Helping Displaced Workers Find New Pathways in the Future of Work

Older students in classroom

Globalization and automation pose a potential threat to the job security of a significant portion of the American workforce by decreasing the demand for labor in specific occupations and industries. When these changes in demand are persistent, some workers may become displaced from their jobs and struggle to find new employment.

Displaced workers are those who had been in the workforce for three or more years and lost their jobs because of industry declines and automation. They have defined skill sets and work experience but often must transition to new careers outside of their current field.

The current workforce development ecosystem is not necessarily built to serve displaced workers well. Most traditional education and training programs focus on building occupational skills from the ground up, assuming little relevant background or technical knowledge. They are less efficient for workers with significant job experience, transferrable skills, and potentially more modest skill gaps to fill. Few are geared toward helping individuals quickly become reemployed, as many take months or years to complete—a significant barrier to participation for displaced workers with pre-existing financial responsibilities. Moreover, the research evidence on programs specifically designed to help displaced workers, such as the Workforce Innovation and Investment Act and the Trade Adjustment Act, suggests that they yield limited benefits for the lucky few who access these services.

Equity issues also exist with work displacement as Black workers tend to be disproportionately affected. They are often among the first to be dismissed and spend a significantly longer period of time unemployed than white, Asian, and Latino workers.

Displaced Workers Landscape Review

PROMISE Center researchers conducted a landscape analysis to assess the knowledge base on strategies to support displaced worker needs, identify promising strategies that may attend to their specific needs, and consider potential programs for partnership in support this population.


The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health. The AIR Equity Initiative is committed to investing in the generation and use of high-quality evidence that address the harmful effects of segregation by race and place.