Today I think, Trump might have a chance to help those old bald white guy after all. Perhaps there is light at the end of the Blue Collar tunnel.
The good news is that you, (or most of you) “Baby Boom Generation” are retiring. The reason why that is “good” is because Baby Boomers (51-69) make up 20% of the workforce. That means there are more jobs for Generation X (35-50) and those Millennials.(18-34). As for the rest of us, the Silent Generation…well, we are increasingly that.
The bad news is the declining manufacturing jobs. They have declined, according to the Labor Department, something like 35% since 1980.
Also, I read recently In a New York Times article that thirty years ago the US had had one of the highest employment rates for women. Today that rate has been outpaced by European and other countries. In 1999, 74 percent of American women between the ages of 25-54 worked; by 2014 that figure had dropped to about 69 percent. (They are still doing better than the old bald white guys.)
In an article in the New York Times, entitled “The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation,” Claire Cain Miller wrote on December 21, 2016: “Labor economists say there are ways to ease the transition for workers whose jobs have been displaced by robots. They include retraining programs, stronger unions, more public-sector jobs, a higher minimum wage, a bigger earned-income tax credit and, for the next generation of workers, more college degrees. The White House on Tuesday released a report on automation and the economy that called for better education from early childhood through adult job transitions and for updating the social safety net with tools like wage insurance. Few are policies that Mr. Trump has said he will pursue.”
Claire Cain Miller goes on to say, “The changes are not just affecting manual labor: Computers are rapidly learning to do some white-collar and service-sector work, too. Existing technology could automate 45 percent of activities people are paid to do, according to a July report by McKinsey. Work that requires creativity, management of people or caregiving is least at risk.”
Our long ago days when we could walk into an office as an RPCV and find some kind of employment are gone. Today, according to Cally Graves, senior industry liaison for the Gulf Coast Workforce Board in Houston. “You need to have training or an education.
Today, in the “world of work” blue collar jobs are gone. Now those jobs are called “New Collar.”
I read recently in USA Today that by 2017 an estimated 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs (i.e. “New Collar” jobs) are expected to be added to the workforce, which would account for a nearly 40% job growth.
That’s good news.
What’s happening? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s actually been a job resurgence in recent years as American companies have found that moving jobs offshore is not a good approach for production that requires highly skilled labor.
Now, getting skilled Americans to do the job is the problem.
Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Economic Modeling Specialists Intl explains, “They’re coming back, but they are coming back different. More technician jobs, which pay more. There may be fewer jobs, but they are better jobs.”
That means training. Nearly 80% of the New Collar jobs require training, typically less than a year. Some companies provide it, but most require workers to find their own classes.
At E.J. Ajax, a precision manufacturing company near Minneapolis, for example, says training eats up 5% of the company’s payroll and that is just to ensure a “pipeline of workers” available to move up as employees retire.
“The global competition doesn’t keep me up at night,” says Erick Ajax, co-owner and grandson of the founder. “I know we can go toe-to-toe with any company in the world. But having people that have the right skill set … that wakes me up at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Technology advances have always been with us and created backlashes. The Luddites in England, for example. The Industrial Revolution introduced machines that made huge profits for the factory owners. Skilled hand loom weavers, for example, lost jobs as steam-powered looms were used as a replacement.
This week I was reading Ted Genoways in New Republic about his hometown Hayes Center, Nebraska. Back in 1862 the Homestead Act brought more than a million people to Nebraska, but today, one in five homes in his town is vacant. The population has plunged 21 percent since 1990. No jobs. Technology, which promised to save small towns, only contributed to their demise. Combines, tractors, and trucks meant fewer men were needed to plant and harvest; hybrid crops, herbicides, and pesticides meant fewer hands were needed to tend rows in the summers.
Remember what the poet e.e.cummings wrote: “Progress is a comfortable disease.”
The key—then and now–is education to stay ahead of the advances in technology. Our undergraduate college curriculum has to be reinvented for the 21st century. I speak with some experience of having been working as a teacher and administrator at state and private colleges at one time or another.
Here’s an interesting idea that I’m sure is already being offered in some progressive high schools. There is an organization, the nonprofit Code.org, that sponsors and Hour of Code on college campuses, as well as off campus. Every Apple Store, for example, in the world has hosted an Hour of Code. Obama wrote his first line of code as part of the campaign. The hour includes accessible games designed to introduce various levels of computational reasoning and coding. This coding is a global movement aimed at having students learn this critical technology skills.
The Office of the Third Goal in the Peace Corps, I suggest, should join forces with the NPCA and establish a Readjustment Corps to help RPCV hone their technical skills. Begin by contacting Hour of Code and bring the new RPCVs “up” to code with a quick and complimentary training sessions across the US.
Do something Third Goal for RPCVs besides running photo contests. It would cost some money, but not a lot, and it would be a way of investing in RPCVs who have just spent two years working on behalf of all of us in the development world.
I’ll even suggest someone to run the program. That’s Don Beil (Somalia 1964-66) a retired college professor and administrator and author of 13 books on computing, everything from Using the Horizon Spreadsheet: With the UNIZ Operating System to Wingz Across the Curriculum.
He knows a thing or two about academic life and technology. Get him out of retirement and put him to work!