These insights were developed through intensive research, multidisciplinary expert and policymaker roundtables, and the Future Workforce Now State Policy Forum for Action with 28 states.
The future of work is here. A broad array of occupations is at risk for disruption or elimination as a result of technological change, and the risk is greatest in developed countries, such as the United States. Workers in nearly every industry and across all skill levels are already being affected. In 2020, more than one-third of job skills required for most jobs in 2016 have already been replaced by new technologies, particularly by automation.
Disruptions will demand not only new skills but new concepts of work, workers and the workplace. The standard 40-hour workweek is disintegrating as 24-hour access to and demand for information, work and goods and services reshape what it means to work in many fields. Modern definitions of “work” require transformations of traditional understandings of where job training occurs, credential attainment and delivery of employee benefits.
The Age of Disruption presents opportunities for the public sector to use technology in new and unprecedented ways. States can harness the power of technology — especially data — to aid decision making and resource allocation; enable trust and transparency; balance innovation and regulation; and build a holistic, user-centered service-delivery system.
Our current policy infrastructure for education, training and supporting workers is not prepared to meet the rapidly changing needs of workers and employers. Today’s policymaking climate limits our capacity to adapt policy and programs to meet the challenges that continuous technological disruptions pose and their impacts on the labor market
In the age of technological disruption, states must respond with equally dramatic, swift transformations of their own. Policymakers must commit to three transformational objectives to prepare their future workforces. These objectives — building a statewide ecosystem to promote continuous lifelong learning; investing in an agile, technologically resilient workforce; and enabling every worker to participate in the workforce of the future through comprehensive support — offer a policy framework to benefit every worker and workplace.
Governors are particularly well-positioned to drive significant and necessary progress. Because many key aspects of the definition, scope and support systems for education and workforce programs are often determined at the state level, governors are well-positioned to make firm commitments to systems transformations that enable all citizens to engage in continuous and technology-rich lifelong learning.
Without policy intervention, the shift to a skills-based economy will exacerbate current inequities. New concepts of work will have dramatic but disparate effects on workers. These disparate effects, combined with the current shortcomings of existing education and training programs, will only exacerbate the inequities that exist today between people of different abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic origin. Policymakers must put equity in terms of access to quality learning and employment opportunities at the top of their agendas across education and workforce development systems.
10 Pathways Towards Achieving Transformational Objectives
To achieve each of the Future Workforce Now transformational objectives, states must take action across all ten policy pathways. Visit this page to explore each pathway and the associated policies to prepare your future workforce for technological disruption.
Explore Policy Examples by Keyword
Use this page to search by keyword to learn more about strategies states are using to innovate their education and workforce systems across pathways. Each example includes details on how states achieved these promising practices, including sample legislative text, financing plans, and outcomes data.
State Roadmap for Preparing the Future Workforce Now
State efforts to maximize worker readiness in the age of disruption will inevitably vary from state to state. Across all policy pathways, states should consider ways to apply strategies including assessment, planning, resource allocation, and evaluation. Use this page to read case studies on how states have implemented each of these practices to achieve transformational policy change.