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COVID-19 has caused the future of work to arrive years earlier than expected, a fact that could leave many of America’s workers jobless.

The reason: The nature of work is becoming more digitized—something we saw even before the pandemic—and many in the U.S. labor force aren’t yet equipped to succeed in a job market that demands a new set of skills.

Key numbers:

  • Thirteen million jobs have been added in the country since 2013, but nearly two-thirds require at least a medium proficiency in digital skills, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • And the employees who are most at risk, as evidenced by the pandemic, are workers with less than a college degree, a group that makes up about 70% of the country’s workforce, according Beth Cobert, CEO at Skillful and COO at the Markle Foundation.

The solution: Event participants nearly unanimously agreed that two major things could help the U.S. turn this trend around:

  • Expanding access to critical technologies, such as wifi access or 5G, to places that lack access.
  • Helping Americans develop the digital skills they need – with or without a degree – to land good-paying, fast-growing jobs. This includes teaching individuals basic digital skills, providing pathways to career mobility through digital tools like Google’s free career certificates, and increasing the number of public-private partnerships that help people prepare for the future of work.

What Google is saying:

“We've invested big in the Google IT Support Certificate. There are other Google career certificates coming out that help people move into these high growth, good-paying jobs with less than a college degree. It's not the only solution, but I think it's one thing we're really excited about. It could offer a pathway for similar employers.”

– Andrew Dunckelman, Head of Impact and Insights, Google.org.

The takeaway: When combined, greater access to technology and digital skills can help Americans economically recover from the pandemic and quickly adjust to the changing economy.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Health

Women's health care jobs aren't coming back as fast as men's

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Health care jobs held by women have come back much more slowly than jobs held by men, mirroring trends in the economy overall.

Why it matters: The vast majority of health care workers infected with COVID-19 have been women, and they've borne the brunt of the industry's economic woes, too.

Updated Jan 15, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Affordability and the next administration

On Friday, January 15, Axios' Caitlin Owens hosted a conversation on the future of health care affordability with a new Biden administration, featuring former CMS administrator Dr. Mark McClellan and former Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Dr. Mark McClellan discussed the priorities of the incoming Biden administration and challenges in health care access and affordability exacerbated by the pandemic.

  • On President-elect Biden dealing with the pandemic: "[He] was elected above all else for an effective response to the crisis. And that means the first round of legislation has to focus on more effective vaccination, more effective testing, reopening the economy, and giving people the economic support they need."
  • On people not getting the care they need during the pandemic: "We've seen a lot of health care complications because people did not get help. We don't have a strong public health system in this country...Most people did not get help. If they were at risk for infections, they had to go find a way to get tested on their own."

Rep. Greg Walden unpacked the value of telemedicine and creating an affordable, patient-centered health care system.

  • How technology can bridge existing health gaps: "We've learned the importance and practicality of getting health care closer to the patient. I'm speaking specifically about telemedicine. I think it can be both cost-effective and so much more convenient for the patient...You shouldn't have to rush into a hospital for everything you need."

Axios Vice President Yolanda Taylor Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with the CEO of OptumHealth, UnitedHealth Group, Dr. Wyatt W. Decker, who discussed the pandemic as a moment for the industry to think differently about how they provide accessible care.

  • On the potential for telemedicine: "Let's put the decision-making, good information, and support in the hands of a person and help provide them with digital tools that can give them easy access to health care with excellent outcomes. We [can] do this in a whole variety of ways by providing telehealth solutions."

Thank you UnitedHealth Group for sponsoring this event.

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.