Automation threatens jobs. Can education create new ones?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we continue our special
look at The Future of Work. As automation spreads through the American
economy, experts say its impacts will be uneven. Some key factors include geography and race,
but perhaps the most important determinant, education. John Yang has a report from California. It's part of our weekly education story on
Making the Grade. JOHN YANG: When Aldo Galindo was growing up
in San Bernardino, California, his father's message about college was simple. ALDO GALINDO, College Student: He would always
tell me, to go to school, you better go to school, you have to go to school. It wasn't an option. It was more like, you have to. JOHN YANG: Aldo remembers his dad coming home
exhausted after working 12-hour days as a cook at a local restaurant. JOEL GALINDO, California (through translator):
My children have noticed how hard we have worked. I know they will always have to work. But with a degree and a profession, they live
more comfortably, live a better life than the ones we have had. JOHN YANG: Now 21, Aldo commutes 40 minutes
round-trip every day from his parents' house to California State University-San Bernardino. He's a junior studying computer systems. He wants to develop video games and work with
virtual reality. By going to college, he's breaking barriers,
not only in his own family, but in this region, where nearly half of all adults have no education
beyond high school. ALDO GALINDO: There's a lot of hardships that
come around here. And a lot of students do experience that. I'm the first generation. They taught me to take every opportunity you
have offered to you. So that's what I'm doing, taking every opportunity. JOHN YANG: In the coming years, boosting educational
opportunities could determine whether this region east of Los Angeles thrives or struggles. Known as the Inland Empire, it's home to about
4.5 million people, more than half of them Hispanic. Looming over the terrain of mountains and
desert is the spread of automation, robotic machines performing simple repetitive tasks
now performed by humans. For businesses, it promises to cut costs and
boost productivity. For workers, especially the less educated,
it threatens to take their jobs. JOHANNES MOENIUS, University of Redlands:
What does that all mean for the Inland Empire? JOHN YANG: Johannes Moenius is sounding the
alarm. He teaches business at the University of Redlands,
southeast of San Bernardino, and studies the potential effects of job automation. JOHANNES MOENIUS: It's a very strange situation. We're in the place where we have record low
unemployment. The nation's factories are humming. The logistics sector is booming. But this train can also run at high speed
against a wall. JOHN YANG: The numbers tell the story. Moenius' research found that 63 percent of
the jobs in the Inland Empire could be automated in the future. And Hispanics are 25 percent more likely than
whites to hold those jobs. The research also found that education is
the key factor. Someone with a bachelor's degree runs less
than a 50 percent risk of job automation. But, in this region, only 9 percent of Hispanics
fall into that category. The Inland Empire's economy is dominated by
industries that could be heavily automated in the future: fast-food restaurants, office
and administrative services, and, crucially, distribution centers. It's just over an hour from the ports of Los
Angeles and Long Beach. Railroad tracks and interstate highways crisscross
the terrain. Warehouses dot the landscape. Amazon alone has 13 fulfillment centers in
the region, and just announced plans for a 14th. JOHANNES MOENIUS: I just can't see that San
Bernardino will come out fine in this scenario. We attract more of the industries that are
thriving right now that mostly employ people with lower educational level, so we're worsening
the problem by the hour. PAUL GRANILLO, Inland Empire Economic Partnership:
We live in a different world. JOHN YANG: Paul Granillo, head of the Inland
Empire Economic Partnership, brings together leaders in education, business and government. PAUL GRANILLO: Technology now turns over every
17 months. So if I'm trained on a machine, 17 months
later, you're going to have to retrain me because there's going to be a new machine. That's awfully quick. And our traditional education system has not
been able to create curriculum that fast. My role is to get everybody to come out of
their corner, right, not go into being defensive and not going in to being accusatory, which
is usually the educator saying, well, we have all these programs, and the employer saying,
well, I'm not getting what I want out the education system. JOHN YANG: Granillo is worried about automation's
effect on his region. He's seen it triple the output of some area
fulfillment centers with only double the number of workers. PAUL GRANILLO: I think automation is wonderful,
and I'm a user of automation. But if it's only going to be that some regions
are going to win and others are going to lose, I do believe that then it does become a moral
issue. It becomes an ethical issue. JOHN YANG: He agrees education is the key,
but that doesn't just mean a college degree. One example, the Industrial Technical Learning
Center, or InTech, which provides training and professional development. Housed in the former administrative building
of a San Bernardino steel mill, it's a partnership between Chaffey Community College and California
Steel Industries. There's usually no cost to participants, thanks
to federal, state, and local grants and contracts. Director Sandra Sisco says InTech is designed
by industry for industry, with an eye on the future. SANDRA SISCO, Industrial Technical Learning
Center: Somebody has to repair and maintain the robotic arms and anything that has to
do with automation. Automation involves mechanics. It involves electrical. So if you're in the electrical and mechanical
field, those are the core middle skills that you need to understand the next level. JOHN YANG: Erick Martinez is one of the more
than 1,700 people InTech has trained since opening in 2016. After being laid off three times in five years
from office and warehouse jobs, he wanted a career change. He earned multiple certifications through
InTech and works at California Steel. ERICK MARTINEZ, InTech Trainer: If I can't
use you know my manual skills because a robot or an algorithm is going to take my job, there
is there is that uncertainty of, what am I going to do? But then you get exposed to, hey, we can train
you to troubleshoot a lot of these changes that are happening, a lot of things that are
replacing your job. Then you can be one step ahead of that. JOHN YANG: Back at Cal State, Aldo Galindo
is trying to do his part to push more people, especially Hispanics, into higher education. He works with education Professor Enrique
Murillo on a program called Latino Education and Advocacy Days. It reaches out to parents and hosts college
fairs to encourage Latinos to pursue their education. ENRIQUE MURILLO, California State University-San
Bernardino: We can't just do what they call curbside service, right? A lot of parents, they just come, drop off
their kid and say, OK, there you go, take my child. It doesn't work like that. The competitive nature of the economy in the
United States is going to depend heavily, as it is here in the Inland Empire, on the
educational outcomes of Latinos. JOHN YANG: And first-generation college students
like Aldo Galindo may be key to those outcomes. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang in San
Bernardino, California.

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