Fortunately, businesses and schools were and are beginning to recognize the need. The renewed emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at the university level is part of that recognition. More important is the push to train technicians outside the degree-granting institutions. Increasingly in the last few years, community colleges and local officials have begun partnering with businesses to tailor training programs to the emerging needs of new technologies and new ways of doing business. Many of these partnerships involve the American operations of businesses headquartered in Germany and Switzerland, where there is a well-developed program for apprenticing and training skilled technicians of the sort this country increasingly will need.
If the coronavirus helps jumpstart an effective response to pressures that were already building before the pandemic, then it will have done the U.S. economy a service despite all the ills it has also brought. The adjustment, as in the past, will take place regardless of the effectiveness of the nation’s response. The need to cope with the new is nothing new. Effective efforts at training and re-training cannot erase all the hardship of the adjustments, but it can minimize its extent and duration.
Mr. Ezrati is a contributing editor at The National Interest, an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Human Capital at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), and chief economist for Vested, the New York based communications firm. His latest book is Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics, and How We Will Live.