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Report Launch | North America 2.0: A Workforce Development Agenda

The Wilson Center's Mexico Institute was pleased to host a report launch for North America 2.0: A Workforce Development Agenda.

Date & Time

Dec. 10, 2019
9:30am – 11:30am ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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The Wilson Center's Mexico Institute was pleased to host a report launch for North America 2.0: A Workforce Development Agenda. The report details challenges the three countries face in preparing their labor forces for "The Future of Work" and proposes a framework for North America to move forward in addressing these issues.

This revised and updated study considers national policies implemented by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and by Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as the workforce and apprenticeship initiatives launched by Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The Workforce Development Agenda 2.0 proposes specific initiatives focus on work-based learning, transparency of credentials earned, collection and availability of labor market data, and sharing of best practices to prepare for the technologically driven transformations ahead. Additionally, the report discusses the opportunities for cooperation built into the pending North America trade agreement, USMCA.

Read the report "North America 2.0: A Workforce Development Agenda"

The launch of this new report was followed by a panel discussion on workforce development in North America with experts and private sector representatives.

Selected Quotes

Ambassador Tony Wayne:

“On average, across all the member countries […], about 14% of jobs are going to be eliminated, many more are going to be reinvented. That means that […], governments, you really need to prepare for one, that cluster of workers that are not going to have jobs anymore – what do you with them? Two, the cluster workers that are going to have to learn new skills, and three, of course all your young people coming into the workforce”

“If we can get the policies right, if we can get the mix right, and the collaboration correct, you can come out with win-win situations with the arrival of all this new technology”

“The three governments of the national-federal levels should be talking together, they should, in a sense, form an umbrella under which there can be a lot of collaboration between the private sector, sub-federal governments – federal governments too, education institutions, other actors like unions, NGO’s, private sector educators […] basically getting together to look at a number of the key different issues”

“The cost of not acting in these issues are going to be really high. For the individual it is going to be lower wages, no job offers, [and] job losses. For the employers there is the possibility of higher vacancy, higher turn-over, [and] being less competitive. For the three countries, the potential cause in fact are a lot of social and political disruption and being less competitive economically.

David Langdon:

“The executive order very much elevates the role of employers. One mechanism is the “commitment program” which has been very succesfull called the pledge to American workers, to which the federal government has gathered essentially pledges from companies nad trade associations around their new 5 year training programs […] in very broad ways they are commitments, I think they are 374 organizations and around 14.3 million training opportunities.”

“A lot of the employers are preparing the changes and will be implementing them – they are active participants in this, and as active participants, they can guide us on in what the skills requirements will be over time and what the occupational changes will be over time”

Randa Saryeddine:

“We see a highly skilled workforce as being a key driver of unlocking potential in key industrial sectors. I thought it was interesting in the report raised automotive, aerospace, ICT, all these similar types of sectors”

“The workforce in Canada is highly recognized for being well educated. We do extremely well on k-12, terciary education performance and yet, we’re still facing very particular labor challenges that are not unique to OECD countries; and underlying those labor challenges for us, are three elements: there are shortages in labor supply, there are shortages in skills because of the soffistication of skillsets that are changing , both I the need to have technical skills combined with what we call human and foundational skills and there’s a lot of work in how do we kinda improve the foundation skills even at the k-12 level”

“Because of these labor challenges taking place at the same time as global changes, and technological changes, and climate change, and evolving social values, it’s putting an increase pressure on what for us is a large constituent of SME’s who, about 99% of our companies in Canada, are small and medium size enterprises; so less than 500 employees, and about 90% of the workforce works for them. So, the workforces’ ability to access training and development is very much affected by the resources and the abilities of the SME’s”

Robert Lerman:

“I think we often forget the importance of student engagement in the learning process […]”

“We need high quality skills frameworks that have to be able to adapt […] over time. The second thing is […] the branding and making it a real brand that people are aware of that it’s a very high quality root to reward in career and this is a way of doing that”

“How do you get companies to adopt apprenticeships? […] In the United States, we need a cadre of people who can sell companies on apprenticeship ad help the organize apprenticeship”

“Making companies aware of that [implementing apprenticeships], and how to do it, is a really critical step […]. You need to make it simple for them, and I think if we do that, we can begin to scale apprenticeship and reach a tipping point where companies say to other companies ‘hey this is a good idea. I tried this and it works!’”

Welby Leaman:

“If you are recognizing as policy makers […] and as employers, the value of work opportunity at all point along the scale curve, then you are going to want micro credentials that can help people over their course of their career, build up that scale curve.”

“The relevant nature of the employer is not just ‘employer’ status, but also its other stakeholder relations”

“The general role of businesses in pushing out the envelope of formality across the employee or employer sourcing and core customer axes, it has a huge impact on the future of work because you are bringing into the formal economy a set of SME’s that are sourcing to you and also a set of employees that thus far not had career because they’ve been in the subsistence informality sector. So, for that reason, processes within business and policies withint he public secotr that advance formalizationa dn respect the private sctor’s role in formalizing the economy are really impoartant.”

“Rule of law and poor rule of law […] is a huge challenge for the future of work. […] you need to work in rule of law as a policy maker in a way that will increase the chances of formalization in a way that doesn’t dissipate the interest of large business in incorporating newly formalized workers and newly formalized SMEs and other suppliers into their supply chains.”

Edward Alden:

“The issue of North American competitiveness, what makes this region an attractive one for companies to invest in, is going to be more important than ever before going forward. So I think the focus that we’ve gotten on the Wilson center report here on human capital development in North America is exactly where we need to go”

“The issue of regional inequalities […] is maybe the biggest policy challenge of our time. Largely because of the importance of technology and innovation to our modern economy. The spatial distribution of economic opportunity has been changing very dramatically, certainly in the United States, […] but Canada and Mexico and other places too. We’re seeing all the growth, all of the good job opportunities, essentially, and that’s only a slight exaggeration taking place in a very small number of highly successful cities.”

“That’s a conversation we need to be having in North America. Not just how to create opportunity, not just how to build the workforce to take advantage of that opportunity, but also how to spread opportunity across our nations”

“If you have parts of countries that are prospering and parts of countries that are falling behind, that creates major political challenge. It creates a lot of disruption.”

Scott Cheney:

“the economy is changing so quickly, and we’re so unsure of what’s coming next that we need to figure out the right policies, the right practices in order to support that fast to market; that we can cut down that cycle time to figure out what’s needed and how to actually get into people’s hands."

“We have to have really good data, and much better data than we’ve ever been able to get from employers about what exactly they need […] so you can actually be fast to the right fit and in a flexible manner”

“In terms of policy, at least here in the United States, [there is] conversation within Congress about not necessarily just reducing or adding programs but improving the ability for programs and policies to work together and to share information to benefit”

Katie Brown:

  • “We’ve really changed the narrative around […] what workforce development actually is. We actually commissioned polling the National Skills coalition and we looked at 2020 voters, small & mid-sized business leaders, and veterans and polled them skills policies […]. All of our policy issues around skills polled above 80% regardless of which population you were looking at.”

Christopher Wilson
Deputy Director, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center

Report Presentation
Earl Anthony Wayne

Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
Public Policy Fellow & Advisory Board Co-Chair, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center

Welby Leaman
Senior Director (Americas), Global Government Affairs, Walmart

Robert Lerman
Institute Fellow, Urban Institute
Emeritus Professor of Economics, American University
Founder, American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship

Randa Saryeddine
Director, Talent and Skills Policy
Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Canada

Edward Alden
Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Author, The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century

Scott Cheney
Executive Director, Credential Engine

David Langdon
Senior Policy Advisor for Economics & Statistics, U.S. Department of Commerce

Katie Brown
Senior Federal Policy Analyst, National Skills Coalition

Hosted By

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more

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