Goodwill®, Partners Turn Labor Challenges into Opportunities

Occupations-inlineI participated in a meeting this week where a colleague cited a study that struck me like a bag of hammers.

Due advancements in robotics and computers, nearly half (47 percent) of all jobs in the United States are at a high risk of becoming automated within the next 20 years. Jobs in sales, office administration, transportation, and services are among the occupations at the highest risk of automation. (Oxford University Study, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?)

Fortunately the history major in me helped to pull me up from off the floor.  I realized that technical advancements have influenced the labor market throughout history. Perhaps the development of the first farming tools caused some primitive Hominids to worry about how that would affect their status as hunters and gatherers. However, they eventually embraced this technical advancement. While fewer were needed to search for food, others were needed to farm the land, or to build structures or other occupations that became necessary once early humans started to farm and establish the first civilizations.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and the lesson remains the same. Like it or not, advancing technology has and always will affect the labor market. What’s different (and its keeping me awake at night) is the astronomical and accelerating pace of modern advancement. That means it is critical for all workforce stakeholders – policy makers, businesses and employers, service providers and workers – to recognize that changes are soon imminent and to prepare to quickly adapt. Meanwhile, since it expired in 2003, Congress has been unable or unwilling to update the Workforce Investment Act, the primary law that authorizes and shapes the nation’s approach to job training.

Although Congress is the closest it has been in years to completing work on WIA, our current collective leadership in Washington seems  to lack the agility needed to respond to our rapidly and ever changing world.

Fortunately, despite political partisanship, other stakeholders are seeking partnerships that can serve to fill the vacuum, while aiming to address critical issues. Here are a few examples of how Goodwill partners with other stakeholders to overcome pressing challenges:

  • Goodwill’s enhanced partnerships with local community colleges allow people not only to enter the workforce, but to advance in careers.
  • A partnership between Goodwill and the Walmart Foundation is helping to connect individuals to career advancement and financial wellness opportunities.
  • A partnership between Dell and Goodwill has diverted more than 98 million pounds of used computers and computer equipment from area landfills over the last 10 years.

Partnerships start with connection. The beauty of Goodwill’s structure is that it allows local and autonomous agencies to establish, maintain and build local connections with all stakeholders (businesses, employers, service providers, educators, and even policymakers) that turn challenges into opportunities.