A key challenge for all three North American economies is the training and education of their workforces as jobs, industries and sectors evolve and transform. The need for workforce development will likely only increase as new technologies are deployed and as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with higher use of advance technology in manufacturing and throughout the economy.

The modernization of NAFTA may touch on some aspects of workforce needs in North America. However, most of the relevant issues for workforce development across the continental production chains will not be addressed in the negotiations themselves. Yet these issues must be addressed both because our economies need skilled workers and because so much concern has focused on the issue of job losses among NAFTA partners.

Thus, in parallel to the NAFTA process, North America could benefit greatly from a public-private process that brings together governments, the private sector and various other actors to discuss and implement best practices in workforce development to better support preservation and creation of jobs during the technological changes and global competition ahead.

We should think through how the three economies, Mexico, Canada and the US, can better work together and collaborate to address skills shortages and to develop an adequate workforce for the jobs of the future.  We should seek to learn from best practices across the continent and try to apply them more broadly.  Building and expanding partnerships will be an essential part of this process. Areas to explore for North American collaboration include: apprenticeships, data collection, certifications and transitioning to Industry 4.0.