The pandemic has made the upskilling challenge even more urgent

February 18, 2021, 11:11 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Even before the pandemic, I referred in this column to the need to reskill workers displaced by technology as “the challenge of our times.” In the past year, it has gotten far more challenging. The pandemic has been an accelerant—speeding up digitization, e-commerce and automation. And as a result, even more people are now exposed to job displacement than before.

A new report out this morning from the McKinsey Global Institute shows the dimensions of that challenge. It concludes that 17.1 million Americans may need to switch occupations by the end of the decade—up from 13.4 million before the pandemic. Similar increases in displacement were found in the other advanced economies.

The pandemic also has made clear which occupations will be hardest hit by the transition. The shift to e-commerce will be a heavy blow to those involved in consumer sales and service; the shift to remote work will accelerate the decline in office support. Food service and warehouse work also will take a heavy hit. “It’s not just that more people will need to change occupations,” says Susan Lund, one of the leaders of the Institute, “it is that the jump they will need to make from the old job to the new job is even bigger.” Moreover, the research shows a disproportionate number of those affected will be women and minorities.

The upshot: the next decade demands a massive effort by business and government to upskill the workforce and create new training programs for those who are displaced, in order to avoid continued increases in inequality. “Companies need to step up their investment in redeploying workers and creating alternative career pathways,” Lund says. “And it is also going to take investment from educational institutions and government.” One more thing to add to an already crowded 2021 agenda.  

You can read the full report here. More news below.

Alan Murray


Australian fiasco

Google and Facebook have taken very different paths in the Australian pay-publishers-to-send-traffic-their-way legal fiasco. Google essentially gave in, announcing a multi-year licensing deal with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which dominates the Australian media landscape. Facebook, conversely, stopped allowing Australians to share news on its platform—and messed up bigtime, blocking "information about COVID-19 vaccinations, the government Bureau of Meteorology, satire websites, and even Facebook's own Facebook page." Fortune

Diversity data

The employer-review site Glassdoor has started disclosing race and gender data, allowing users to analyze salary data based on those metrics, and to see how people from different groups rate companies on their workplace culture and promotional opportunities. Fortune

Chip subsidies

American automakers, medical device makers and other manufacturers are lobbying the White House to provide subsidies for the construction of new chip factories, so they can go about their business without semiconductor shortages of the sort we're currently seeing. They sent a similar letter last year, but lawmakers are yet to cough up the necessary funding. Reuters

Minimum wage

President Biden said he's open to negotiation on his $15 minimum wage proposal, in particular the phase-in period—the proposal calls for a five-year transition. Washington Post


Microsoft in Iowa

Iowa has changed its mind about using Microsoft's software to register patients and schedule COVID-19 vaccinations. Governor Kim Reynolds: "It quickly became apparent that integrating the many already existing registration and  scheduling platforms that are used by some of our public health departments, pharmacies, as well as other vaccine providers, it would not be possible in a timely manner without significant disruption to their current systems and we did not want to slow down the progress that we're making." Fortune

Ford EVs

Ford will, from 2026, only sell hybrid or all-electric cars in Europe. And from 2030, it's going all-electric only in the region. The move is in response to local demand. Fortune

Crushing wine

China's 170% import tariffs have slashed profits at Treasury Wine Estates, Australia's largest wine distributor, by 43%. TWE expects to see Chinese demand for its labels "remain extremely limited" while those tariffs remain in place. Fortune

Return preparations

As companies start considering a return to office life, FIS chief risk officer Greg Montana lays out some guidelines in a piece for Fortune: have clear plans for bringing people back to the office, have clear plans for a re-exit, be prepared for a more flexible work environment, and be clear and consistent in communications. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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