How Education Can Keep You Ahead of the Robotics Revolution

It’s official:  AI has beaten us in chess, in go, and now … robots are better fry cooks than we are.  

Or at least they’re cheaper.

That’s one of the first takeaways from a Los Angeles Times article on the ways new developments in robotics are impacting the workplace.  

Many companies that have tried creating robots to replace human workers have failed miserably.   Zume, which tried to automate pizza kitchens, has laid off half its employees and is changing directions;  Creator, a company that built robot powered burger restaurants, has only managed to open one restaurant, and is struggling for funding.  

But companies like Miso Robotics are inching closer to limited success. Miso Robotics is finding customers for “flippy,” a robot that can cook french fries for the low price of $3 an hour.  

Put it all together and it means that even if human beings are never entirely chased out of commercial and industrial kitchens, the number of jobs available for them there is dropping, and will continue to fall in the future.

This is true for a lot of the jobs, from factories and warehouses to trucking, that have been traditionally filled by people without college degrees.  Automation hasn’t taken them over the way many boosters predicted, but it is slowly eating away at the number of jobs that people are needed for in these areas.

But this doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs out there - well paying, upwardly mobile jobs - that are looking for people.  Employers across the country, even in the high tech industry in California, are looking to hire. They don’t need their new employees to have a college degree, but they do need them to have the right skills, and be up to date.

Getting those skills to people whose lives (or budgets) can’t accommodate a few years of college right now, and connecting them with the right employers, is crucial to support both job seekers and the companies that need them  

Calbright College has been designed to be that bridge between “stranded workers” and full participation in the new economy.  The state of California created us to eliminate as many barriers as possible to job specific education for people who feel stuck in their careers:  our programs are free, online, can be taken at the learner’s own pace, on their own schedule, and can be completed in under a year.

After eliminating these barriers, we also surround out learners with support to try to help them get across the finish line and achieve their goals:  they have people looking after their academic progress, and have personal services at their fingertips ranging from life coaching to success coaching to financial and career counseling.  Once again, it’s all free.

Perhaps most importantly, our mission isn’t to capitalize on these advantages ourselves, but to prototype and test them, and then offer up what we’ve learned to the entire California Community College system.  That would make our own anticipated tens of thousands of learners, even hundreds of thousands, a force multiplier for what the community college system can do using the parts of our model that works for them.

It’s a grand experiment, and it’s time to try it.  After all: the robots are coming.

Learn more about Calbright’s model.