And many times, workers are displaced because the core skills they brought to the job are replaced by machine or technology - and workers have no means to acquire the next level of skill or knowledge that gives them a productive place in the ecosystem.
When education and training fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality. Without the skills to stay useful as innovations arrive, workers suffer—and if enough of them fall behind, society starts to fall apart. That fundamental insight seized reformers in the Industrial Revolution, heralding state-funded universal schooling. Later, automation in factories and offices called forth a surge in college graduates. The combination of education and innovation, spread over decades, led to a remarkable flowering of prosperity.
Today robotics and artificial intelligence call for another education revolution. This time, however, working lives are so lengthy and so fast-changing that simply cramming more schooling in at the start is not enough. People must also be able to acquire new skills throughout their careers.
If new ways of learning are to help those who need them most, policymakers should be aiming for radical innovation. Education is a public good whose benefits spill over to all of society and governments have a vital role to play. That involves both spending more - and more importantly - spending wisely.
Lifelong learning starts at school. As a rule, education should not be narrowly vocational. The curriculum needs to teach children how to study and how to critically think. But the biggest change needed is to make adult learning routinely accessible to all. New skill acquisition and new learning must be ongoing to keep up with the pace of technological change. Otherwise, much of the workforce is displaced - and enterprises are left with a shortage of skills to work in the new environment.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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