Teaching Old Dogs Some New Tricks

Teaching Old Dogs Some New Tricks

Automation can be a bit of a scary thing for workers no matter where they fall on the blue-to-white collared spectrum. Technology has rapidly changed the way business happens in this country and every day brings new innovations. Yes, most of these are intended to improve processes and make things more efficient and easier, but they frequently also come at a cost. Many people have seen their role in the workplace change or outright disappear.

Though now unemployed, these displaced workers are still a potential asset for many companies. They have experience plenty of work ethic. All they need are some new skills to enable their success in today’s work settings.

What Do the Numbers Say?

The statistics and long-range outlook on the subject of jobs lost to technology and automation vary considerably depending on the source. Some experts project that as many as 30 percent of all American workers will have to find new occupations by 2030 due to advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning (McKinsey Global Institute). That’s 70 million people.

Other experts put the figure much higher – all over the place, in fact. Some believe that 13.5 million workers could be displaced (OECD), 58 million (PWC), or even up to 80 million (Bank of England).

While that’s obviously terrifying, the hard data we have is a little bit more optimistic, though it is limited. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a national worker displacement survey every two years; the most recent of which was published in late August of 2018. Their data shows that a large portion of displaced workers have been able to find new employment.

Specifically, the BLS found that from January 2015 through December 2017, there were 3.0 million U.S. workers displaced from jobs they had held for at least 3 years. By January 2018, 66 percent of them were reemployed.

That still leaves a large number of people looking for jobs, many of whom will need new skills or additional training. While we were unable to definitively pinpoint data that accurately reflected the scope of the issue for Indiana specifically, we have been seeing several examples of Hoosier organizations actively working to help reintroduce displaced employees back into the workforce.

How Hoosiers are Learning New Skills

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $7.5 million grant to Midwest Urban Strategies (MUS), which is a group made up of representatives from 13 different midwestern urban workforce development boards. Two of those boards are based in Indiana and the others consist of major metropolitan hubs from surrounding states.

Funds from the grant, which is referred to as the Trade and Economic Transition Dislocated Worker grant, have been issued to the Valparaiso-based Center of Workforce Innovations on behalf of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board (NWIWB) and to Indianapolis-based EmployIndy. Both organizations will be working in their respective regions to help dislocated workers reconnect with employment in growth occupations and industries.

The programs will focus on efforts to engage and retrain mature workers with new skill sets and gain reemployment in sectors including healthcare, transportation and logistics, information technology, financial services, and advanced manufacturing. Partners will use pre-apprentice and registered apprenticeships, with customized training to develop best practice strategies.

The NWIWB will receive $650,000 of the funding to deploy in Northwest Indiana and the Gary metropolitan area.

“Many mature workers are struggling to reconnect in the workforce, in part because of technology and advanced skills required by employers,” said Linda Woloshansky, president & CEO of the Center of Workforce Innovations and staff to the NWIWB. “The MUS grant will allow employers to invest in training those older workers who have a solid work ethic and a motivated attitude.”

The NWIWB will serve 100 unemployed dislocated workers age 55+ from across the seven NWI counties. With a focus on employer demanded skills in high-demand occupations across advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and IT, participants will receive skills upgrading and/or training to help position them back into the workforce with 21st century skills. This will be accomplished by offering career assessments, career path planning, skills upgrading and training, and job searching support services.

EmployIndy will receive nearly $1.1 million in programmatic funds to deploy in the Indianapolis region.

“The loss of legacy jobs has hit Marion County hard in the past two years due to changing technology, automation, trade, outsourcing, and rising business expenses. Displaced workers are faced with a traumatic challenge – both personally and professionally – which they must navigate to find their next step,” said Angela Carr Klitzsch, EmployIndy president and CEO.

Over two years, EmployIndy will be allocating its grant funds to serve more than 150 dislocated workers throughout Marion County. This will be made possible through career assessment systems, growing local apprenticeship programs, and utilizing career pathway toolkits created in partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).

Hope Against the Robots

This endeavor to reequip displaced workers with new skills is a source of hope for those of us who are concerned our professions could one day be taken by robots. Also, the program is still evolving. As the various partner organizations throughout the Midwest work to assist their constituents, MUS will be looking at the big picture to benchmark the strategies that deliver the best outcomes.

“Addressing the needs of our ageing workforce is a challenge for all of our members,” said Midwest Urban Strategies Director Tracey Carey. “We’re especially excited for the opportunity to learn from the best practices and experiences that will come.”

With a few new skills and a little bit of support, Indiana’s workers are going to be able to do exactly what many of them are likely very eager to do. Get back to work.