fbpx The Project on Workforce | Harvard Kennedy School

Technology is dramatically changing the structure of our economy and consequently, the types of jobs available for Americans and the types of skills needed.

  • Machines today can complete 90% of the tasks that humans did in 1900.
  • Manufacturing employment in the U.S. has declined by 27% over the last 20 years, even as manufacturing output has gone up 7%.
  • The earnings gap between college and high school graduates has more than doubled over the past three decades.
  • Jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew 12% between 1980 and 2012, while less social but math-intensive jobs shrunk 3.3% over the same period.

And yet, our system of training and education remains optimized for another era.

  • Only 26% of working U.S. adults with college experience strongly agree that their education is relevant to their work and day-to-day life.
  • Just 33% of Americans believe that the current generation of children will grow up to be better off than their parents.
  • The United States spends just 0.1% of GDP on active labor market policies, ranking second-to-last in all of OECD.

Americans across all spectrums agree that upskilling and re-skilling are critical to the future of America’s businesses, workers, and regions…

  • Workforce skills and composition are the #1 factor most emphasized by U.S. mayors when recruiting companies and jobs to their cities.
  • 71% of business leaders say that the expected impact of increases in skills and education required in their businesses will be highly or somewhat significant.
  • 88% of workers say training and skills development throughout their work life will be important or essential.

Millions of Americans still lack clear pathways to sustained advancement in the labor market. Success cases exist in pockets, but lessons have been difficult to generalize and scale. We need to move the needle.

What We Do

The Project on Workforce is an interdisciplinary, collaborative project between the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Our mission is to chart the course for a post-secondary system of the future that creates more & better pathways to economic mobility; and, to catalyze action across leaders in business, education and policy to collectively address America’s shared skills & employment needs.  We do this by (1) supporting high-quality research and generating applied insights for leaders in business, education, and policy (broadening the knowledge base of “what works” for building the skills of the future); and (2) using dissemination and convening to close the gap between research and practice on worker training and workforce policies (making research actionable for users).