The New Casualties of Automation

by Lolade Fadulu
The Atlantic / December 21, 2017

During the last big wave of automation in the 1980s and 1990s, technology produced new jobs and made others obsolete. The demand for rote-labor workers had diminished, while that for workers with computer-based skills had gone up. Laborers who didn’t have much experience beyond their rote jobs were, in turn, hit the hardest, and those laborers tended to be black: “Even before the economic restructuring of the nation’s economy,” wrote William Julius Wilson in his 1996 book When Work Disappears, “low-skilled African-Americans were at the end of the employment queue.” Who will the biggest victims be in this new age of automation, in which artificial intelligence dominates and tasks such as driving are computerized?

Automation isn’t inherently a boon for those with means. As Byron Auguste—the CEO and co-founder of Opportunity@Work, an organization that connects people who lack credentials to jobs—said on a Brookings Institution panel earlier this month, it doesn’t “naturally empower the top of the economic pyramid.” Nor, he argued, is automation like gravity—a force of nature that can’t be stopped. Humans have control over how technology is spread and implemented across industries—and they’re driven by what Auguste described as “economic incentives” and “cultural assumptions.” These incentives and assumptions indirectly determine automation’s impact on the workforce. And in this new wave, Latinos are the main casualties.  Read More

How Innovative Hiring Practices Can Help Solve The Tech Industry’s Diversity Problem

by Byron Auguste & Karan Chopra
The Huffington Post / August 31, 2017

Last month, Google announced that its philanthropic arm,, will donate $50 million to efforts focused on opening pathways to good jobs and careers for Americans who are increasingly shut out of the tech-driven workforce. These funds will go to organizations whose missions range from innovating the way employers connect with skilled job seekers, to studying the efficacy of youth training programs, to providing financial flexibility to low-wage workers. As the debate about automation, technology and the future of work rages on ― and with 5.8 million jobs open in the United States, including 700,000 in Information Technology professions alone ― this announcement is timely and important. 

Hopefully’s donation will catalyze other foundations to step up.  But for the United States to achieve the promise of a future workforce as broad and inclusive as it can be, this effort must include companies with a profit motive alongside organizations with a social cause.  In other words, the “dot-orgs” and “dot-coms” need to join forces. Read More

Switching Careers Doesn’t Have to Be Hard: Charting Jobs That Are Similar to Yours

by Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui
The New York Times / July 21, 2017

Justin Cornett’s story had been a 21st-century economic nightmare. He worked for 13 years on drilling rigs at a crude oil company near his home in Dorton, Ky. Then it halted production, and he was laid off. At 33, with two children and a mortgage, he couldn’t find a stable new job of the kind he had trained for, because all the oil and coal mining companies in the area were shutting down.

Then things changed. He found a 16-week retraining program where he learned to program the computer numerical control, or CNC, machines used in advanced manufacturing. He got a job at a Lockheed Martin factory nearby, and it paid even more than his old one. “It was a little bit different, but it was easy for me,” said Mr. Cornett, now 36. “I worked with my hands in the oil fields doing things of that nature, so it was pretty easy to catch on.”

If his story’s ending sounds like a fairy tale, that’s because it is for many workers like Mr. Cornett — people without college degrees who work in occupations that are shrinking, with few other local options for the skills they have. “The U.S. faces a serious skills gap,” R. Alexander Acosta, the secretary of labor, said last month when the Trump administration introduced steps to address the challenge. Read More

A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree

by Steve Lohr
The New York Times / June 28, 2017

ROCKET CENTER, W.Va. — A few years ago, Sean Bridges lived with his mother, Linda, in Wiley Ford, W.Va. Their only income was her monthly Social Security disability check. He applied for work at Walmart and Burger King, but they were not hiring.

Yet while Mr. Bridges had no work history, he had certain skills. He had built and sold some stripped-down personal computers, and he had studied information technology at a community college. When Mr. Bridges heard IBM was hiring at a nearby operations center in 2013, he applied and demonstrated those skills.

Now Mr. Bridges, 25, is a computer security analyst, making $45,000 a year. In a struggling Appalachian economy, that is enough to provide him with his own apartment, a car, spending money — and career ambitions.

“I got one big break,” he said. “That’s what I needed.” Read More

Raimondo, Paiva Weed, Grebien Welcome LaunchCode to Help Rhode Islanders Build Skills and Compete for Open IT Positions

State of Rhode Island Press Release / March 1, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo today welcomed LaunchCode, a tech talent placement nonprofit and Real Jobs RI job-training partner, to Rhode Island. She discussed how the state is helping employers meet their IT skills shortages and helping workers build the skills they need to compete for these open positions. If you missed the event, you can check out a link to the live feed on Facebook.

The Governor was joined by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, Department of Labor and Training Director Scott R. Jensen, Dean Lori Ciccomascolo of the University of Rhode Island's College of Continuing Education, officials from LaunchCode and TechHire Rhode Island - the state's tech talent pipeline - and Kenzan, a cutting-edge software engineering and professional services firm in Pawtucket.

"Our economy is shifting rapidly and is increasingly driven by technology," Raimondo said. "Our priority is helping Rhode Islanders build the skills they need to get good paying jobs. As part of this effort, we are participating in President Obama's TechHire initiative and working with LaunchCode to prepare people to compete for open positions in the IT sector in our state." Read More

How to Beat the Bots

by Tom Friedman
The New York Times / June 10, 2015

So here’s an interesting statistic from a 2014 labor survey by 65 percent of new job postings for executive secretaries and executive assistants now call for a bachelor’s degree, but “only 19 percent of those currently employed in these roles have a B.A.” So four-fifths of secretaries today would not be considered for two-thirds of the job postings in their own field because they do not have a four-year degree to do the job they are already doing! The study noted that an “increasing number of job seekers face being shut out of middle-skill, middle-class occupations by employers’ rising demand for a bachelor’s degree” as a job-qualifying badge — even though it may be irrelevant, or in no way capture someone’s true capabilities, or where perhaps two quick online courses would be sufficient.

This is just one of the problems contributing to unemployment and underemployment today. It was the subject of a seminar last Thursday jointly convened by New America, McKinsey, LinkedIn and Opportunity@Work, a new civic group led by Byron Auguste, who headed President Obama’s recent efforts to reform the education-to-work pathway in America. Read More

We Need to "Re-wire" the Labor Market

by Byron Auguste & Tyra Mariani
Medium / Updated November 24, 2015

How do we ensure that motivated Americans get the skills they need to find meaningful work, to thrive in the workplace, and to move forward in our job market?

We need to ask deeper questions about our labor market’s role in upward mobility (or immobility), because the way we assess unemployment and underemployment doesn’t tell the full story of the U.S. economy’s loss of dynamism in the past 15 years. For example, how many people are engaged by the work they do, and see a career path ahead of them? Who can clearly say: If I make the extra effort to do X, I can learn Y, and then be hired or promoted into job Z? How many can confidently quit their current job to take a better one?

Too many Americans lack that confidence, because when it comes to work, they are “stuck” without a way to translate their best efforts into economic progress. This situation undermines U.S. economic dynamism and growth, because human capital — the most valuable asset on America’s economic balance sheet — is not realizing its full value. Read More

The Wildly Ambitious Future of the Job Search

by Rick Wartzman
Fortune Work 3.0 / March 19, 2015

For years, businesses across America have groused that they can’t find enough qualified workers, while others have questioned whether the “skills gap” is a myth.
Amid this tired debate, it’s easy to miss the fact that many of the smartest people trying to shape the working world have moved on. They have begun to view the problem as an information gap between companies looking for capable workers and individuals struggling to land a decent job.
Driving this shift is the belief that both workers and companies stand to benefit if it’s easier for them to identify each other—and if they’re also on the same page in terms of the skills and training required to fill particular positions.
“The idea is to make all of this simpler, less expensive, and more automatic” for the employer and the employee, says Byron Auguste, co-founder of Opportunity@Work, a new nonprofit aimed at “rewiring the U.S. labor market.” Read More