Oates, who is currently CEO of Los Angeles-based nonprofit WorkingNation and has served as both executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education under former Gov. John Corzine and as assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor under President Barack Obama, was speaking at the fifth annual Women Designing the Future Conference on Friday at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
“Let’s be clear,” she said to the room of around 200, filled with students, faculty and technology professionals. “Whatever job you are in now or whatever job you are aspiring to is going to be changed by technology.”
And Oates said there is no exception. You can be a custodian or working in a restaurant, she said, because everyone’s job is being turned on its head by technology.
“Our country has been through transformation before in the world of work,” she said. “We went from an agricultural society to a manufacturing society, and we did that over 140 years. But this technological change that’s coming is happening by the minute. You go home on Friday for the weekend to come back Monday needing to learn a new software package.”
But this reality doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. Oates said technology has made certain sectors safer, particularly manufacturing, where the operation of heavy machinery has become much less dangerous, with fewer accidents in the workplace, because of it.