Taking a Step Back to Make a Big Step Forward in the Future of Work

I recently completed 22 Future of Work MeetUps across California and there was one common theme at every meeting — angst.

I recently completed 22 Future of Work MeetUps across California. From urban to rural regions, whether driven by biotech or agriculture, without regard for being blue or red, there was one common theme at every meeting — angst.

When we discussed the topics of AI, digital platforms, and increased automation — and the ways they’ll impact employers and workers in the future — you could feel a low current of angst in every room. The rate of change is expected to be exponential even if not yet well understood.

I’ve been at the leadership of the California Community Colleges as its executive vice chancellor for 6+ years. With 114 community colleges, our system is the largest higher education system in the nation, with 2.1 million students. Large public systems pivot slowly — but their impact is significant when they do. So our strategies need to intersect the (likely) future.

We’ve undertaken much change under Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy and our Strong Workforce Program to turnaround our workforce mission from an afterthought to a state policy priority. (See the Stanford Social Innovation Review article “Cross-Sector Collaboration: What the Tipping Point Looks Like” for coverage on our transformative journey.) Our Chancellor Eloy Oakley has shepherded bold changes this year to the system’s funding formula, along with the creation of our soon-to-be 115th online community college as called for by our Vision for Success.

To ensure our system is future ready, and as a natural next step to the 22 Future of Work MeetUps, I’m going to spend the Fall hosted by Silicon Valley’s Institute for the Future (IFTF). I want to better understand the broader landscape awaiting our state and the issues influencing the Future of Work — how technology impacts learners, learning institutions, employment and social cohesion — in order to consider how to best position the California Community Colleges to make better decisions today.

If you have suggestions on provocative readings/podcasts/videos and people whom to interview, please leave comments below or reach out to me on Twitter at @WorkforceVan. I’m looking to answer some core questions while at IFTF, and would love to get your advice on these topics to guide my learning journey:

- What recommendations will best future ready California and Californians for the Future of Work?

- How will concepts of social inclusion, and hence “community,” change thanks to technology?

- Which practices are most promising for compressing learning time, so the learner can better pace with the rate of change and pair with machines?

- How will California’s need of its community colleges change over time?