Published on Voices

New World Bank online course tackles the future of work, preparing for disruption

Un robot contrôlé par un chirurgien lors d'une intervention de chirurgie mini-invasive. Photo?: © Master Video/Shutterstock Un robot contrôlé par un chirurgien lors d'une intervention de chirurgie mini-invasive. Photo : © Master Video/Shutterstock

The ever-increasing pace of the development of artificial intelligence is having a profound impact on the workforce. Jobs that have been performed by humans for decades or centuries are becoming obsolete when robots enter the jobsite.  At the same time, new jobs become available that previous generations could not even fathom. Failure to prepare for these changes can have catastrophic impacts on economies.

Based on the 2019 World Development Report, the World Bank’s new course on the Future of Work will explore the various changes that result from advances in technology, what this means for the current and future workforce, and how we need to prepare for these changes.

The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption

Only MOOC to explore the 2019 World Development Report (WDR) and workforce of the future. Learn how A.I., automation, advanced technologies and new businesses are changing the world. ENROLL NOW

Technological changes affecting us all

WDR2019 Cover

With automation, machine-learning and artificial intelligence continuing to develop at high rates, virtually no job is the same today as it was 50 years ago.  In the classroom, books and blackboards have been replaced by tablets and smartboards. On the assembly line, robots have taken over the job of tightening the screws that Charlie Chaplin made famous in his 1936 move ‘Modern Times’. And with the further testing and development of self-driving cars, the iconic yellow cabs in New York and black cabs in London may not need a driver much longer.

At first glance, one may believe these to be developments that threaten the job security of millions of people around the world. At the same time, however, these developments allow for greater economies of scale, allow specific skills to be better utilized, or improve the safety of workers. The use of individual tablets allows a teacher to better pinpoint the challenges a student faces and support him with this, while robots on the assembly line help avoid accidents that threaten life and limb of workers.

Workers of the future will need new sets of skills to compete.  Recent advances in technology are changing how we live, communicate and do business, disrupting traditional industries and redefining the employee/employer relationship. Thousands of routine and low-skill jobs will be eliminated by automation, A.I. and digital hyper-connectivity.

This course emphasizes the urgent need to invest in developing human capital to adapt to these imminent challenges that will have effects for decades to come.  Key themes of the course include the impacts on work of artificial intelligence, the gig economy, new technologies, digital economy, jobs of the future, machine learning, the role of policy makers, the labor market, and the labor force.

Preparing for the Future of Work

First, the course focuses on understanding the factors at play in the changing nature of work. It introduces participants to new technologies that are transforming day-to-day life, new types of automation, and new types of businesses, including firms that operate through digital platforms that enable them to scale rapidly without vertically integrating.

Second, participants are introduced to the World Bank’s new human capital index, highlighting the links between investments in health and education and the productivity of future workers. Making the most of this evolving economic opportunity will depend on prioritizing the development of individual capacity and building skills for tomorrow’s labor market.

Third, it is important to recognize the importance of early education and the defining impact it has. Despite historically low poverty rates and growing life expectancies, the dangers that remain, especially to children under 5, pose a significant risk to development. Poor health care and nutrition at this critical stage of child development, especially during the “first 1000 days” from conception, lead to decreased cognitive function that last into adulthood.

Fourth, skills development does not end in school. Innovative pedagogy, technology platforms and linkages between industry and schools are enabling developing countries to train huge numbers of workers, including older ones, in new capabilities.

Fifth, the course focuses on the new social contracts required to provide for larger investments in human capital and more universal social protection programs. It explores several new ways of protecting people, including a societal minimum that provides support independent of employment; expanding overall coverage that prioritizes the neediest people in society; and placing community health workers on the government’s payroll.

What you will gain

By signing up for this free online course, you:

  • Learn from leaders of international organizations and expert practitioners.

  • Collaborate with thousands of development and policy experts globally.

  • Build your global development professional network.

  • Earn a World Bank Group – edX certificate.

Who this course is for

  • Government officials seeking to learn how to best prepare their countries and invest in human capital to be ready for profound shifts in the nature of work

  • Businesses understanding the need for investments in their employees to prepare for changing demands

  • Students preparing themselves for entry into the workforce of tomorrow

The Future of Massive Engagement on Development Learning

Since its inception, the World Bank Group’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) has sought to become one of the world’s leading references in:

  • International development education to increase development effectiveness and mobilize finance and knowledge for development.

  • Raising awareness of global, regional, national and local development challenges and approaches and programs underway by the World Bank Group and its partners to tackle these.

  • Creating online knowledge exchange, learning and mobilization platforms that bring together and bridge global-national-local public and private actors to catalyze finance, investment and know-how in support of the World Bank Group’s Twin Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this context, this MOOC serves as an exemplar of the power and potential of online engagement. We look forward to deepening and extending our engagement globally and locally through such programs in the future.


Sheila Jagannathan

Head of the Open Learning Campus at the World Bank

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