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Read any report on the future of work and you will likely hear about the looming automation of large swaths of jobs and growing gaps of AI and computer programming skills. While these issues deserve attention, they mask an important but far more subtle shift in the world of work. Entirely new fields and functions are being created at a breakneck pace, and nearly every job is changing. And even incremental changes are—in aggregate—having profound effects.
From the engineers designing planes, to the mechanics repairing them, to the office workers handling process management or sales, workers are feeling the pressure to adapt and evolve the way they work. According to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, while today’s technology threatens just 5% of occupations with complete automation-driven obsolescence, far more jobs (60%) could have nearly a third (30%) of their work activity automated with the application of already-existing technology, dramatically changing the work experience of most occupations. Against that backdrop, there is a risk that in our race to close the most acute skill gaps, we might overlook the impact of technology on a much broader segment of our workforce.
This paper describes that risk as a “Digital Blindspot” that, in many ways, reflects the way the human brain understands and evaluates risk: we tend to worry more about the unknown than things we know and can control.
Avoiding the Digital Blindspot demands that we focus on building not just new tech skills, but also the sort of foundational digital literacy that undergirds a more digitally resilient workforce capable of adapting and responding to new systems, tools, and processes. This requires action across the ecosystem. This must include employers, but we know we can’t do it alone: policymakers, adult education providers, and the K-12 and higher education sectors all have a role to play.
Some companies have already identified—and are working to overcome—the Digital Blindspot: our companies (Boeing and Microsoft) and others like AT&T and Stanley Black & Decker, who are profiled later in this report, have invested millions to help their workers build the digital literacy and technology skills they need to thrive. But more needs to be done.
This paper highlights the importance of digital literacy in enabling digital resilience by providing workers with the foundational skills and confidence to tackle new technologies. It provides a framework for defining the digital skills required for modern employment and a path forward for employers to prioritize segments of their workforce for investments in digital training.
We hope it serves as a useful tool for employers eager to join us in creating a more equitable digital playing field for all workers, and we welcome employers eager to tackle these issues to join us as part of the Rework America Business Network.
Heidi Capozzi, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, The Boeing Company &
Chuck Edward Corporate Vice President, Head of Global Talent Acquisition, Microsoft
Co-Chairs, Rework America Business Network
How should an employer determine the target roles for a digital literacy upskilling pilot? The RABN analyzed 715 occupations in the labor market, assessing both the current level of digitization within a given occupation, as well as the rate of growth in digitization over the past decade and the total employment size of those roles.
What regions should an employer focus on for a digital literacy upskilling pilot? The RABN analyzed the change in level of digitalization rates in the U.S. Metro Statistical Areas from 2008-2018.
The Rework America Business Network is an initiative of the Markle Foundation. The Network was launched in 2018 with 11 founding large U.S. member companies, which collectively employ approximately 2.2 million Americans. These companies seek to deepen their talent pools of qualified candidates and expand opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds by recruiting and hiring with a focus on individuals’ skills. Member companies also seek to explore how companies can better utilize a skills-based approach when it comes to learning and development. The Network works to share effective practices and encourage more U.S. companies to adopt them, as well as advocate for resources and policies to support these practices. To learn more, visit www.markle.org/RABN.