Another trend hastened: A more insistent push for ever-deepening job skills. “By 2025, half of the workforce will need upskilling‚” said Clark. “Half of the kids graduating college today will need new skills. It used to be that we’d need new skills about every eight to 10 years.” In this period of rapid and constant changes, Clark said workers must learn new job skills every 18 months.
Upheavals are occurring at warp speed now, especially in the retail trade. “By 2025, 27% of all retail will be e-commerce. By 2040, 95% of everything you buy will be online,” said Clark. “This is a huge transformation in the economy.”
Some other traditional fields have been less impacted by new consumer dynamics, but face another serious threat: too few replacement workers. For example, 40% of today’s construction workforce is expected to retire by 2030, said Clark.
“Who’s going to come fix your house? We’re not giving the kids the skills that they need to take these jobs that are going to pay a ton of money,” said Clark. “Plumbers — I mean you can’t train enough plumbers right now. Some things never change. The economy may change, but you still need indoor plumbing and somebody to work on it when it goes bad. You still need people to build stuff.”
By 2050, Clark said 40% of today’s jobs will be erased by artificial intelligence and automation. “Now we’re going to replace those with other jobs. By 2030, we will need about 6 million more workers than we have today in America. But they are going to be much more high-skilled workers.”
And that is the challenge facing Georgia schools and colleges, said Dana Rickman, president of the Georgia Partnership. Rickman said low-skill jobs that pay a living wage are fast disappearing, replaced by new positions that require education beyond high school. especially in STEM and health fields. (”Not every degree is going to work,” said Rickman. “If you get a degree in French literature, you may be sleeping a little longer on your parents’ couch.”)
“About 40% of Georgia’s adult population does not have a degree or credential beyond high school. “Currently, manufacturers don’t need someone to sort the widgets; they need someone to fix the machine that is sorting the widgets,” she said.
By 2025, 45% of Georgia’s total workforce risks unemployment or being stuck in low-wage jobs because of the acceleration of technology and automation, Rickman said. Between March and July of 2020, with economic closings in full force, the least likely Georgian to be laid off was a male college graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree earning more than $40,000 a year. In 2019, the per capita mean income in Georgia was $31,000.
Those Georgians who can’t land decent-paying jobs suffer more than private losses, said Rickman. “If you have a community that doesn’t have much, they can’t give much. They can’t afford to eat at that bakery that just opened. They can’t afford to go to that new downtown brew pub. They cannot contribute to the local PTA or marching band.”
Rickman said Georgia must be intentional in its conversations and practices linking education with economic and workforce development policy. “Education is the essential driver of personal success,” she said, “but also overall economic success for Georgia.”