It’s no doubt that technological advancements will affect students’ job prospects. And while some predictions about automation paint a bleak future, others offer a more optimistic outlook.
A new report from McKinsey & Company delivers a prediction somewhere in the middle: nearly 40% of U.S. jobs will shrink—but not necessarily disappear—by 2040.
And “as the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution transforms what work will look like in the future, community college leaders must take the lead in reskilling our workforce,” writes Meacie Fairfax for EAB‘s Community College Blog.
After all, although some workers who lose their jobs to automation will be able to easily transition into similar positions, nearly half (41%) will have little to no chance of finding a new job unless they learn new skills, according to a 2018 report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Boston Consulting Group.
Here’s how a few two-year colleges are taking the lead in preparing students for the future of work:
1. Guide students toward sustainable careers
A 2018 study by Jobs for the Future, Burning Glass Technologies, and the Lumina Foundation suggests that jobs in middle-skills sectors—such as IT, healthcare, business, and manufacturing—are no longer a guaranteed path to a sustainable career.
And community colleges must be prepared to guide students towards middle-skill careers that can withstand technological disruption. To do so, the study’s researchers suggest that administrators take a look at graduates’ career trajectories—not just their first job out of college. For example, a community college grad may have a manufacturing job lined up after graduation, but may lose that job in 10 years due to automation.
Community colleges can also work to better serve adults who have already embarked upon their career journey and can promote economic mobility by helping workers develop robot-proof skills. After all, 95% of people who re-train will enjoy higher salaries after their transition, the WEF report predicts. More specifically, displaced workers who complete an average of two years of training are estimated to receive an annual salary increase of $15,000.
Therefore, community colleges need to stay abreast of industry trends to ensure their graduates can survive in the changing middle-skill landscape. Administrators can start by better aligning their curriculum to the industries they serve through employer partnerships, the researchers recommend.
2. Partner with employers
Employer partnerships not only provide administrators with insight into industry needs, they may also connect students directly with in-demand jobs.
For example, Motlow State Community College in Tennessee joined the ABB Robotics Affiliate Education Program and opened the Automation & Robotic Training Center adjacent to campus. Now, students who complete the program earn comprehensive qualification as an ABB customer certified robot professional.
“Adding Motlow to our affiliate education program is an important step in ensuring that we prepare the workforce with the skills needed to transform productivity and keep pace with technology,” says Joe Chudy, U.S. general manager of ABB Robotics. “The answer in creating the manufacturing jobs of the future lies in education. We must train the workforce of today and adapt education for the workforce of tomorrow.”
Similarly, a number of tech giants are establishing apprenticeship programs and offering new credentials for community college students. For example, Amazon and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) have established a program that offers associate degrees and apprenticeships in cloud computing. And Tesla offers a 12-week apprenticeship program in partnership with two community colleges to teach students how to assemble and service electric vehicles. Both programs lead to full-time jobs with the companies.
3. Realign program offerings to reflect economic realities
Mechanical installation and repair, as well as production work and machine operations, are two occupations that could be hardest hit by automation, the McKinsey report predicts.
That’s why Front Range Community College in Colorado is opening another branch in its Center for Integrated Manufacturing building (CIM) that will build upon the college’s existing manufacturing curriculum with programs related to automation.
CIM will offer associate degrees and certificates for working professionals looking to upskill. In addition to helping students develop the skills they’ll need for job security, the new CIM program offerings will help local manufacturing facilities fill positions facing shortages.
In a similar effort to tailor curricula to meet workforce needs, Wisconsin’s Northcentral Technical College (NTC) added six new degree program options this fall. The new degree programs include automation systems technology and IT cybersecurity—two fields that will see significant job growth through 2030, according to the McKinsey report.
“It’s important that we provide educational opportunities that are meaningful and relevant in a changing economy,” explains the former NTC president Lori Weyers. “The curriculum for each of the new degree programs has been created to meet learner, business and market needs.”
Sources: Control Design release, 7/26; Eide, Education Dive, 1/24/18; Jobs for the Future report, accessed 8/2/18; Fairfax, EAB, 7/10/18; LeVine, Axios, 1/24/18; McKinsey & Company report, accessed 9/6/19; Mims, Wall Street Journal, 6/29/18; Parke, Working Nation, 7/30/18; Scott, Left Hand Valley Courier, 7/17; WEF release, 1/22/18; WSAW release, 7/21