Worker upskilling in the face of automation is part of a larger trend that started during the pandemic, Clayton said. Because they’re struggling to attract qualified talent in the face of widespread labor shortages, employers are making internal upskilling a key pillar of their talent acquisition strategies “through methods such as in-house or on-the-job training, training through a third party, apprenticeships and mentorships.”
As founder and CEO of Fixency, a data science consulting firm that helps organizations embrace digital transformation and automation, Jame Demmin-De Lise has observed this trend firsthand.
“In recent years, we’ve assisted a variety of organizations in embracing automation, not just as a job-replacement tool, but as a catalyst for transforming and re-energizing their workforce,” he told The Forecast.
While many companies view automation as purely a cost-saving approach, Demmin-De Lise said the most successful organizations view automation as a force multiplier, capable of boosting production and helping businesses scale without additional cost.
Ford: Assembling the Future
Among those that have embraced upskilling as a pillar of their talent acquisition strategy is Ford Motor Company, which is tapping its existing workforce to fuel future growth. The automotive manufacturer boasts a successful track record of re-training employees for new roles through its apprenticeship program, which helps line workers develop specialized skills for logistics automation roles.
Ford’s commitment to workforce development is apparent in its BlueOval City project, currently under construction in West Tennessee. The 6-square-mile campus, scheduled to open in 2025, will include facilities to manufacture batteries, assemble cars and recycle spent materials.
Ford is hiring and training 6,000 workers for the new plant by creating a training program to bring residents up to speed. It will support worker training by helping local schools expand STEM curricula, by offering high school students certifications and by building the BlueOval City TCAT, a state-of-the-art training center for warehouse automation workers.
“I’m a West Tennessee native and I immediately recognized the huge impact that this would have,” Jeff Sisk, executive director of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Center for Workforce Development, told WorkingNation in a 2023 interview.
“Thousands of high-wage, high-skill jobs will be coming to our area and opportunities for economic success for a group of residents who haven’t had an opportunity like this, ever.”