The “Next Economy” – August 8 Susan Walcott

One plank receiving a great deal of broad support, even in this divisive election cycle, holds that the economy “as we knew it” has decisively changed and that individuals, employers, and governments need to respond in anticipation of future shifts. Numerous studies affirm that “employment is down among everyone between the ages of 16 and 64, with a great deal of variation by geography, race, and education.” What an appropriate coping strategy might consist of is another matter, however.

Looming changes characterizing the “Next Economy” involve technology and interconnectedness, leading to new forms employment. While increased utilization of technology meant fewer manufacturing workers were needed in advanced economies (NOT principally lower labor costs in less developed countries), technology also created numerous new and better paid positions – and will never eliminate humans from the work force. The interconnectivity they enable is so efficient that humans must be able to interact with their machines as well as with each other, to better solve new challenges. Jobs increasingly call for related interpersonal and analytical skills – not just obtaining relevant data (a skill in itself) but even more importantly how to handle it correctly.

Some commentators focus on personal skills acquisition in areas such as foreign language (including computer programs), interdisciplinarity, multiculturalism, and ways of thinking oriented to problem solving. Others propose extensions to traditional education including paid internships – underlain by “soft skills” coaching on how to interview for a job by being on-time, dressing appropriately, listening and communicating clearly and responsively, using correct grammar, spelling and posture, etc. Lists of the specific “Top (fill in a number) Jobs for the Future” inevitably vary, but a role for some level of government to assist in paying for (re)training programs is prevalent due to the specific skills acquisition needed across a range of preliminary education attainments.

A role for cities and states lies with forward-looking planning, crucially building on a specific set of pre-existing strengths in their locale that can step up to future possibilities; e.g., rather than Oldsmobiles, Detroit could build Teslas. Regional cooperation as an accepted strategy needs to transcend changing political players, in the interests of the larger collectivity.

What do you think the next economy will look like? And how best to prepare for it at each stage, scale, and age? Some readings and a video to prepare for this session’s discussion topic: “The Next Economy” – a 16 minute interview with the author of The Industries of the Future. Some key quotes:

“You’ve got to be a lifelong learner . . . It’s going to be a terrible time to be mediocre.”

  • Preparing children for the future from Brookings Institute Skills for a Changing World: Advancing Quality Learning for Vibrant Societies

 The future of work: Five issues for the Next:Economy by James Manyika, McKinsey Global






About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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