The Future Workforce

What happens when you buy a new smartphone and find out that within ten months there will be a newer smartphone available in the store? Today consumers around the world know that as soon as they buy a new electronic device, it will quickly be obsoleted. That is how fast technology evolves and grows in this technology-driven world. Companies are always developing newer products to remain competitive, and that means they need more technical workers working for them to meet their demand to grow fast and achieve a higher profitability. An economist declared: “Technical workforce is the fuel for economic prosperity.”

According to the U.S. Government report (2017) coding skills are now taught in some high schools and about 38% of high school graduates have coding skills. It is predicted by 2025, over 75% of U.S. high school graduates will have coding skills. The European government report (2017) also pointed out that the UK and Germany had the highest number of high school students with coding skills as compared to other European nations but did not go to the specific percentage. These reports help back-up the view that high schools need to teach computer programming to help meet the need of their future economy.

Image: Internet

Last December (2017) The Chinese government issued a new policy requiring all high schools to teach computer programming. As part of the policy called “Made in China by 2025,” the government is investing several billion dollars to both universities and high schools to make sure they will have been a strong technical workforce to compete with others. Their government realizes that the “Manufacturer to the world” model that helped them in the past 30 years is now obsolete. The low-cost assembly factories that create the “Economic miracle” have kept millions of workers living in poverty as their economy was depending on other countries. In order to build a “middle-class” and prosperous economy, they need to have their people make much higher wages and improve their standard of living. That means they need to have a better education system to promote higher productivity, and stronger technological capacity to move up and compete. A government official said: “In the next ten years, you will see how fast we can grow. The past 30 years helped us to survive but the next 30 years will help us to become a superpower in all aspects of technology.”

When I review the “Made in China 2025” policy, I found that it is almost the same as Germany’s “Industry 4.0” policy for technology development. The only difference is the speed and ambition of the plan and the amount of money that they invest in their education system. When Germany’s plan takes a careful and steady approach over time, China’s plan is more aggressive and much faster with 20 major technology labs in their top universities across the country. A major STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being prioritized countrywide. All high school teachers are trained to teach STEM subjects to all levels to produce millions of talents within a short time. (Before 2020 so by 2025 they will have a lot of college graduates in technology fields.)

When I ask my Chinese colleagues about the aggressive plan whether it is possible or not, a professor explained: “With the major investment in education, everything is possible. If you look carefully, you can see that 30 years ago, we were using mostly manual labors and bicycle for transportation but today you can see robots and fast train that connect cities everywhere. As we are investing in technical education, most of our students are trained in STEM, we will build a new era, a new future that surpasses every other. Today, education is our highest priority as everything in the future starts with having a large technical workforce.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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