Disruption, innovation and artificial intelligence (AI). Jackie Black focuses on these concepts—and how they are changing the future of work — in her daily role.
As director of strategic alliances, U.S. jobs at Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Black, 31, helps prepare technology companies for the changing workplace and workforce. CTA is the U.S. trade association that represents more than 2,200 consumer technology companies and that owns and produces the CES tech event.
Black, a Washington resident, enjoys making an impact on the workforce.
Tell us about the future of work. How will things look different in the future?
At CTA, we think of the future of work in the context of all of the innovations in tech, like AI, machine learning, robotics and 5G, that the nation is experiencing. It’s a huge disruption in the workforce and the workplace. And this disruption is changing the future of work, how work is done and the skills that will be needed.
We focus on how people will do work and how to prepare to do that work. Our role is to help our member companies find skilled talent, increase the number of jobs in tech roles and position the tech industry as a leader in creating new jobs.
We have a skills gap in our country. There are about 5.8 million people unemployed, even as 7 million jobs remain unfilled. Many of these unfilled jobs require mid- to high-level skill sets. Given this reality, it’s difficult for companies in the tech industry to find the skilled workers they need, and it’s crucial to look to new ways to fill the talent pipeline. This can happen through apprenticeships or other training programs that look to overlooked populations — like those without a four-year degree, rural workers, career-changes, moms returning to the workforce or the formerly incarcerated.
Tell us more about the apprenticeship program.
One of our huge initiatives the past year has been the creation of the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition. It is a group of tech companies that CTA convenes who are learning how to create apprenticeship programs for new collar roles.
The term was coined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and means gaining skills through nontraditional education paths. We help educate our member companies on why and how a tech apprenticeship is a valuable pathway to find skilled talent.
What’s a common misconception about this work?
A common trope is that AI automatization is taking away from jobs, which isn’t true. It’s that the nature of jobs is changing.
Let’s think about truck drivers and autonomous vehicles [self-driving trucks]. Today, we don’t have enough people who are truck drivers. But once we have self-driving trucks, we still need people who know how to service them. People will still be in the trucks, helping guide them, almost like handling a robot. Workers will need slightly new skills, but the idea that jobs are going away just isn’t the case.
What is CES?
CES is the largest tech event in the world, where we showcase technology
— including AI, robotics, machine learning and 5G — from all industries. The show spans more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space in Las Vegas every January.
At CES 2020, there were a lot of things that touched on the future of work. Our team curated a half day conference session. We had panels talking about hiring and retaining talent, apprenticeship and how millennials have improved the workplace.
What’s the takeaway the community should know?
There is a ton of activity out there in this space. Before I was in it, I didn’t realize how many people were working on these issues. There’s so much action happening to prepare people for the workforce who have traditionally been overlooked. The unemployment rate is so low right now, and that’s providing great opportunities for people to get engaged in the workforce.
What are your hobbies?
I am on a recent discovery to find new hobbies because over the past few years, I finished a graduate degree, got married and bought a new house. I am now enjoying time to pick up reading again, decorate my home and hopefully one day get a dog.
How has your Jewish upbringing impacted your career?
Growing up in a tight-knit Jewish community really instilled in me the importance of personal connections. That’s how things happen in life and how things get done. It’s been really important to me to maintain and keep creating those personal connections.
Anna Lippe is a Washington-area writer.