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November 21, 2017 in Education

The biggest threat to workers of the future isn’t robots — it’s whether they’ll have the skills to work alongside them

The biggest threat to workers of the future isn’t that robots will automate their jobs — it’s that they might not have the skills to work alongside them.

The Brookings Institute recently released a major report that looks at the effect of automation and digitalization (the spread of digital technology) on workers in the United States. One finding: many Americans lack “digital literacy,” including a working knowledge of spreadsheets, software applications, and basic computing skills, all of which will become more and more crucial in coming years. This is particularly true for low income and minority communities.

This is important research, and it correlates with what we’ve seen at Village Capital when evaluating education technology investments (this year we invested in two companies that are working to close the gap between employment and education). In particular, we’ve found a few ways that entrepreneurs can innovate around the skills gap:


Many workers feel stuck in careers that don’t provide clear opportunities for advancement. One company, Landit, is helping women advance in their careers through a platform that provides career coaching, targeted content, and a support network.


As technology takes over more industries and jobs become automated, workers need to be trained for the jobs of the future. For example, Sales2Job Academy trains low income workers for sales jobs that provide them with stable incomes and growth opportunities.


Many students who enroll in college do not graduate due to a variety of factors. Upswing, one of Village Capital’s most recent investments, has created a virtual student services platform to allow non-traditional students to access the same resources that a traditional four-year college student would have at their disposal. Their technology is already being used by over 75 colleges and universities and has proven that it reduces attrition rates.

We’re excited about this sector. This month we held an event in San Francisco that brought together eight entrepreneurs from several education cohorts, as well as 35 investors and strategic partners who provided advice on their strategic challenges. And last week, we announced a partnership with AutoDesk to reshape the conversation around automation in the workforce. We’ll be working together to find and train entrepreneurs using artificial intelligence and robotics to positively impact the workforce through increased upskilling, reskilling, and efficiency.

Technology has always enabled the workforce to do their work better. The conversation should shift away from the threat of automation and towards the opportunities it can create for workers.

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