A mass unemployment crisis looms unless we act fast.
As you watch the third and final presidential debate Wednesday, don’t expect either candidate to address the glaring realities our country faces when it comes to the future of employment.
If the previous two debates are any indication, they will fail yet again to tackle this vital issue in a meaningful way.
But it’s crucially important, and here’s why.
The world of work is changing–faster than we ever could have predicted–and very little is being done to prepare for it. In fact, most Americans are woefully unprepared for the rapidly accelerating changes already underway. If we act now, we can still greatly reduce the negative impact that many American families are poised to face.
According to a recent Oxford University study, as many as 47% of all jobs are likely to be eliminated by technology within the next 20 years. That’s nearly half of all workers out of a job. Add globalization, longevity in the workforce, and the inability of our education system to keep pace, and the problem is only made worse.
As a country, we have the tools to overcome this challenge. Now is the time to rapidly accelerate our response. To help jumpstart the conversation America so desperately needs, this summer we launched WorkingNation, a national not-for-profit campaign to educate the American public about the looming unemployment crisis in this country and to start a widespread movement to meet and overcome this unprecedented challenge.
Our organization’s efforts begin with innovative storytelling: WorkingNation has partnered with Academy Award-winning directors and producers to create a wide range of compelling programming that explains the high stakes of Structural Unemployment and investigates potential solutions to the problem. At the top of this article you’ll find the premier of A Story of Yesterday & Today, about the fall of Eastman Kodak and its impact on Rochester, N.Y. by Barbara Kopple, a two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker.
Stay tuned to Fortune for more from the “Jobs 2.0” series in the days ahead.
In the meantime, here are five facts about the future of work that every American should know.
The looming threat of mass Structural Unemployment is everyone’s problem: Nearly half of the country could be affected directly and the rest could suffer from the consequences of a devastated U.S. economy. Many people fail to realize that it won’t just be factory workers and unskilled laborers who lose their jobs. Technology is eliminating highly skilled positions in white-collar industries as well. (Related: Artificial Intelligence Is Going to ‘Hollow Out’ Middle Class Jobs)
The employability gap is a fancy term for a simple concept: There’s a gap between the skills employers need from their workers, both now and in the future, and the skills Americans actually have. The equation is not pretty. Our current education system hasn’t kept up with the rapidly changing skills needed as technology plays a larger role in jobs of all kinds.
Some corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and other stakeholders are already coming up with solutions to counteract the skills gap: Organizations like Year Up, Operation Hope, AmeriCorps, and Service Year Alliance are forging a path forward. They’re providing workers in need with skills development, retraining programs, college and vocational credits, internships, and other forms of support. We must to continue to scale these types of solutions and connect more people to these types of programs in order to keep America working.
Progress will be made locally: Overcoming the employability gap will require the active participation of local employers, non-profits, local government leaders and educational organizations on a grassroots level. Thankfully, many are already raising their hand to do their part.
All Americans can be part of the solution: We face a major challenge that will require a widespread movement. It begins with a dialogue, spreading awareness, and getting individuals to consider their own situation in the context of a rapidly changing world of work.
So ask yourself: “Am I Future-Proof?” That means taking an honest assessment of one’s own employment, education and skills. It means understanding your current and future employability and beginning to plan for the challenges ahead.
Art Bilger is Founder & CEO of Working Nation. An active venture capital investor, he was previously Vice Chairman of Akamai Technologies; President, COO and a director of New World Communications Group; a founding partner of Apollo Advisors; and Co-Head of Corporate Finance at Drexel Burnham Lambert. Art serves on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Board of Overseers and sits on the Board’s Executive Committee.