32 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
You may have read about the future of work
recently. It is a topic that is brought up in many
conversations and varying contexts.
The notion of work is not foreign to any of us
in the community college sector. In fact, workforce development is one of the keystones of our
multiple missions. Bridging the gap between students and employment by offering specific skill
development in various programs is, for many of
us, a major portion of our operational functions.
But, what happens when those skills become
obsolete faster than a program to teach them can
That’s the future of our work.
The future of work is not solely about technology changes. It is an interconnected web of things
that will change the way we live, work and teach.
And it is well underway.
The first thing that comes to mind is a futur-
istic world where machines are autonomous and
intelligent. In fact, automation has been a part
of the American landscape since the industrial
revolution. Think about how those advances
streamlined (and eliminated) the need for some
tasks that were performed by humans. But, work
didn’t just stop—it changed. The difference is that
changes now are happening at an exponentially
faster rate. These changes will require future
workers to be adaptable, quick and creative think-
ers. That future is here and you see it every day in
your students and employees.
As educators, we will need to be able to teach in a
constant cycle of evolving skills and skillsets. Our
students will need to be able to understand how to
learn and adapt skills as the world of technology
and change exponentially moves forward. Students
(and leaders and businesses and teachers…) will need
to hone their own skills in learning how to think
critically and nimbly to successfully navigate the
world around them. It seems daunting, but considering how we all have adapted to life in the mobile
app world, it is not an insurmountable challenge.
These changes are not only about technology.
Generationally, there are some striking differences (and similarities) between the baby boomer
generation and the millennials. Both are large
by population and are motivated by similar
things, such as social justice, team work and
strong work ethics. However, they also are very
different in how they approach work and the
workplace itself. Gone are the days of working at
one place for your entire career. Today’s workers
created the on-demand life and gig economy
where they work when and where they want and/
or need to and then move on (think Netflix and
Uber). What will those dynamics do at the community college as an employer? As an educator?
It’s already doing it. If you think about the
various modalities that are provided for learning, the community college has been adapting
its offerings for generations and I have no doubt
they will continue to do so in the future.
Walter G. Bumphus is president and CEO of the American Association of
Future of work
By Walter G. Bumphus