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FUTURE OF WORK

Wednesdays Sept. 1 - 15, 2021 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursdays, Sept. 2 - 16 at 8 p.m. & Sundays, Sept. 5 -19 on KPBS 2/ On Demand

A working robot pulls a cart while walking in a facility.

Credit: Courtesy of Pond5

Above: A working robot pulls a cart while walking in a facility.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new PBS series explores the accelerated pace of change in the workplace and the potential for long-term impact on workers, employers, educators and communities across our country.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, a team of award-winning filmmakers at public media powerhouse GBH had begun exploring the experiences of American workers across industries, generations, geographies and pay levels, resulting in the multi-platform series, FUTURE OF WORK.

The Shifting Landscape of Work

Scientist and Entrepreneur Vivienne Ming explores the question, what is the future of work that people are hoping for? As Global Workforce Strategist Ravin Jesuthasan explains, The landscape of work has shifted from ‘I learn, I do, I retire,’ to ‘I learn, I do, I learn, I do,’ ad infinitum. There are no guarantees anymore. So, what does it take to stay relevant in this world of work?

Filmmaker Quote

“FUTURE OF WORK raises critical questions and explores compelling diverse individual experiences,” says GBH Executive Producer and series creator Denise DiIanni. “We provide expert perspectives to help us understand what the future holds for the U.S. workforce and why that matters in today’s world.”

Is the right to work a human right? Is the future of work about entrenched haves and have-nots? What are the merits of college vs. training programs in preparing for the jobs of tomorrow? How do we protect and preserve employment opportunities that sustain families, communities, and the nation — fundamental aspects of the American Dream?

FUTURE OF WORK explores these and other questions with profiles of millennial, single-parent and other workers, in addition to leading economic, employment, training and technology experts.

Digital Nomads: The Changing World of Work

Before the pandemic, close to 8 million Americans were already using technology to work remotely. Many are entrepreneurial millennials piecing together freelance gigs anywhere in the world, as long as there’s wifi. These digital nomads, like Erick Prince and Mike Holp, enjoy having the freedom to set their own hours and locations, and are leading the conversation about the changing world of work.

The series travels to locations across the U.S., from New York City to Kentucky, to Stockton, California and Fargo, North Dakota with many more stops along the way.

In the first episode, we meet Chris Francis. After losing his job of 30 years in finance and accounting, Francis has become a seasonal worker. Like Fern in this year’s Academy Award®-winning "Nomadland," he travels to where he can find work, including at an Amazon return center, navigating a new “vanner” lifestyle.

In another episode, we see the impact of advanced technologies on several industries, including health care, as Michael Jobst uses a robotic arm to conduct surgeries. From the operating room to the farm, Sara Lovitz, a fourth-generation farmer, uses an automated tractor to optimize her family’s output, exclaiming “No hands!” as she shows us how the tractor drives itself.

Farming and the Technological Revolution

Technology has completely changed the way that farmers do things today, from the seeds that they plant to the way they drive their equipment. Sarah Lovas’s family has been farming in North Dakota for four generations. Today a farm labor shortage has forced farmers like Sarah to embrace the latest technologies, and agriculture is being digitized.

EPISODE GUIDE:

Episode 1: “The New Industrial Revolution”: Wed. Sept 1 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thurs. Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. & Sun. Sept. 5 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

Illuminates disruptions to the world of work – AI, robotics, globalization, labor practices. The pandemic is a new driver of change, with unemployment flipping from lowest in 50 years to highest in a century.

Robotics in Medicine

15 years ago, Bryant Hospital in Lincoln, NE was one of several hospitals pioneering the use of ‘surgical cobots’. Now they are an accepted part of surgical practices across America. In this video, for example, Dr. Michael Jobst brings new levels of precision, control, and safety to his surgical procedures, by using multi-arm robotic surgery. But does this current generation of robots cost jobs?

Episode 2: “Futureproof”: Wed., Sept. 8 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thurs. Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. & Sun. Sept. 12 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

How can we predict job growth, training needs and the role of education to prepare for the work of the future? What are the challenges and consequences of the pandemic and America's racial and economic disparities?

A Job With a Future

Juan Lopez moved from the military to the oil and gas industry before becoming a wind turbine technician. His path, though not an easy one, is an example of an exciting way to navigate successfully across industries. As this clip shows, working with wind turbines, can be dangerous, but it’s an industry with a future, and Juan knows, if he can keep from getting hurt, he should always have a job.

Episode 3: “Changing Work, Changing Workers”: Wed. Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thurs. Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. & Sun. Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

Do businesses need offices? Is a 9-5 workday valid? Does the nation need a drastic rethinking of the social safety nets? Does America face a "post-work" era, or increased inequities in how we make our livings?

The Gig Economy

Today more than 55 million Americans work in the gig economy, which operates through digital platforms like Uber, Lyft and Task Rabbit. Fueled by technological advancements, the gig economy allows workers like Chloe Grishaw to set her own schedule, and know what she’s agreeing to, without any long-term obligations. The freedom and flexibility, however, comes with financial insecurity.

Future of Work Digital Stories

FUTURE OF WORK kicks off with the launch of a six-part digital series – the first episode was released on July 7. The digital series will examine how the current crisis is impacting long-term employment trends for entry-level and early career workers. Through intimate portraits of six Americans making their way in an ever-changing landscape, each episode focuses on one of the key themes from FUTURE OF WORK — the gig economy, the rise of the precariat, the digital nomad, working to live, the community worker, and new opportunities — and through generations in a family, illustrating its past and present. The digital series is distributed through PBS Digital Studios’ PBS Voices YouTube Channel.

Join The Conversation:

“What is the future of work that you’re hoping for?” We'd love to hear how your field has been affected by the changing landscape of work, and what you're doing to stay relevant? Do you have a path to security, and how does your future of work differ from the here and now?

We encourage you to answer through textual commentary, a still image, a short-form video on social media — however you feel most comfortable and on whatever platform you are most comfortable — using the hashtag #FutureOfWorkPBS

Credits:

Produced by GBH Boston, Shining Red Productions, Blue Spark Collaborative and Curious Child Films. Series Creator and Senior Executive in Charge: Denise DiIanni, Co-Executive Producer: Laurie Donnelly. Directors and Writers: Episode 1; Graham Townsley, Episode 2; Llewellyn “Llew” Smith, Episode 3; Laurens Grant. Episode 2 Producer: Kelly Thomson.

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