Automation and Global Mobility in the Age of the Pandemic

For over the past three decades, globalization and technology-induced changes such as automation and digitization have altered US industry and jobs. Industry followers knew this was going to be the norm even before the pandemic hit us. 

In a McKinsey Global Institute report in 2015, the impact of digitization on the US economy was predicted to double over the next decade. Imagine how the pandemic will only accelerate these projections, even the 50 percent of workforce activities expected to go the automation route. 

To add, more than 30 percent of US workers will see themselves changing jobs or upgrading their skills significantly by 2030. About 65 percent of today’s primary-school students will hold jobs that don’t exist today. Factoring in the effects of the pandemic, this is not far-fetched. It may even be worse based on rising unemployment figures. 

A re-examination of existing strategies will certainly be needed, as people grapple and try to adjust to the new realities. McKinsey’s report is a good start to look at what it was like to know what to expect in 2015 and where the US job market is headed, with the current challenge posed by the pandemic. 

Even if the study predates the coronavirus, it’s worth looking into initiatives aimed at transforming workforce development, if they are still valid — and need amplification. 

1. Develop new educational models that can meet a new economy’s evolving needs

California Corporate Housing’s guests work primarily at companies in Silicon Valley, but it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in learning, not when a job or industry could suddenly be upended by a disaster. No matter what station in life one is, people will need to add new skill sets along the way.

Taken into account Its study: The bachelor’s degree can no longer be the baseline credential for a good career. Instead, governments can support the growth of other forms of high-quality educational programs to meet employer needs. 

Pandemic world: Many classrooms will not be open as classes will be held online. And they won’t only be in academe settings.  

Foreboding thought in both scenarios: The value of education will need to be reimagined. The report states that today’s increasingly tech-driven economy will call for new skills, a new educational approach, a new learning lifespan. 

Overall, the report states that governments can support educators by bringing the right employers to the table to co-create curricula and develop meaningful applied-learning opportunities. In a pandemic world, this point needs to be revisited, considering that many classes will be held online as people continue social distancing. 

As lifelong learning becomes an increasing necessity, educational structures and financial aid models will need to adapt to enable engagement at different points across an individual’s lifetime. California Community College’s system offers a diverse array of educational programs from personal growth to professional training, from associate degree to university transfer. There are many student services to help people stay on a path, including academic counseling, financial aid, tutoring, and child care.

2. Shift more employers and global mobility recruiters from hiring to actively building the pipeline 

In the Bay Area, corporate-training efforts have historically focused on higher-level, better-educated employees, but some invest in entry- and mid-level talent now.  Amazon, Mcdonald’s and Walmart have launched programs that provide or help finance different types of education for employees, recognizing the benefits to their bottom lines as well as to society. In the current crisis, these companies are also hiring. McDonald’s is giving free meals to healthcare workers. 

Global mobility managers need to know how governments are in the best position not only to stimulate the collective action that can support change within sectors but also to offer programs and incentives that position all employers to invest in the talent pipeline. 

In 2018, the Federal Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion started encouraging a simplification of rules for companies to receive funding for apprenticeship programs with associated job guarantees. A program needs to focus on building a pipeline of talent for a wide range of industries—from financial services and health care to information technology, business operations, and advanced manufacturing.

3. Take a granular, fact-based view of workforce planning and establish quantifiable goals

McKinsey dispenses with this advice and global mobility managers would need to heed it, even if it doesn’t involve them directly: All workforce strategies must begin with a clear-eyed view of a state’s workforce strengths and weaknesses, accounting for both near- and long-term economic scenarios. 

Leaders should also identify and prioritize growth sectors, the skills needed now and in the next three to five years, and the expected impact of broader industry changes on the equation.

Analyses of the supply side must take into account the current and projected talent pipeline—existing types of skills and where they are, the quality and capacity of existing workforce and training programs and support services, and the sources and uses of federal and state funds. 

Together, these efforts will highlight a given state’s priorities and mismatches in supply and demand as well as the goals it needs to achieve and a timeline for reaching them.

4. Deploy insights and technology to support better decision making by states, employers, and educators

Access to data and technology that can translate information into insights is critical to supporting the previous initiatives, McKinsey reported. Together, these tools enable stakeholders to create job platforms and assessment tools that can better support individuals in discovering new pathways and connect them with employers and trainers. 

These insights could also support policy makers in assessing and prioritizing effective workforce and education programs. Taking it a step further, governments could consider using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to target individuals with the right programs, interventions, and delivery methods. 

6. Help individuals navigate career options

While technology is and will continue to be crucial, individuals exploring new career paths still need personal coaching and ancillary support. Career coaches and mentors can encourage persistence and support career shifts, while funding for ancillary support such as child care, transportation, and tuition can help people to pursue new skill sets.

Several examples demonstrate the potential impact of such support. 

Guild Education helps adult learners access financial aid (employer tuition benefits, federal funding, and tax credits) and provides education coaching through program completion. Year Up, a well-known nonprofit jobs-training program, relies heavily on mentorship to ensure that students receive the support they need to transition from classroom to employment.  

For those relocating to the Bay Area, assignees will also need to inquire with global mobility professionals and temporary housing providers how workforce-development programs will play out as previous studies didn’t factor in cataclysms in their studies.