School children programming a robot
Photo courtesy The San Marcos Promise

When you were a child, what did you want to be? Whatever it was, it’s probably still a viable career. But that’s not necessarily true for children today.

Robots could replace nearly a third of the nation’s workforce by 2030, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute. And the World Economic Forum predicts 65 percent of elementary students will end up in careers that don’t even exist yet.

As North County’s education hub, San Marcos plays a major role in supplying the region with a workforce that’s ready to adapt to these changing tides.

San Marcos serves the most higher education students all of northern San Diego County, making this community a crucial talent pipeline. And that workforce will be ready for the future thanks to our educational leaders.

Case in point: The San Marcos Promise, which provides scholarships and resources to students in the San Marcos Unified School District, is sharpening its focus on 21st-century work skills.

“Tomorrow’s workforce will need higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration,” explains Lisa Stout, TSMP programs coordinator. That jives with McKinsey research that predicts demand for those skills will grow 19 percent through 2030.

“The path to modern success won’t look the same for everyone, nor should it,” Stout adds. “Many future professions won’t call for a traditional four-year degree.”

Palomar College tracks job trends, and as a result, has added future-focused programs in drone technology and cybersecurity.

“Advanced manufacturing is another big opportunity on the horizon, but these aren’t the factory jobs of the past,” says Nichol Roe, Palomar College’s associate dean of workforce development and extended studies. “They are highly technical, and involve 3D printing, automation and software solutions.”

“As technology advances, learning new skills on the job will be imperative,” adds Jill Litschewski, director of the office of internships and service learning at California State University San Marcos. “However, it will be equally important for students to also improvise solutions.”

CSUSM’s senior experience program lets students do that by collaborating with business owners to tackle real-world projects. Often the work has a 21st-century focus. For example, some students recently helped test drone technology that could change how we fight wildfires.

Programs like this underscore how much we need our businesses to be a part of workforce development. Our city is committed to supporting these efforts because when we all invest in workforce development, it benefits our community’s overall economic health.

Tess Sangster is economic development manager for the City of San Marcos.