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Philadelphia — “The changing landscape of the labor market offers an opportunity to assess how we’re preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs,” said Patrick T. Harker, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, on Tuesday. Harker was speaking to a conference on the role of higher education.
“The inevitability of continued technological evolution will necessitate two things: a core set of skills that can evolve with the market and a shift to constant training and continuing education.”
Harker was speaking to the broad spectrum of technology’s impact on education, but he also zeroed in on a recent research publication he coauthored with FRB Philadelphia economist Lei Ding. Automation and Regional Employment in the Third Federal Reserve District analyzes what jobs are at risk of automation and which demographic groups are affected in the U.S. and 11 metropolitan areas in the Third Federal Reserve District.
The research found that one in five jobs in the Philadelphia Fed’s District had a 95 percent chance or greater of automating and that already vulnerable workers would be most affected. Helping those displaced groups move into new lines of work fit into an overall view of the future path of education and training, said Harker.
“Professions will need continual upskilling, whether it’s to keep up with industry standards or just learn the office’s new software, while those preparing for the workforce will need both proficiency in current programs and to develop skills that will help them adapt with the technology as it evolves.”
Institutions from traditional universities to technical schools should all consider the shifts in demands from employers and the future landscape of work but also keep in mind the fundamental purpose of education: “I want to dispense with the debate over its aim being either preparation for work or the intellectual pursuit of a more examined life, because it creates a false sense of mutual exclusivity.” All forms, Harker said, “whether they lean toward the practical or the philosophical, help students develop life skills, accumulate knowledge, and appreciate learning for its own sake.”