Detroit and the Future of Work

 |   Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Tech, and Meghan Urisko, Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow

How do we empower people to understand that artificial intelligence (AI) will help create jobs and reduce the fear that it will take them away? These are some of the questions Microsoft and business, community and education leaders sought to answer on June 13 at a Career Pathways Executive Roundtable. Leaders joined Shelley Stern Grach, Microsoft’s director of civic engagement in Detroit and Joshua Winter, director of Career Pathways at Microsoft for a conversation about the future of work.

One of the main themes that emerged from this conversation is the changing nature of work. With rapid innovation, the jobs and skills workers need are changing rapidly and will continue to do so. These changes do lead to disruption but also to new opportunities.  During this transition, leaders of industry, government, and education must come together and develop human-centered approach to understand to prepare people for and support people during this change.

Leaders from the manufacturing sector in the room spoke on the role AI is playing in their field. AI has transformed the factory into a clean, modern, high tech space. But as the factory has transformed, so too have the skills needed to work in it. Workers who can interface with the systems needed to design and build these tools are required for a thriving manufacturing field.

But AI isn’t the only skill needed. Joshua Winter shared with the audience that today, more than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some technology skills, and it is estimated by 2025, 77 percent will require them. It’s not just technical roles – technically literate people are needed for a wide variety of roles. One key goal of Microsoft’s Career Pathways initiatives is to provide access to digital skills so that everyone can be successful in the digital economy. We also work to empower individuals to feel included by addressing the skills gap through lifelong learning.

The conversation quickly turned to developing a thriving eco-system to get workers these skills. What roles do education, government, and industry play in supporting the future of work and how do we ensure equity is built into this process? Early exposure, credentialing, apprenticeships, and lifelong learning all emerged as important pieces of this puzzle. Additionally, the need to better understand the existing ecosystem that exists to prepare the workers of today for the roles of tomorrow is sorely needed. Everyone in the room has a unique role to play – understanding and communicating those roles is key to preparing Detroit for the future of work.

Microsoft’s Career Pathways Executive Roundtable provided an opportunity for the Detroit community to come together for an open and honest discussion about how to best move our city forward. Everyone walked away with an understanding of our need to focus on how to give exposure and engagement to a younger and wider student population, to ensure that skills over degrees are the new currency, and to enable employers to identify skill sets and core competencies. The importance of training people to empower and advocate for themselves in a professional context and barrier to opportunity were also highlighted.

As the City of Detroit continues to thrive, it must work to provide equal opportunities for all residents. Conversations such as the Microsoft’s Career Pathways Executive Roundtable are an important first step in this process. It is imperative that government, education, and business come together to address the changes to the future of work.