The future of the Latinx workforce is digital

“Hi, I’m calling to book a women’s haircut for a client. I’m looking for something on May 3.”

The voice on the phone sounded like any other person but was actually Google’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) powered Google Assistant, a new tool that can make reservations on your behalf without the person on the line even noticing they are speaking with a computer.

Last year’s unveiling demo by Google was an impactful reminder of how much technology has gained the capacity to take over processes which previously only a human could do. Soon enough, the next phone conversation you have might be with a computer!

In the last two decades, we have seen an increasing availability of technological tools, that can not only help us save a few minutes when planning our weekend, but also have an impact at the workplace.

Companies across the globe are moving towards automating repetitive tasks and processes more than ever, and are incorporating technology into all aspects of work, from filling out timesheets and managing workflows to using advanced machinery on an assembly line to predicting consumer behavior using big data.

In this context, it is no surprise that digital literacy has quickly become a requirement for most jobs, even for roles that previously did not require technology like food service and janitorial jobs. Simply put, technology is taking over at the workplace.

These changes bring up important questions in the field of workforce development. What skills will workers need to stay competitive as jobs change? Will technology take the jobs away from our community? And what can we do as Latino serving organizations to prepare Latino workers for the future of work?

How will technology change jobs in the next 10-20 years? What skills will workers need to stay competitive?

Experts at McKinsey say that in the next decade millions of workers will need to change jobs as “as intelligent machines become fixtures in the American workplace”. According to a recent study, one-third of American workers will need to gain new skills and possibly transition careers by 2030, depending on how quickly certain new technologies are adopted.

As machines and computers take over routine tasks, jobs will be less about performing physical functions and more about critical thinking, collaborating, and communicating with others. Employers will have an increased demand for socioemotional, creative, technological, and higher cognitive skills (soft skills) along with digital literacy skills.

Will technology take jobs away from our community?

The unfortunate reality is that Latinos are overrepresented in jobs that face a greater risk of disappearance due to automation.

Workers with a high school degree or less are four times as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree to be displaced by automation. This means that the 25% of Latino workers who do not have a high school diploma are at a higher risk of being displaced, compared with less than 10% for other racial and ethnic groups.

We know automation and the digitization of the workforce will lead to shifts in the workforce, where some will lose their jobs while new opportunities will arise in alternative jobs and sectors. To prepare for this future, Latino workers will need to adapt in order to remain competitive.

As Latino-serving organizations, what can we do to prepare Latino workers for these changes?

As organizations serving Latino workers, we must prepare our community to take advantage of the opportunities technology will generate. We can do so by:

  1. Preparing Latinos through training programs like UnidosUS’s Latinos @ Work Initiative which provides contextualized job readiness and digital literacy skills for Latinos to access jobs in a highly digital economy.
  2. Working to increase opportunities for Latinos to obtain high school and post-secondary degrees.
  3. Providing training in sectors with high growth opportunities, based on local employer demand, particularly in STEM fields. Although short-term employment needs are critical, programs must keep participants engaged in further job training and education that prepares them for the jobs of the future.
  4. Working with employers to provide opportunities for continued learning for new and incumbent workers. This includes apprenticeships, upskilling, financial support for education, and more.

Want to learn more?

Attend UnidosUS’s 2019 Workforce Development Forum. This year’s theme is “Latinos @ Work: Developing talent for today and tomorrow”. Join us to discuss how we can prepare our community to access the jobs of today and thrive in the jobs of tomorrow. The two-day conference will bring together businesses, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and training providers to discuss the future of work and how we can prepare Latino workers to be competitive in our evolving economy.

To learn more about UnidosUS’s Workforce Development programs contact Leanne Ryder, WFD Program Manager at lryder@unidosus.org or visit our website: https://www.unidosus.org/issues/economy/workforce/.

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