We can't predict the future, but there is much we can do to prepare for it. A new report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills & American Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, looks at steps government, educators and the education system, and businesses can take to ensure economic opportunities.

A 19-person task force that includes representatives from CFR, the private sector, nonprofits, and universities authored the report. While, as the title indicates, the publication focuses on the United States context and emphasizes American competitiveness, it includes globally relevant findings and recommendations:

  1. "Help Americans take advantage of the opportunities posed by technology." In addition to expanding the wording beyond people only in the United States, one way to interpret this statement is about adopting a more positive outlook that moves beyond the worry and fear the idea of machines displacing people elicits. Adapting will not happen easily or quickly, but in 2018 we have no other choice. For example, the growth of e-commerce creates opportunities across the logistics sector, which offers are promising pathways for youth employment.
  2. "Strengthen the link between education and employment." If we are to take advantage of new technology, young people must be prepared with learning and training that aligns with real employers needs and required skills. This market-driven approach is central to how IYF has advanced youth employability around the world. Consider Rutas in Mexico, a USAID-funded and NEO-associated initiative that included the creation of a new curriculum that meets the needs of local industry, including the aerospace sector. This alignment—allowing young people to see how education prepares them for opportunity—also holds promise for solving associated issues such as high drop-out rates.
  3. "Make the skill demands of jobs more transparent." The report's authors write that many “employees who could do the jobs that are open are not in the right places, have earned credentials that are not recognized, or are not being hired even though they have the right capabilities for the job.” Their recommendations here include internships, apprenticeships, and expanded and improved career counseling. One critical piece that merits inclusion and greater emphasis is life skills. Through preparing young people with Passport to Sucess® training and curriculum in more than 50 countries, IYF has seen not only employer demand and satisfaction. We also have seen the transformative power of learning skills like time management, conflict resolution, and self-confidence in equipping young people to know and use their voices, stay in school or training, be better prepared to secure and keep jobs.
  4. "Understand that the problems will not be solved by Washington alone." Again, this lesson applies globally. While seeing involvement and change from government, especially national government, is critical, solving these issues requires a concerted effort that includes active private sector and civil society engagement. This is why IYF has helped found coalitions such as Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) and why an IYF initiative such as Zimbabwe:Works included working with 745 private sector partners.

For the full list of findings and recommendations, read The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills & American Leadership in the Twenty-First Century.