Up to 1.4 million workers will need reskilling by 2026

Adult education programs will be critical for helping more than a million U.S. workers transition to new jobs after being displaced by automation, according to a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Boston Consulting Group.

Roughly 1.4 million people will lose their jobs by 2026 as a result of technological change, the report authors predict. For around 70% of them, the change will happen because their job type ceases to exist.

To create the report, researchers analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections to identify jobs likely to survive impending technological change. Then, researchers used data from the BLS' Occupational Information Network and Burning Glass Technologies to compare the knowledge, skills, abilities, education, training, and experience required for different jobs to create an index of "similarity scores" across 958 jobs. Finally, researchers added additional filter criteria to control for highly "unrealistic or unrewarding" career changes.

The ultimate goal was to identify job transition opportunities that would be both "viable and desirable" for people who lose their job to automation, the report authors write.

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The researchers found that education will be essential to transitioning affected workers. A few of those who lose their jobs could easily transition into similar positions, but around 575,000 people (41%) will have little to no chance of finding a new job unless they learn new skills.

The United States faces a "reskilling crisis," the report authors write. "Overall, the scale of re-skilling suggests that we need a skilling revolution," says Oliver Cann, a spokesperson for the WEF.

The bright side is that 95% of people who do re-train will enjoy higher salaries after their transition, the report predicts. Displaced workers who complete an average of two years of training are estimated to receive an annual salary increase of $15,000.

Other recent research echoes the WEF's findings. Gartner estimates that 1.8 million jobs will be lost as a result of artificial intelligence, but also estimates that 2.3 million jobs will be created—available to workers who are able to learn the necessary skills (LeVine, Axios, 1/24; Eide, Education Dive, 1/24; Eide, CIO Dive, 10/3/17; WEF release, 1/22).

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