Mike Petters, Huntington Ingalls Industries CEO with workers.

CNBC

The world of work is changing — faster than we ever could have predicted. Most Americans are still woefully unprepared for the rapidly-accelerating changes already underway, let alone the work environment being ushered in by artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, bots, and other transformative and disruptive technologies.

While the headline jobs numbers seem to indicate a strong workforce and low unemployment, the 3.7 percent unemployment rate doesn’t take into account underemployment — people in lower-paying jobs because they don’t have the skills needed to get a better job. Additionally, we know that 7.3 million jobs are currently open, and many employers are saying they can’t find skilled workers, particularly lower- and middle-skill workers.

For example, there is a high level of mismatch in the health-care industry between the type of skills held by job seekers and those wanted by those needing to hire workers, according to Indeed Hiring Lab. Unfilled jobs in the tech sector are expected to rise to over one million by 2020, yet joblessness among underserved populations is increasing, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Generations of systemic barriers to economic opportunity and social mobility have made it exceedingly difficult for people in lower-income and underserved communities to earn college degrees, certificates, industry certifications, or other quality credentials needed to compete for these new jobs.

Multi-tiered collaboration can lead to opportunities to level the academic and economic playing field for disenfranchised communities, arming them with the skills needed to attain economic security and enables them to live a dignified life. There are several states already making connections with local business leaders to tackle this crucial issue, many through exposure to paid, career pathway learning opportunities.