Talent and Opportunity in the Next Economy

In this series, professionals attending Next:Economy share their insights on the future of work. Read the posts here, then write your own. Use #NextEconomy somewhere in the body of the post and @mention Next:Economy conference panelists when sharing. For more insight and news on the Next:Economy, sign up for the weekly newsletter here.

In the U.S. alone, almost 5.9 million jobs currently go unfilled because of a mismatch between job requirements and the skills of potential employees.

Around the world, this skills gap looms even larger.

At the same time, there are real concerns about rapid advances in technology and the impact it is having on available jobs, the economy, and what role work, that profoundly human endeavor, will play in the lives of future generations as technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics play a larger and larger role.

Traditionally, technological innovation has always led to profound shifts in our work lives, which in turn has led to shifts in the culture at large. And while these shifts have caused disruption and unease, as people try to adapt to new work patterns, a need for new skills, and new rhythms of life in general, they’ve always led to greater overall prosperity and a widening range of opportunities to pursue meaning through one’s work.

This time, perceptive observers believe, the shifts and changes are happening so fast the creative destruction will be even more substantive than usual.

Innovations like AI, robotics, on-demand services, and network-based platforms and businesses have already started changing traditional employment relationships, work patterns, and corporate structures. And such trends are destined to accelerate as these technologies mature and disperse across the market.

But while these news technologies can amplify the challenges that companies and individuals face, they also give us extraordinary new powers to adapt to fast-changing conditions in creative, efficient, and productive ways.

Consider LinkedIn: In 2002, when my co-founders and I created it, our goal was to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

Today, our ambition is much greater. We want to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. To do that, we’re building the world’s first Economic Graph, a digital map of the global economy that aims to include every member of the global workforce, every employer, and every educational institution.

Mapping this information on a single platform enables tremendously valuable insight into where opportunities are, where challenges may arise, and what companies, other institutions, and individuals should be doing to adapt to changing conditions.

For example, around 12 percent of the unfilled open positions in the US require information technology skills. As a result, LinkedIn has also been working with the White House and the non-profit organization Opportunity@Work on an initiative called TechHire. A public-private partnership, TechHire combines federal grant funding and resources provided by large private-sector companies to create tech talent pipelines that can train individuals in accelerated fashion and give them the high-demand tech skills that today’s employers require.

This is one of a series of initiatives that government policy makers, think tanks, foundations, and thoughtful investors and entrepreneurs have been spinning up in recent years to tackle problems that are paradoxically among the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs but also too often ignored by them.

For some in Silicon Valley’s booming tech economy, it’s all too easy to miss that there are swaths of the country that are worse off than they were a decade ago. Many people worry about their futures in the changing work landscape, and especially about the futures of their children.

The adaptation challenges we face are real.

In my books The Start-up Of You and The Alliance, I’ve explored some ways that individuals and organizations should respond to the new opportunities and challenges that arise as we shift to a 21st century economy.

But we should also be thinking of how we adapt on a macro level as well. And the challenges we face won’t all be solved simply by the entrepreneurial dynamism of the market.

Markets do a spectacular job of addressing some problems, and they have created enormous wealth for the world. But markets also need thoughtful public policy interventions to achieve their full potential. And they need entrepreneurs who take a broad, long-term view of our impact on the world.

That’s why I’m co-hosting an event called The Next:Economy Summit with Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media on October 10 -11 in San Francisco, CA. We are trying to understand the profound changes that technology is bringing to the world of work, business, the economy, and the culture itself. In the process, we hope to help entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business and labor leaders, and Washington policy makers develop an informed long-range vision for how to manage our transition into the Networked Age and a truly 21st century economy most productively.

There are a lot of conferences that focus on what’s hot today in Silicon Valley, and what the next flavor-of-the-month platform or service will be.

This is an event that helps us think about the long-term impact of what we do. I hope you’ll join us in San Francisco or follow the discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter (#nexteconomy). I look forward to the robust discussions next week.

This post was originally published here on October 6, 2016