks, this is where we are headed.
Coincidentally, PwC, a Right About Money sponsor, in March unveiled a $320 million pledge to widen its financial literacy commitment to include support for teachers and students seeking course work in modern workplace skills to help young people avoid becoming victims of automation and outsourcing.
By 2021, 69% of employers expect they will favor prospective hires with knowledge of data science and analytics, according to a report from PwC and the Business Higher Education Forum. Yet only 23% of college and university leaders say their graduates will have such knowledge. Some 79% of CEOs worry that a shortage of key skills could impair their companies’ growth.
Part of financial literacy is understanding the economics of careers—and using that information guide fields of study and gauge an appropriate level of student debt. Wishing automation weren’t so is not a plan.