For a while now, I’ve been an admirer of the projects that Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national non-profit based in Boston, initiates in order to drive transformations of the U.S. education and workforce systems to achieve equity and economic advancement for everyone. There are three boxes that JFF highlights on its Why We Exist webpage:
- 92 Million – more than half the U.S. labor force is not in quality jobs and faces systemic barriers to advancement.
- 2X – the Black unemployment rate has been twice the white unemployment rate for more than 50 years.
- 14% – less than 14% of students of low wealth who attend college complete their studies and graduate.
It is not difficult to understand why JFF exists after reading these three facts.
With the obvious need to transform U.S. education and workforce systems to improve equity and economic advancement, it’s not a surprise that JFF’s 10-year Northstar goal is to help 75 million people facing systemic barriers to advancement work in quality jobs.
At the same time, the rapid advancement and deployment of artificial intelligence in corporations and universities are changing those landscapes as well as the future of the workforce. It was no surprise when I read the press release from JFF announcing the creation of a new Center for Artificial intelligence & the Future of Work. If anyone was going to focus on the impact of AI on the transformation of education and the workforce, it would be JFF.
The press release notes that the purpose of the Center is to serve as “a nexus of collaboration among stakeholders from every part of the education-to-career ecosystem to explore the most promising opportunities – and profound challenges – of AI’s potential to advance an accessible and equitable future of learning and work.”
JFF commissioned a survey of workers conducted by Morning Consult. Even though the survey has not yet been released, the JFF press release about the Center for AI indicates that workers recognize the importance of skills related to AI. While only 1 in 10 workers said they are currently experiencing AI at work, 58 percent feel they need to gain new skills because of AI’s impact. Even more impactful is the finding that 88 percent of workers surveyed do not trust their employer to support them in understanding AI. I cannot wait for the survey to be released as I am sure there are other responses that could inform employers, educators, and policymakers alike.
A quote in the press release from one of JFF’s board members, Howard Boville, was interesting. Mr. Boville said, “As a JFF board member, I applaud this new center and I see a great opportunity for JFF to leverage their expertise in developing insights, connecting decision makers, and shaping policy around AI to empower workers and learners, employers, educators, and entrepreneurs for years to come.”
The latter part of Mr. Boville’s quote will require some extremely nuanced diplomacy as not all these groups have the same interests when working with policymakers. The press release appears to address these issues by stating “JFF’s new [Center’s] initial focus will include cross-sector convenings, research, and insights to identify best practices for leveraging AI to accelerate skill development, improvements in job quality, and economic advancement…By deploying JFF’s cross-sector networks and convening power, the Center will facilitate knowledge sharing and scalable solutions that drive positive outcomes for people and businesses.”
One of the best books that I have read regarding the impact of technology (including AI) on jobs was Richard and Daniel Susskind’s The Future of the Professions. Their conclusion was that over time, there will even be technological decline in the total number of jobs for professionals who are our best educated workers.
Just imagine how many jobs will be impacted for those working in the lower wage earner categories! The 2023 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report indicates that due to technology advances, six in ten workers will require retraining before 2027. JFF’s Center for AI and the Future of Work has a big job to do to ensure that most of these workers receive their retraining to not lose their jobs or see them downgraded due to technology. With a Northstart to help 75 million workers over the next 10 years, JFF’s accomplishments will make a big difference.