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The Time Is Now: A Review of New America Succeeds Report, “The Age of Agility”

• Lowell Matthews


In their new report, “The Age of Agility, Education Pathways for the Future of Work,” America Succeeds joins a growing number of voices in a clarion call about the future of work and its impact on the workforce.

The authors argue that our nation has limited time to prepare for a wave of technology disruption and its effect for the generations of workers to come. Automation and artificial intelligence have and will continue to render many of our existing jobs, work functions, degrees and skills obsolete — having a tremendous impact on all workers. And this disruption is only accelerating. The result in coming years will be an economy that further separates Americans into haves and have nots.

If you don’t believe that change has already arrived, pull out your smartphone and remember that the iPhone is only 10 years old. 

To address the coming wave of disruption, the report urges greater collaboration to create better alignment and connections among K-12, higher education and employers. The technical and operational skills that we and our children will need to find continued success in careers must be rooted in employer demand both now and in the future. We will need to do more than simply speak to the importance of lifelong learning; we will need to demonstrate we can do it. And our states’ education systems must be positioned to allow all Americans the opportunity to upgrade their skills over the course of their careers. 

ExcelinEd agrees that we must transform the way education systems and employers work together to prepare individuals to achieve future success. And we also believe that business and education leaders can and should do more to ensure this and future generations learn authenticated skill sets to succeed in challenging work environments.  

At ExcelinEd, we are working on policies that highlight what states can do now to prepare for this new age. It’s our fervent belief that states can play a critical role by developing incentives to encourage cross-sector partnerships and promote new school and program models.

For instance, programs that reward high schools when students earn in-demand, industry-recognized credentials expand the number of graduates who possess workforce-ready skills. In addition, strengthening state Career and Technical Education (CTE) program alignment with current/future workforce needs can increase students’ attainment of both technical and soft skills, at scale. And spurring the growth of innovative school models (such as P-TECH or CTE Early College High Schools) can help speed the transformation of traditional high schools into innovative centers of student-centered learning featuring close partnerships with industry and postsecondary. These and similar policy shifts send a signal to community and business leaders that the state is vested in their long-term success.  

This report conveys the urgency of preparing students for the work of tomorrow today. And ExcelinEd will continue to work with states and other partners to identify and implement policies that help students access high-quality pathways to long-term success. 

About the author

Lowell Matthews

Lowell is the Director of College and Career Pathways for ExcelinEd. He previously served as Staff Director for the Florida Legislature’s Senate Committees on Education Pre-K-12 and Higher Education, where he helped create Florida’s industry certification incentive to create a nexus between education and the workforce. Lowell is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army. He lives in Rochester, MN with his wife and two kids.