Tune in to Thomas A. Kochan's Future of Work MOOC class

26 Mar 2015 11:10 AM | Mike Lillich (Administrator)

A perfect time to discuss the future of work

Every day brings a new story about the current state of work and the need to improve it.  

On the local level Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor Michelle Wu just proposed a paid parental leave plan for city employees that they hope will be a model for other employers. Nationally, politicians and analysts from left, right, and center are now recognizing the need to do something about income inequality and stagnant wages. Even Walmart and other retailers are getting into the act by announcing plans to raise their minimum wage to $9 an hour.  Increasing numbers of editorial writers are noting that the decline of unions is bad for the economy and society and are looking for ways to restore workers’ long lost bargaining power.  

I’ve been concerned about these issues for a long time. That’s why I’ve decided to start a conversation of what needs to be done by launching a MITX “MOOC” on The American Dream for the Next Generation. 

Why focus on the next generation?  The sad reality is us baby boomers are leaving them an economic and political mess that they will have to fix. Despite a falling unemployment rate we still lack sufficient high quality jobs to absorb the growing labor force. Too many technical school and college graduates are starting off in jobs that don’t use the skills they worked so hard to obtain.   Starting out underemployed results in missed opportunities to continue building ones human capital through on the job learning, depresses earnings, and forces many to put off starting families of their own.  

Unfortunately, the gridlock in Washington means the solutions will have to come from somewhere else. But the good news is there is plenty of innovation to build on outside of Washington in local governments, innovative employers, and newly emerging worker advocacy groups. We will sample these by, among other things:

  • Revisiting the lessons learned from the Market Basket saga of last summer that showed how to build and sustain successful businesses that also provide good jobs and great customer service.

  • Exploring how crowdsourcing and “hackathons” are being used to brainstorm start-ups that address big social problems and create new jobs.

  • Helping students develop their own career plans and urge them to pursue and take up the growing number of life-long-learning opportunities available on-line and through community colleges.

  • Encouraging development of new “apps” to differentiate between employers that provide good and bad jobs.

To learn from past successes and failures we will take a quick historical tour of how work has evolved over the ages and ask how generations before us responded to a similar crisis following the Great Depression by updating employment policies and institutions that then produced three decades of rising productivity, wages,  and an expanding middle class. In our final exercise we will put all these ideas to work in an exercise aimed at negotiating what employment relationships should look like in the future.  Perhaps we can show how the next generation leaders are prepared to break the Washington gridlock.

Working together, I believe we can shape the future of work in ways that address today’s challenges.  Join us and contribute your ideas or just see what young people around the world think needs to be done.  You can sign up here.  https://www.edx.org/course/american-dream-next-generation-mitx-15-662x#.VO3oDPnF9il. 

Or, just stay tuned. As the course unfolds I’ll summarize what our students are telling us about their dreams for the future and what they are prepared to do to realize them.

Employment Policy Research Network (A member-driven project of the Labor and Employment Relations Association)

121 Labor and Employment Relations Bldg.


121 LER Building

504 East Armory Ave.

Champaign, IL 61820


The EPRN began with generous grants from the Rockefeller, Russell Sage, and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations


Powered by Wild Apricot. Try our all-in-one platform for easy membership management