Economists, business leaders and labor experts have warned for years that a coming wave of automation and digital technology would upend the workforce, destroying some jobs while altering how and where work is done for nearly everyone.
In the past four months, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed some of those predictions into reality. By May, half of Americans were working from home, tethered to their employers via laptops and Wi-Fi, up from 15% before the pandemic, according to a recent study.
The rapid change is leading to mounting demands — including from typically opposing groups, like Republicans and Democrats, and business executives and labor leaders — for training programs for millions of workers. On their own, some of the proposals are modest. But combined they could cost tens of billions of dollars, in what would be one of the most ambitious retraining efforts in generations.
“This is the moment when