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The Worker Retraining Challenge

  • Publication: 
    U.S. News & World Report
    Date: 
    February 6, 2018

    Would you feel relatively sanguine if your job were at risk of being automated? You might if you lived in Sweden. That's because most Swedish workers who are replaced by machines fairly quickly land another job as good as their old one, thanks to a network of job security councils jointly run by industries and unions that retrain laid off workers in skills that are still in demand and out of reach of robots. Moreover, while unemployed and learning new skills, workers are buoyed by a safety net that includes generous jobless benefits.

    But there's a big caveat to reaching that win-win scenario: retraining and public assistance programs at an unprecedented level will be needed.

    "This will require training at the mid-career level at a scale we've not seen in this country (the U.S.), or any other country before," says Susan Lund, a McKinsey partner and one of the study's co-authors.

    There are, however, some bright spots, particularly at the state and regional level, Muro says. Two examples he points to: Ascend, a scheme created by businesses, foundations and universities in central Indiana that aims to generate better data to find gaps in the state's workforce, train workers in skills industry needs and help match those workers to companies with openings. Another effort, Skillful, is a collaboration between organizations such as the Markle Foundation, LinkedIn and the state of Colorado that's also crunching data to ensure training programs are better aligned to industrial needs.

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