We live in an age of dynamism, and as the old adage goes, the only thing constant in life is change; workforce development systems and workforce planning specifically are not immune to change. In fact, there are many drastic changes and shifts that make old ideas and models of workforce development obsolete and archaic. This makes the field an exciting and complex one that requires thoughtful study and analysis. Studying in the Master of Human Resource Education (MS in HRE) program provides students with a unique opportunity to learn about the field, both in terms of the theory and practice of workforce planning and development, and also about the trends and future of the field.
Finegold, Gatta, and Schurman (2010) point out that workforce development systems must dramatically change in light of the struggles economies face due to rapid technological innovation and often unforgiving global competition. Technological innovation and globalization quickly come to mind as changes that we can anticipate that will continue to affect and influence workforce planning, both in the short and long term.
Especially as we consider technological influences, which have led to innovation such as artificial intelligence, we have evidence of both worker displacement as well as job creation. Further, we can envision the nature of jobs changing and even more learners and employees taking advantage of distance, online and hybrid learning opportunities, even in the workplace. Additionally, the consequences of globalization and technological advancement have also helped in the diversification of the population and the workforce. We can expect to see the trends of future workforce planning and development taking a concerted focus on developing innovation, creativity, efficiency and productivity on a better-trained and more diversified workforce.
This workforce diversity will not be limited to gender, age, race, ethnicity or even geographical boundaries. The future of workforce planning will be exciting and provide much opportunity for practitioners and policy makers with responsibility for workforce analysis, planning and development.
Proactively, workforce development and planning will include more emphasis on the ever-increasing demands of the private sector for skilled workers. This will require training and educational programs for constantly changing and developing technologies, increased focus on STEM educational programs in K-12 education to ready students for advanced curriculum at the post-secondary level, and matching the needs of employers and industry within the geographic area (and beyond) to the skills and education that are offered within K-12 programs, internships, apprenticeships and post-secondary programs.
While the future of workforce planning will thrive from a more integrated relationship between institutions of learning (particularly K-20) and the private sector, it will benefit from a more laser-like focus on lifelong learning, learning at all stages across the entire lifespan. With a decline in the number of United States high school graduates enrolling in college (Norris, 2014), we cannot expect the U.S. labor market to be fully prepared for future skill needs, thereby requiring partnerships with community, basic and adult education providers and stakeholders. It also demands commitment to foster not only knowledge and skill development but also smooth transitions into the workforce.
As with other organizational contexts, demands and goals, workforce planning cannot occur in a vacuum. It requires, through these partnerships and commitments, practical ways to build and enhance a cadre of skilled employees. Apprenticeships can provide another work-based learning approach in which employers may sponsor worker training, with on-the-job training as a key component of systematic initiatives. Labor unions could play an increasingly important role by working with employers to support apprenticeship programs and other workforce development initiatives. Another trend that is likely to continue is more emphasis on career and technical education (CTE). Although there will inevitably be high-skilled jobs that require filling, we anticipate that there will also be a steady need for skilled labor that do not require bachelor degrees and beyond. Through CTE, individuals are able to receive technical training and earn a living wage.
In order to implement a successful workforce plan, the right people (Tucker, 2017) in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities must be involved. Workforce planning is a key strategy for ensuring there is attention paid to the issues of rapid technological change and demographic shifts to include rapid urbanization, globalization, and challenges such as climate change, especially as to how these may impact the nation's success, and competitiveness going forward.
Finegold, D., McCarthy, J. (2010). Creating a sector skill strategy: Developing High-Skill Ecosystems. In D. Finegold. M. Gatta, H. Salzman, & S. Schulman (Eds.), Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development System: Lessons from Research and Practice (pp. 181-204). Labor and Employment Relations Association, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Champaign, IL.
Tucker, E. (2017). 3 keys to closing workforce planning gaps. TD: Talent Development, 71(11), 34-38.
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