According to the World Economic Forum, as of 2016, it was estimated that 65 percent of children will end up in careers that don’t even exist yet. This is not a new phenomenon. Think 20, 15 or even 10 years back. Job titles, such as social media manager, app developer, Uber driver or driverless car engineer did not exist yet either. And as technology moves faster and faster, it is becoming harder to know what exactly is next. So, what can economic developers do to help prepare the future workforce for the next generation of jobs?

Many experts believe that to better prepare the workforce, the education system needs to begin thinking about skills in a new framework. According to Philip Powell, Associate Dean of Academic Programs at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, “In the old days when you came to college you were trained in a functional area for a job, or a functional job, that you would stay in most of your career. It was a corporate swim lane, and we knew what knowledge to give you. The paradigm shift is away from functional knowledge to the ability to be fluid in your skill set and in your knowledge. It’s imperative that universities teach students how to teach themselves.”

Students now need to gain the foundational skills that will help them become lifelong learners. Coding, for example, is a skill that has a 48 percent chance of becoming automated in the future, so the understanding of programming that students learn through this process may actually be more important for their future than reliance on a specific programming language. Additionally, soft skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration will become increasingly important.

Economic developers can play a critical role in facilitation between local employers and educational institutions, as well as other workforce stakeholders. Economic developers likely have the closest relationships with employers in the region and can use their business retention and expansion interviews to determine where there might be a critical mass of training needs – perhaps it is a certain coding skill or perhaps it is soft skills in general. It is important to not only gain an understanding of what employers’ current workforce needs are, but what skills and abilities they will need in the future, as your employers will likely have a strong understanding of where industries are headed. Collecting all of this information will help create talent solutions that are rooted in data, rather than based on perceptions.

Need some help getting started? Ady Advantage has collected a database of over 120 talent strategies from around the country. We use this database to help tailor talent strategy programs to economic development groups based on their unique mix of stakeholders and talent initiatives already in place. Contact us today for more information.