Who Gets To Work: The Two Faces of American Workers

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Somewhere in the mid-1990’s, the U.S. moved from an economy driven by manufacturing to one driven by technology innovation.  As each new technology iteration has rolled through American industry, the one unifying characteristic has been a loss of old economy (typically manufacturing and trade) jobs.

As a result, our workforce is out of balance: we have a lost generation of skilled “old economy” workers without future earning potential, and created a plethora of new economy jobs lacking a qualified workforce to fill them. Determining how to best manage these abrupt workforce changes will be a priority for communities and economic developers between now and 2030.  

There are two areas of workforce need that will drive these efforts short term: 

First, the shedding of old economy jobs and workforce skills has left every region with unemployable laborers.  There are three key strategies that will soften their landing and ease old economy workers into retirement or new economy jobs between now and 2030.

Second, attracting or growing a new economy workforce is a priority for most regions. There are several elements of new economy workforce development being practiced by forward-thinking regions across the country that every community should include in their planning between now and 2030.

Key Points and Takeaways

  • Our workforce is out of balance: old economy jobs are being downsized and new economy jobs are gearing up, leaving most communities with a surplus of old economy workers and a shortage of new economy workers.
  • Learn about the three key strategies communities need to facilitate the transition of old economy workers into new economy jobs, retirement or encore employment.
  • Best practices from forward leaning communities in the United States and Canada to attract and grow new economy workers through this transition period and beyond 2030.


Mo Collins is a New Economy specialist with more than 20 years of public sector, non-profit and entrepreneurial experience. She has launched and scaled multiple tech-based economic development initiatives, earning both national and international awards and is a published academic and online author, writing on topics associated with technology innovation, networking and entrepreneurship. Look for her upcoming book WE: Women Entrepreneurs, for release in spring 2017.