USCIB and ILO Hold Dialogue on Disabilities in the Workplace

USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg facilitates panel at the joint USCIB-ILO-AT&T event on Disability Inclusion in Washington DC

U.S. companies are increasingly sensitive to the importance of enhancing workplace diversity, particularly for people with disabilities. In an effort to promote U.S. company membership in the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN), USCIB, AT&T and the ILO held an event at the AT&T Forum in Washington DC on June 20 for business leaders, “Promoting disability inclusion globally.”

The GBDN is a network of multinational enterprises, employers’ organizations, business networks and disabled persons’ organizations who share the conviction that people with disabilities have talents and skills that can enhance virtually any business and can be a powerful tool for sharing global best practices and accessing relevant networks around the world. In addition to hosting the event, AT&T was also a featured speaker and has a strong corporate commitment to employing persons with disabilities.

USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg gave opening remarks and facilitated a panel on “Best Practices in the Employment of Persons with Disabilities in the Global South,” which also featured speakers from L’Oreal, Repsol, Accenture and Cisco.

Panelists discussed some of their company initiatives such as Cisco’s Project Life Changer and Accenture’s Tech4Good, which support employees with disabilities through technological and work culture integration. Many of the companies discussed the importance of building an employable skill-set while others, such as Cisco, go even further to alter the recruitment process, placing more emphasis on internships and experience.

“Smart companies have known for some time that there is a robust business case for workplace diversity in general and for hiring people with disabilities in particular,” said Goldberg. “All the data suggests that people with disabilities are productive, reliable and highly motivated employees.  They can also constitute a significant market, and some companies have prospered by developing products and services for people with disabilities, their families and friends.”

Goldberg noted that USCIB members are global enterprises, with employees and customers in every part of the world.  “The network and opportunities for best practice and information sharing provided by the ILO GBDN can be an important resource for MNEs as they devise and implement their human resource, product development, and marketing strategies in diverse communities across the globe,” she said.

The event also featured USCIB members from Deloitte, Boeing and Accenture.

B20-L20 Delivers Joint Statement to G20 Labor Ministers

The B20 and L20 presented a joint statement at a G20 labor ministers dinner on May 17 in Bad Neuenahr, Germany which was attended by USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg. Linda Kromjong, IOE’s secretary general and Sharan Burrow, ITUC’s secretary general, jointly presented the statement to the ministers and all B20 and L20 signatories at the handover ceremony  to German Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Andrea Nahles.

This year’s statement builds on the IOE/BIAC and ITUC/TUAC statement from last year with a specific focus on sustainable growth, decent work and social cohesion in the digital economy.

In line with the key priorities of the G20 German presidency, the statement reinforces the important role that business and labor have in shaping policies that not only maximize the opportunities for employment creation, but that also minimize adverse effects on employment and working conditions. Given the special focus on the digital economy, the recommendations in the statement are linked to the impact of technological change on employment and call on governments to grab the chances that technological change presents as well as address its challenges.

To harness the opportunities of technological advancements, it is important that technology is widely diffused so that businesses can maximize the potential of its use. This will facilitate the creation of an agile business environment that can offer growth of income opportunities in all of its forms in the formal economy.

Going forward, the workforce using new technology needs to be well equipped for the new digital age. This requires taking a fresh approach to education, up- and re-skilling and ensuring that all individuals have access to opportunities that allow them to continually upgrade their skills. The B20/L20 joint understanding on key elements of quality apprenticeships, the G20 Skills Strategy as well as the G20 Apprenticeship Initiative clearly have a key role to play in modernizing existing training systems.

IOE at Labor Ministerial: Implement G20 Commitments

L-R: U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB) in Beijing
L-R: U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB) in Beijing

IOE Vice President Mthunzi Mdwaba stressed the need for programs and reforms to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation at the G20 Labor Ministerial in Beijing. In He made several statements in support of implementation of G20 commitments.

“Promoting and enabling entrepreneurship and innovation will contribute to more dynamic labor markets, which concomitantly will lead to the generation of more jobs and which will of course enable people to reach their full potential by opening their own businesses, instead of just being employed,” he said. “We would like to urge for a special focus to be given to youth entrepreneurship. Young entrepreneurs not only bring vibrancy and innovation to world economies, they also typically hire other youth. This is particularly important in view of the youth unemployment challenge we all want to tackle.”

Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB senior counsel, attended the ministerial in her capacity as chair of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD Employment Labor and Social Affairs Committee. At the ministerial Goldberg pressed for continued joint leadership by BIAC and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) in ongoing negotiations with the Labor-20.

Mdwaba applauded the G20 entrepreneurship initiative that has been adopted and emphasized the need for an enabling environment for business, to raise the status of apprenticeships and to reduce in non-wage labor costs as measures to ensure the G20 employment process is a success.

IOE Meets with G20 Labor Ministers

The International Organization of Employers (IOE) jointly with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, Deloitte, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD hosted an informal gathering with G20 governments, employers and trade unions in Beijing as part of the G20 process.

IOE-BIAC survey to monitor implementation of G20 commitments

The event provided the opportunity to highlight the outcomes of the IOE-BIAC’s efforts to monitor implementation of G20 commitments. The results are mixed, showing that on one hand most governments followed up on the Melbourne and Ankara G20 Labor Ministers’ Declarations and have developed initiatives to implement the commitments, but on the other hand, in areas such as reduction of non-wage labor costs, the situation has worsened in a number of countries.

The level of ownership of the national employment plans among employers’ organisations was also put into question. The majority of employers’ federations in G20 countries show little confidence in the impact of the G20 process on producing major policy changes at the national level. All in all, while follow-up at the national level to G20 commitments is seen to be taking place, it is perceived as being insufficient in addressing the main employment challenges at hand.

Joint IOE-BIAC/ITUC-TUAC statement on “innovation, growth, jobs and decent work”

The informal gathering also served as a platform to launch the IOE-BIAC/ITUC-TUAC joint statement to the G20 Labor Ministerial. The statement refers to the joint B20-L20 messages of 2015 because of the “failure of many G20 economies to recover from recession and the elusive nature of global growth”.

The joint statement provides recommendations in six main areas:

  1. develop a policy framework for better technology diffusion
  2. determinedly tackle youth unemployment
  3. pursue macro-economic policies that promote employment
  4. make a reality of the 2014 Brisbane target of reducing by 25 percent the gender gap in employment by 2025
  5. promote formality and implement the recommendation on informality adopted by the 2015 International Labor Conference
  6. business and labor play a key role in the shaping of economic and social policy

USCIB Reflections on the New World of Work

Ronnie speaking IMG_0183
Ronnie Goldberg (center).

The following remarks were delivered by Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB senior counsel, at the first meeting of the working groups of the XIX Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) in Washington, D.C. on June 28. 

First Meeting of the XIX IACML Working Groups

June 28, 2016

Washington DC


Remarks given by Ronnie L. Goldberg, Senior Counsel, USCIB and Deputy Vice-Chair, Business Technical Advisory Body on Labour Matters (CEATAL) to the IACML.

Many thanks to the authorities of Working Group 1 (Ministers of Labor of Brazil, Chile and Panama) for inviting me to participate on this Panel on the topic of the new world of work. I am honored to be included alongside representatives of the  ILO, OECD and IADB, as well as the representative of the Ministry of Chile and of course Marta Pujadas, President of COSATE.

The views that I will express are those of both CEATAL and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). CEATAL, business advisory body to the IACML, is composed of employer associations from each OAS member state. Through these organizations, CEATAL represents literally tens of thousands of small, medium and large private employers across the Americas.  The IOE, the world’s largest and most comprehensive business association with members in 142 countries, serves as the secretariat to CEATAL.

The new world of work is high on the agenda of CEATAL because business and employers’ organizations of the Americas are working to anticipate the realities that will confront their members and to provide well-constructed input to policy makers at the national, regional and international level. In common with most of the organizations and governments around this table, IOE has launched a discussion on the Future of Work, addressing many of the issues we are discussing today.

The impact of technology in the new world of work

During our own lifetimes, the context in which work is organized, distributed and performed has changed, irrevocably.  In his Report to the 2015 International Labor Conference, ILO DG Guy Ryder noted that change is taking place at such a speed and at such a scale as to constitute a real transformation of the world of work. A revolution.  We have had industrial and technological revolutions before.  They are disruptive, but they have historically resulted in the growth of economies and productivity, as well as the creation of new jobs. Despite short-term challenges resulting from the replacement of manual labor and the need to upscale skills and competencies, the pace of transformation has historically allowed enough time for education and training institutions to catch up, i.e. to appropriately prepare young people for careers and to equip low and mid-skilled workers with new skills and competencies to function productively. At the same time, population growth accelerated at a relatively consistent rate across the affected economies.

Today, things may be different.  Change is being fueled by technological advances taking place at unprecedented speed and undreamed of scope.  Many studies show that technology is replacing middle-level skills that were once considered uniquely human. With the new and affordable capabilities made possible by automation, a significant number of new job opportunities and new markets will be created. At the same time existing jobs will disappear or be re-designed. In short, widespread technological change are bringing about profound changes in the way we work.  Simultaneously, globalisation, and demographic trends, as well as new ways of organising the production of goods and delivery of services, are both providing a myriad of opportunities to society, and at the same time presenting considerable challenges.

To again quote Guy Ryder, “the debate about the (disruptive) effects of technological changes on jobs is some two centuries old, and the encouraging conclusion to be drawn from the historical record is that over the long term it has created more employment than it has destroyed, and has pushed overall living standards to new levels”. The question that none of us can answer is whether the current technological revolution that promises further applications in such areas as robotics, automation, 3D printing, is inherently different from what has been experienced in the past.

These are issues for all of us. Profound transformations have already taken place in the mature economies of North America.  Other regions of the continent are well placed to benefit from similar transformations.  They enjoy a young and numerous active population – more flexible and mobile, more technologically prepared, with greater participation by women, better educated, and more assertive – which is demanding infrastructure, health care, education, services, and opportunities for work and personal growth.

I can personally attest to this energy and potential in the region.  Last week I attended the OECD Digital Economy Ministerial in Cancun.  Among the collateral events was a Hackathon – a competition among more than 200 young people (nearly 40 percent young women) mostly from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, who divided themselves in teams and competed over a 24 hour period to develop innovative and useful apps. The winning apps were designed to facilitate the transfer of health information to emergency medical personnel, to improve security and independence for the visually impaired, and to make learning history a more immersive experience for teenagers. I took away several lessons from witnessing this phenomenon.  One was the vast potential of the digital economy to bring social benefits. A second is that these young people – the workforce of the future – have different expectations and aspirations for their careers than previous generations.  And a third is the importance of the major policy messages from the Ministerial: the need to preserve and extend the reach of an open Internet and the vital importance of training and education to meet the needs of the future and foster innovation and creativity.

What should we do about it?

History abounds with examples of attempts to resist innovation that should not so much be considered misguided or self-defeating, as simply impossible.

But progress can and must be shaped.  It is up to both developed and developing countries of the hemisphere not only to seize the opportunities but also to help those less willing or able to adapt to face the challenges:

One important element in shaping the future of work lies in labor market regulation. Regulations are essential for the proper functioning of labor markets. They can help correct market imperfections, support social cohesion and encourage economic efficiency. Labor market regulations cover a wide spectrum, from rules governing arrangements for individual contracts to mechanisms for collective bargaining. Evidence shows that labor market regulations can have an impact on a number of economic outcomes- including job creation, job flows, trends in productivity and the speed of adjustments to shocks. The negative effects of both under and over regulation are well documented. The challenge is to develop policies that avoid the extremes and effect a balance of flexibility with worker protection.

One aspect of the necessary flexibility in the new world of work has to do with flexible work arrangements. Self-employed and independent workers are growing in number and new forms of work are appearing (crowd working, teleworking, polling of workers, portfolio work, etc). The 2015 ILO Employment and Social Outlook estimates that fewer than 20 percent of the working population has a full-time open-ended contract. The variety of contractual arrangements continues to grow; employing workers on fixed term contracts to cover seasonal peaks in production, or for a one-off assignment, or to cover for maternity or long-term sick leave are all quite normal and accepted as the new “standard” everywhere.

Demonizing non-standard jobs, either overtly or by implication, ignores the ways in which they can benefit both workers and employers. Well-designed and regulated “non-standard forms of employment” can both protect workers and help enterprises by increasing their ability to respond and adapt to market demands. They can also be a mechanism for retaining and recruiting workers, for more quickly harnessing skills and expertise and most importantly – for Latin America and the Caribbean – for fighting informality. In addition, freely chosen employment in flexible arrangements permits better reconciliation of work, life and family responsibilities.  Looking to the future, we should respond to the new and changing demands of the labor market, by employing various complementary employment strategies and not simply by blocking the new, or trying to make the new fit into the old.

But as we all know, the future of work is not only about more flexible, short-term and transient forms of work but about completely new forms of work. There is every reason to believe that the platform approach begun in the taxi industry will spread to more and more sectors of the economy. At the moment, the platform economy represents a tiny part of even the U.S. economy.  But it will grow, and will inevitably have an impact on employment relationships, social security and tax systems, corporate regulations and generally on labor rights. Let me be clear: When employers speak about labor rights in this context we do not do so with the intention of undermining fundamental labor principles and rights at work, but rather with the intention of ensuring that these rights and standards are meaningful in new work environments that may be very different to the way work has been organized thus far.

The debate on the new world of work in the Americas is complex and diverse. Employers and workers alike are impacted by the rapid pace of change, and business, people, skills, career management and government policies, regulations and institutions will need to adapt to accommodate the new realities.

The challenges and opportunities are different from sub region to sub region and country to country, both for developing and developed countries of the Americas.

The debate will go on for years, in international and regional bodies, and in national governments.

To summarize:

We are facing the rise of more flexible, short-term and transient forms of work, as well as completely new forms of work and new models of business.

These transformations will impact an array of institutional and legal frameworks including social security, taxation systems, trade and investment. To be effective, institutional and legal frameworks should be coherent with an array of policies affecting labour markets. Policies on education, skills and training are essential elements of this package.

Such developments will also have a profound impact on the employment relationship. We will need to rethink this relationship and explore new ways to extend and administer social protection. Other aspects of regulation that will be affected concern health & safety, data protection, and hours of work.  We have a lot to do – and we have to do it together.

Employers are willing to provide credible input to policy makers and trade unions on how we can work together to prepare for the future. This is not only about companies and workers adapting to new technologies or accommodating the impact of social media. It is about transforming mindsets and attitudes towards work.

The Employers of the Americas are ready to bring their voice, experience and expertise to the table assisting the governments of the hemisphere.  Let me give four examples of areas in which we must collaborate:

  • Providing credible evidence based data. In Cancun, the OECD repeatedly made a plea for more and better information and statistics. This is essential for us  to better understand the trends and developments in the labor market and the drivers behind this change. Given the rise in not only flexible forms of work but also new forms of work, a first step is to define these arrangements.
  • Designing modern migration regulations and facilitating talent mobility and skills recognition.  One key feature of  the new world of work must be allowing workers to move across borders.
  • Adapting legal regulations and institutions to the new needs of business, the workforce and workplace. It is not for people to change to ensure that regulations work but regulations themselves need to change and adapt to the new context in order to support individuals. Regulations need also to facilitate the process, instead of being an obstacle to change.
  • Collaborating with schools and universities to develop a curricula and a shared practical knowledge of the market. The education system needs to change to allow a focus on new skills and lifelong learning.

There are many things we don’t know.  But of one thing we can be certain – we need to rethink and reform our education curricula and our training institutions to equip both children and the existing workforce for a future we can’t predict.  This must be a joint effort.

Thank you.

Improving Opportunities for Women in the United States

Portrait of happy young businesswomanWomen’s economic opportunities have greatly improved in the United States over past decades; however, numerous challenges remain to further reduce gender inequalities. Continued progress will require reforms such as paid parental leave, flexible working arrangements, changes in job structure and remuneration, and increased access to quality pre-school and childcare.

Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB’s senior counsel, attended an event hosted by the OECD Washington Center titled “Improving Opportunities for Women in the United States.” The event highlighted the main findings of the OECD Economic Survey of the United States on improving opportunities for women, as well as provided a platform for high-level policymakers, researchers and business leaders to share what is being done by governments and the private sector to address gender inequalities in the workplace.

The discussion took place following the White House Summit on the United State of Women. Other speakers included OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría and U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Daniel Yohannes.

Goldberg spoke at a panel on “Championing better policies for women in the workplace,” in which she talked about what companies are doing to stop the “leaking pipeline” phenomenon in which women drop out at every successive management level, leading to severe under-representation of women in corporate leadership roles.

Read the OECD Economic Survey of the United States

USCIB Participates in World Day for Safety at Work

Work-related accidents are among the top five leading causes of death around the world. Every year, 2.3 million workers die from injuries sustained on the job. Two million of these deaths are due to diseases including stress.

To respond to this challenge, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set a specific target on promoting safe and secure environments for all workers. On April 28, the UN convened a special event in New York to discuss global initiatives for addressing safety at work.

Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB senior counsel, was a speaker at the event along with Reinhard Krapp (German Mission to the UN), Nata Menabde (World Health Organization), Edmundo Werno (International Labor Organization) and Alison Brown (Cardiff University). The panel was moderated by Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro, ILO special representative to the UN.

Goldberg gave the business perspective on work-place safety, noting that occupational safety is a key business issue as it is inked to productivity and the competitiveness of enterprises. She said that proper and adequate supply chain management is a priority for companies, and hundreds of sector-specific initiatives exist to promote workplace safety along the supply chain.  Capacity building is also of critical importance to improve working conditions, she said, both for government institutions and companies.

“Employers recognize that creating a culture of prevention is a win-win for all parties,” Goldberg noted. “The IOE is committed to continue participating in the discussion on improving working conditions in supply chains as well as the development of the Vision Zero Fund.”

IOE Celebrates International Women’s Day

Women_lawInternational Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. As employers strive to advance women’s empowerment, they must also identify current and long-standing barriers to women’s economic opportunities in their countries. Removing legal barriers to women’s advancement is a policy priority for the business community, as full female empowerment would unlock the full potential of a country’s workforce.

Public policy should be the result of an active dialogue and engagement between the public and private sectors, as well as with other stakeholders to deliver policies that align with and support efforts by business to advance women’s economic opportunities.

The International Organization of Employers (IOE) celebrated International Women’s Day in a constructive spirit by organizing a webinar on promoting economic opportunities for women around the world. The IOE and its members stand ready to collaborate in advancing gender diversity and supporting the economic dividend this creates for women, families, companies and society.

During the webinar, Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of global indicators group at the World Bank, presented the findings of a 2016 World Bank report on “Women, Business, and the Law,” which examines laws and regulations affecting women’s prospects as entrepreneurs and employees across 173 economies. The report’s quantitative indicators are intended to inform policy discussions on how to remove legal restrictions on women and promote research on how to improve women’s economic inclusion.

The report will be a useful tool for governments seeking to revise existing laws that are discriminatory against women and improve the circumstances surrounding women as economic actors, from better childcare and family support to greater workplace and labor market flexibility.


Future of Work Forum and OECD Employment Ministerial

worker_femaleThe future of work and the digitization of jobs bring new challenges to the frontier of policy dialogue with business stakeholders. Innovation and integration of digital tools and processes have brought forth new business models, evolving employment contracts and changing demands for skills at the workplace. The impact of this progress is a demanding area of interest for businesses and the policy community.

At the OECD Future of Work Forum and the Employment Ministerial that took place in January in Paris, stakeholders and leaders from the business community, the public sector and academia convened to discuss ways to foster and adapt employment in the changing nature of the digital economy while encouraging inclusive growth. The Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD was represented at each of the high level panels of the Future of Work Forum, and a strong BIAC delegation led by Chair Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB senior counsel, contributed business views on labor markets and the digital economy in the Employment Ministerial. BIAC’s call for more comprehensive and targeted education policies and the necessary flexibility in labor markets was well received.

OECD and UNHCR Call for Scaling up Integration Policies in Favor of Refugees

ImmigrationThe integration of refugees in local economies has become more challenging as the refugee crisis continues to have a significant impact on local labor markets. Businesses have asked for orderly, transparent, efficient and well-thought immigration programs and have demonstrated a willingness to participate in deep discussions with their governments on how to contribute.

At the high-level conference with the OECD and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on January 28, the BIAC delegation, headed by Secretary General Bernhard Welschke, called for advances in national level skills recognition, language training and targeted labor market programs to support the integration of beneficiaries of international protection and other forms of migrants into the local labor markets.

The OECD and UNHCR stressed not only the moral imperative but also the clear economic incentive to help the millions of refugees living in OECD countries to develop the skills they need to work productively and safely in the jobs of tomorrow.

“Far from a problem, refugees can and should be part of the solution to many of the challenges our societies confront,” said Gurría.

The OECD also released a report, Making Integration Work: Refugees and others in need of protection, which provides the main lessons from the experience of OECD countries in fostering the integration of refugees. The report highlights many good practices to tackle key barriers and support lasting integration of refugees and their children. It stresses the importance of early intervention, including providing access to language courses, employment programs and integration services as soon as possible, including for asylum seekers with high prospects to remain. It also stresses the need to help migrants settle where jobs are and not necessarily where housing is cheaper. The report also underlines the need to adapt integration programs to reflect migrants’ diversity in terms of skills and  the specific needs of refugees.

New Book Explores Approaches to Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century

Meta-learning chartWhat kinds of competencies will be needed in a world where advanced technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, play an increasingly integral role in our workplaces and societies? A new book co-authored by Charles Fadel, founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, titled Four-Dimensional Education grapples with the challenges faced by today’s educators in preparing learners for the 21st-century economy.

In 2014, anticipating the present concerns, Fadel led a symposium on the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence in the workplace, organized by the USCIB Foundation in partnership with the McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute. Furthering the work of the Foundation on education, training and human capital requirements in the 21st century, the symposium gathered experts in technology, education and employment to explore how robotics and AI could impact the future jobs market. Fadel is the chair of the Education team of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD education committee, and was formerly Global Education Lead at Cisco Systems.

The book explains that the education systems of the United States and many other advanced countries were designed with the needs of the 19th –and 20th century, with a largely industrial workforce, in mind. These systems are no longer adequate for addressing the needs of our modern, hyper-connected and digital economy. The book argues that in order to equip learners with the competencies they need for a more technologically advanced workplace, older curricula will need to evolve to new systems that foster Skills (such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration), and Character qualities (such as ethics, leadership, mindfulness, curiosity, courage and resilience) all of which will be needed to adapt in a faster-changing jobs market.

Four Dimensional Education brings a deeply cogent, synthetic, open-minded conversation to explore one of the key challenges to our society – how to transform our education systems to respond effectively to global 21st century needs and aspirations,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “USCIB has been privileged to be part of this conversation through a series of sponsored roundtables with the CCR bringing educators together with economists and business to bring new insights and perspectives to help students build the world we want.”

In an interview with USCIB, Fadel explained that educators will be stymied in their progress unless they revisit educational standards and assessments, including for those areas of knowledge that are more relevant today. For example, in the late 1800s educators began teaching trigonometry because the economy demanded more wood workers and land surveyors. Today, there is demand for “big data” – statistics and probability, and algorithmics. Fadel stressed the need for teaching branches of mathematics that are underrepresented in current curricula, such as Game theory, and algorithmics.

Additionally, he said new disciplines are needed, such as robotics and coding: “We talk about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – but we only teach the ‘S’ and the ‘M,’ parts. What about Technology and Engineering?  And beyond STEM, what about entrepreneurship, wellness, etc? It is not about STEM or Humanities/Arts, it is STEM and Humanities/Arts. All these disciplines matter.”

The “social pain” of innovation

Fadel then noted that over time technology zooms ahead of education, which leads to instances of social pain, usually followed by an educational response. After the industrial revolution, policymakers responded with mass schooling, which helped a large number of mostly illiterate people, farmers and artisans become factory-ready. Once our educational systems caught up with advances in technology, prosperity ensued.

“Well, the digital revolution is doing the same now at an accelerated rate, where you have a lot of jobs that can be off-shored or automated due to technology,” Fadel said. “So we have to catch up and adapt, even faster than we did for the industrial revolution.”

When asked what the education system of the future should look like, Fadel remarked that students will still need a broad knowledge base that they can tap throughout their life as they move from one specialization to another: “When you’re a young kid, you’re going to learn how to read, write and compute – there’s no deviation. But when you’re an adult, you choose your pathway to stay current. So what we’re trying to cultivate is what IBM has been calling a ‘T-shaped individual,’ where you’re broad through your education and deep through your specialization, and if you expand that it’s an M-shaped model where you add specializations as you go through your career, drawing from that breadth that you’ve acquired in your younger years, and staying current.”

Many societal actors have a role to play in fostering new 21st-century education systems, including governments, parents and corporations. Fadel argued that governments should broaden how they measure and assess students’ capabilities similar to how corporations judge potential job applicants or existing employees, whereby employers examine not just knowledge but also character and skills. He then noted that parents have a role to play by advocating for changing what gets taught in schools, rather than applying pressure on overburdened teachers. And finally, corporations can help by being clearer about exactly what kinds of knowledge, skills, and character qualities they value in future employees.

“I’d love to see corporations be more systematic about their requests for change both in clarity of needs, and stamina,” Fadel concluded. “They seem to come in and out; they get distracted by their own strategic imperatives. It’s hard for corporations to have a steady hand year after year because they have their own dynamics, yet that’s what’s required – a steady hand and a steady set of requirements that’s adaptive to a rapidly changing world.”