“The education system is not an assembly line to churn out students for the workforce. It’s a civic bedrock to produce informed and engaged citizens. For most of us, however, being successful in a job we love is as much a part of who we are as anything else, an integral part of how we engage as citizens.” 

Tim Taylor
Co-Founder and President, America Succeeds

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In this report, America Succeeds tells stories and presents data about the seismic shift in the education-to-employment pipeline. We observe how companies are adapting and we provide insights into what educators, students, and current workers must do to remain competitive in the rapidly changing workforce. Finally, we explore how each one of us will have to take ownership of a lifetime of learning—a constant process of retraining and reeducating ourselves as the world around us lurches into the uncertain future.

Executive Summary

The Age of Agility has arrived, yet the U.S. is not well prepared to face the challenges and seize the opportunities it brings. To thrive in the future workforce, which is being drastically redefined by technological advances, workers will need to get comfortable with uncertainty, embrace flexibility, and reset expectations about the employer-employee relationship.

We are in the early stages of a rapidly accelerating revolution that will bring automation and artificial intelligence into sectors of the workforce that have, until now, been spared this latest wave of disruptive change. Millions of jobs are at short- or medium-term risk of disappearing. Many that don’t disappear will be so radically restructured as to be unrecognizable, with enormous implications for today’s workers.

The World Economic Forum describes these fundamental shifts as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it’s founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, writes:

“As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs. We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.”

Students exiting the pre-K-12 education system will need to be prepared for radical societal and workplace changes if they are to have any shot at thriving personally or professionally. By and large, however, our school systems are failing to prepare them for this emerging reality. Far from making plans to educate students to thrive in the economy and society of the near- term future, most school systems are still struggling to do an adequate job providing students with the basic skills needed for twentieth-century life and work.

The response to this challenge must be a societal one that resets expectations about employment and embraces a new mindset for what it means to be employable, which has as much to do with adaptive interpersonal behavior as it does interacting with technology.

In every state and local community, business leaders, educators, and policymakers must work together to confront and conquer the current skills gap and reconfigure the education-to-workforce pipeline. Because we can’t predict the exact skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s jobs, our charge is equip students with the tools of agility and inspire a mindset of lifelong learning.

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