ó Business leaders and experts from around the country
gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this week
to talk about nothing less weighty than the rapid,
relentless and widespread disruption of the economy
enabled by fast-moving technological advances.
that sounds far out, conference speakers were there to
assure anyone with a job or who may ever need a job that
itís not. Here are five takeaways:
Schools must change the way they teach ó and some are
already doing so.
Paso Community College created a transportation center
that can help retrain truck drivers whose jobs are
expected to be displaced by autonomous trucks by
teaching them related skills like diesel tech or
logistics, according to William Serrata, the schoolís
Quinn College in Dallas describes itself as an
"urban work college," its President Michael
Sorrell said. It requires students to work a few days a
week and attend classes other days. The jobs give
students ó the majority of whom are on Pell grants ó
the chance to graduate with a work transcript and
connections that create a pipeline to employment. In the
fall, it plans to launch a program for alumni that
allows them to return to college and learn new skills,
if their jobs are displaced by technology.
experts highlighted the need for better early childhood
education ó something the Dallas Fed has helped
advocate for in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Training and reskilling programs arenít keeping pace
with technology change.
training efforts are being beefed up at very rapid
levels, they probably arenít being beefed up fast
enough to keep up with disruption," said Dallas Fed
President Rob Kaplan. He said the programs must also
grappled with the cultural and emotional obstacles of
mid-career and middle-aged workers who may be hesitant
to return to the classroom.
Rivkin, a professor at Harvard Business School, said heíd
like to see the private sector offer solutions. He said
heís worried by how quickly technology is causing
companies to shed jobs and how slowly workers are
getting retrained. He said he spoke to a well-known
venture capitalist, who he did not name, who wanted to
invest in companies retraining people ó but couldnít
venture capitalist told him he realized he had invested
in companies that caused job losses and "as a
citizen, Iíd like to be able to sleep at night."
Rivkin said part of the problem is that the private
sector is displacing people and the public sector is
The workforce of the future will look different ó
smaller, in some cases, and demanding different skills.
telecom giant AT&T has about 250,000 full-time
employees in the U.S. ó with about 20 percent of those
at call centers ó but that number will fall in the
years ahead, chief financial officer John Stephens said.
Some jobs will disappear and others will require new
skills, such as data science and software proficiency
instead of ability to lay cables. Thatís why the
company has a massive reskilling program that encourages
the legacy telecomís employees to take college classes
and get "nanodegrees."
you go from cable connecting telephone poles to spectrum
in the sky, you have different jobs," Stephens
said. At the bottling plant of Coca-Cola Beverages
Florida that employs about 5,000 people, CEO Troy Taylor
said the company is investing more than a million
dollars to reengineer its 15 manufacturing lines to make
them more efficient. The result, he said, will be a
smaller workforce that helps analyze data, such as
tracking beverage types that sell well in certain
grocery stores and geographic regions and using that to
inform production and distribution.
Disruption by technology may be accelerating, in part,
because of changing demographics. Companies are turning
to technology because they feel squeezed.
a low birth rate and aging Baby Boomers, companies see
technology as a way to drive down costs and drive up
profitability. For example, with more efficient bottling
lines, they can drive down costs and drive up profits,
chief executive of Plano-based J.C. Penney Mike Ullman
said department stores and other retailers must get
creative to attract customers to their stores and
compete with online retailers like Amazon, since Baby
Boomers are at the point in life when they donít need
many new clothes.
Duggan, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic
Policy Research, said that the use of technology to make
health care, in particular, less labor-intensive could
help drive down costs.
Itís not all doom and gloom, though. All this
automation makes being human more important than ever.
Harker, president of the Philadelphia Fed, said that
technology is changing faster than ever. The only
constant "comparative human advantage," is
that humans can be creative. And thatís something we
need to foster in workers, he said, so teaching the
humanities and creativity should be top priorities ó
even if more and more jobs are in STEM fields.
Schulhofer-Wohl, a senior economist with the Chicago
Fed, also argued that as economists and policymakers
talk about the high-level labor market implications of
automation and technology, they donít lose sight of a
fundamental truth about people and their work:
"Thereís much more to a job than how many hours
you work and what you get for it," he said.
many, he said, jobs are sources of meaning and