Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Disappearing Jobs

In 2014, new technologies continue to automate work. But it is no longer manual or semi-skilled workers whose jobs are disappearing but also the brain-power jobs of professionals and specialists.

The knowledge density is astounding. So much incredible capability packed into a device that fits in the palm of your hand.

In many of the villages, towns and cities the visible signs of failure to adapt are everywhere. Many of the mills of the 18th century and the factories of the 19th and 20th are still standing but either empty or used for less valuable purposes such as storage. Many chemical impregnated Brownfields remain untouched as they are more expensive to redevelop than to develop Greenfields sites on the outskirts of towns.

Offices that proliferated in the 70s, 80s and 90s, are starting to empty as people increasingly work from home. Large factories that produced goods for which America was famous are now shuttered, their work performed in far off China and Bangladesh. Big box stores, shopping centers, book and computer stores under threat from on-line retailers who deliver to your door in just two days are joining the queue to oblivion.

We were promised high-end knowledge work jobs, especially those in the STEM fields, for which we were urged to get a degree. But many employers report they are unable to find people with the skills they need, especially in the mid-range technical jobs that support the higher-level jobs. Many of these jobs also require maths, science and people skills that the education system does not seem able to produce in adequate numbers.

Take a look at this list of the Top 10 disappearing jobs in 2012. We are the cause of many of the job losses. We the customer now have the tools to be our own computer operator, typist, word processor, print layout person or typesetter. Advertising and promotions managers getting the chop, as social media and distributed capacity in organizations eats into what was a centralized function. Some of the losses are due to companies shipping jobs to Asia in the textiles, knitwear, clothing and computer chip making sectors. In the depressed US housing and infrastructure sector, many of the jobs are due to a downturn in capital investment. But some of the work of carpenters, brick and stone mason helpers as well as plasterers is also being displaced by factory-produced components rather than raw materials.

Now take a look at the Top 10 new jobs that are emerging. The most significant growth is in energy, especially the oil/gas sector which in the USA is booming thanks to new technological developments that enable fracking. Personal services is also big, with massage, skin care, personal care and coaching figuring prominently. There has been a big uptick in interpreters reflecting the globalization of everything and the music industry is replete (but not necessarily flush) with a generation of self-published Internet music entrepreneurs.

Here's some questions to think about:

1. What are some of the major changes that are occurring in your world?
2. Thinking about children growing up today, what kind of skills will they need to be successful in a world where accelerating change is normal?
3. What changes have occurred in your world? For the BETTER? That are CHALLENGING?
4. What skills do you have that help you deal with accelerating change?
5. What skills would you like to have that would ensure you could adapt more successfully?
6. If you could partner with other people who have complementary skills to you, who would that be, what would you do together and why would you do that?
7. Abraham Lincoln said the best way to predict the future is to create it. If you had a magic wand, what would you do to revitalize the villages and towns in which you and your children will live in tomorrow?