Building the Foundational Skills Needed for Success in Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

Concern over the future workforce has attracted much attention in recent months by economists and workforce development specialists anticipating substantive changes in work brought about by swiftly developing technologies and automation. The National Science Foundation and other thought-leaders assert that artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, and machine learning will be ubiquitous in tomorrow's workplaces. This vision of the future has been dubbed the Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. While focusing on various aspects of the future of work, most current discussions fall short of identifying the knowledge and skills that will be needed for work at that frontier, and what competencies should be included in education programs designed to prepare future workers for success in those environments. 

Our recently-released paper, "Building the Foundational Skills Needed for Success in Work at the Human-Technology Frontier," explores the foundational skills needed for success in this new frontier. In exploring the future of work, we expand the conversation to include the importance of work for social stability, the challenges associated with broadening participation at the Human-Technology Frontier, the psycho-social factors affecting career development at the Human-Technology Frontier and illustrate how the NSF ITEST program is uniquely positioned to add value as an early intervention model for building a robust future ready STEM workforce.  

The ITEST Community of Practice, through working groups formed at annual PI Summits, has worked to identify four categories of outcomes data collected by ITEST projects: disposition, knowledge, skills and actions taken by youth through their engagement in STEM content and STEM career activities. From this, we developed the Workforce Education Outcomes Model which includes a "theory of action" for each of the four outcome categories, and provides examples of constructs that fall within each category. These constructs and examples are well aligned with the factors listed above, illustrating ways in which ITEST is developing foundational skills needed for success in STEM careers. 

This is a turning point for our society and its workforce: a new revolution is on its way. As we look to the horizon of the world of work and its implications for future generations of workers, we have identified a set of Policy Levers for the Development of a Robust STEM Workforce that can greatly contribute to the development of a robust future STEM workforce, help ensure the well-being of that workforce, and support and sustain a strong innovation economy for our country. The most critical being intentional use of public and private foundation funds to steer scholarship, educational policy, and workforce development initiatives in directions that will support systemic responses to automation that value work as a core psychological need and a human right. 

We hope that this paper will provoke both dialog and debate. We invite you to join the authors for a four-part webinar series exploring the educational and social implications of living, learning and working in a future driven by technology. Learn more about the future of work and the skills, knowledge and dispositions that can advantage students preparing for future jobs at the Human Technology Frontier.

Learn more and register for the webinar series:…


Read and download the full article on Education Development Center's website:

Suggested citation: Malyn-Smith, J., Blustein, D., Pillai, S., Parker, C. E., Gutowski, E., & Diamonti, A. J. (2017). Building the foundational skills needed for success in work at the human-technology frontier. Waltham, MA: EDC.