Never the same again

Our economy is at a turning point – and things are never going to be the same again.

The past several decades have been a time of plenty. Thanks to the post-WWII Baby Boom, we had a large population of well-trained workers. Innovation and resources were plentiful. Everything was so good, in fact, that we built our entire supply chain around the idea that everything was in such plentiful supply, we would never have to worry whether things were available: The Just-In-Time model allowed businesses to practically eliminate inventory costs, secure in the idea that we could have parts just show up minutes before they were needed.

We are now entering a time of scarcity.

We’re facing a critical labor shortage, with more opportunities than there are applicants. Our Just-In-Time supply chain model has effectively broken, with manufacturers suddenly finding themselves waiting months for essential components. And it’s not just a question of raw materials: Not only are truckers in short supply, but as equipment and vehicles inevitably break down, businesses are finding that it can take months to find the parts to repair them, essentially taking that productive capacity offline.

We cannot overstate the significance of the change we’re seeing. Our entire economy is built around the idea of plenty, and we’re facing a future where workers and materials can no longer be taken for granted. Businesses, supply chains, production models, and worker hiring and retention will all undergo fundamental changes.

For those involved in the preparation of future professionals, it’s important now more than ever to stay on top of industry news and stay in close contact with your employer partners. Many of us pride ourselves on program relevance: If you want to remain truly relevant for your students and communities, now is the time to truly dive in to your industries and occupational areas and find out how things are changing and what the future might bring. Your students will potentially be able to write their own tickets as they enter professional life; it’s our job to understand what that professional life will look like and prepare them accordingly.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.