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Been to a hotel in Japan lately? The helping hands issuing the hotel room keys are no longer human, but the brains that dreamt them up certainly are! Technology and automation are swiftly and inevitably changing the way we live and work. This realization was reiterated while watching the Institute of Emerging Issues (IEI) FutureWork Forum Preview that streamed live in the form of a recent interactive webinar.

During the November IES Advisory Board meeting in Greensboro, NC, committee members took a moment during lunch to tune into the webinar and hear Anita Brown-Graham, Director of IEI, and a panel of four guest speakers discuss the impact of technology and automation on current and future job markets. So, you may be asking yourself, “Why did these committee members take a break from the meeting to livestream this  webinar?” The answer is simple: these emerging issues concerning the future of work are of particular interest to the Advisory Board, due to the role that IES plays in evaluating workforce development programs and partnering with community colleges and others on critical workforce development issues.

Many people fear that robots and software programs are going to take our jobs from us, while others believe that the growth of technology will have the opposite effect. So there are key questions on the table at this time: Are we going to have jobs available to us in the future? Are we going to be prepared to succeed in the jobs that do exist? Well, that’s entirely up to us, according to the panel of speakers addressing this issue.

To secure employment for ourselves and our future workforce, we must be proactive in addressing these types of emerging issues, and that’s exactly what the IEI FutureWork Forum intends to explore. Many of us at IES expect this forum to provide further insight into what future jobs will look like for our clients and in what areas we may need to develop competencies in order to remain relevant to our client base. We aim to ensure that even very small companies and micro-manufacturers with whom we work are given the resources needed to innovate and thrive as technology continues to advance. We agree that looking at trends, predicting what the future will look like and taking proper action, providing resources and education to our workers, teachers, and students, and working to solve potential problems before they occur are all ways we can prepare for living and working in an extremely hi-tech world.

As more and more rudimentary tasks become automated, we, at IES, become increasingly concerned with cybersecurity. If hacked, robots can be made useless, counterproductive, or even very dangerous.  Cybersecurity is just one area of future development IES is currently looking into to promote safe, secure, and innovative working environments. We are grateful for the invitation to bring these topics to the table and participate in the discussion of emerging issues concerning the future of work.  

What are your thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Share them with us! IEI wants to hear from you, too! Webinar viewers were encouraged to live tweet questions to the speakers using #IEIFutureWork during the preview event. IEI is giving you the opportunity to become part of “the conversation of the century” and to share your thoughts with them so they may engage those thoughts prior to the IEI FutureWork Forum in February. The live, interactive preview of the forum encourages all of us to get our gears turning now on the issue of future work so that we are prepared to make valuable contributions to the forum when it takes place in on February 8th and 9th 2016.  

To view the webinar and learn more about the IEI FutureWork Forum, visit

Terri_Helmlinger_Ratcliff_ HighResolutionDr. Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff is the Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement at North Carolina State University and Executive Director of  NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES). She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from N.C. State, earned an M.B.A. from Duke University as a Fuqua Scholar and her Ph.D. is in public administration, also from N.C. State.