THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- OCTOBER 21, 2017
“Jobs, jobs, jobs!” Every politician at every level of government trots this out during every election. It's an easy phrase to say and pretty safe because not many voters are against job creation. While it's easy to say, however, it may not as easy as it sounds. Truth be told, the jobs landscape is moving so fast that anyone who thinks he/she has a magic, long-term, job creation formula is in for a rude awakening.
The World Economic Forum has labeled this the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” According to the Forum, by 2030 we may not even remember what the world of work was like back in “the good old days.” Think about this. Children entering kindergarten this year will be just graduating from high school. Seniors graduating this year will only be thirty years old. Is that fast enough for you?
“An expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells..all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47 percent within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. Not only is the entire concept of employment about to change in a dramatic fashion, the trend is irreversible.” (http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)
“Martin Ford, futurist and author of 'Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,' explains the jobs that are most at risk are those which are on some level routine, repetitive and predictable”. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health)
Several studies are available that deal with trying to identify those jobs or occupations which will disappear or be drastically scaled back by 2030 (sources listed below). These include: drivers, dispatchers, farmers, jewelers, printers and publishers, cashiers, delivery, travel agents, manufacturing, librarians, receptionists, insurance underwriters, bank tellers, and inventory managers.
Basically, no job is totally safe. For example, postal workers aren't safe because “as the mail system’s facilities become more automated and technologically capable, fewer people are going to be needed to run them.” Sports referees aren't safe because “people make mistakes, so why not put a robot in charge?” Even I am not safe because the Associated Press is experimenting with producing reports using artificial intelligence. “It’s entirely feasible that content sites of the future could exist without any human writers at all.”
So, with all this in mind, how are workers going to survive in this futuristic scenario? The World Economic Forum concludes: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the workplace fast, and we will need to adapt our skills to be ready for it.
Everywhere we look, skillsets will need to be radically altered to keep pace with the changes taking place in the world of work. If businesses are to keep up with the disruption brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they will need to help their staff learn new skills. The businesses that thrive will be those that put talent development at the centre of their operation.” (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/5-million-jobs-to-be-lost-by-2020/)
The top ten skills cited by the forum as essential for workers by as soon as 2020 are: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility. Ever hear a politician mention these?
“Faith Popcorn, a futurist, echoes the idea that we will all have to become as agile as possible and have many forms of talent and work that you can provide the economy.” She adds: “We’re in the midst of this huge sweeping change that is going to impact all levels of society.” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health)
So with these changes in the jobs outlook moving at such a breakneck pace, how do we assure our children that they will be ready for this? Plus, as these changes take place, how can we position our businesses for success and growth? Specifically, is there anything a region or locality can do now to ensure its future viability?
Many experts agree that education is the key. “The benefits of a better education are most often discussed in terms of personal gain: higher wages, greater economic mobility, and generally, a better life. But not all the benefits are private: Local economies flourish when there are more skilled and productive workers.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/12/fixing-public-schools-for-a-better-economy/419526/)
The George W. Bush Presidential Center agrees with this: “The good news is research shows improvement in a K-12 education can have a dramatic effect in boosting the economy. Yet further improvements could add even more to growth and good jobs. And taking constructive action could strengthen the well being of communities and their children in other important ways.” The Center cites a paper which states: “Educational achievement strongly predicts economic growth.” (http://www.bushcenter.org/publications/articles/2016/10/kress-21st-century-worker-education.html)
Another study by the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University in Maryland documented: “Taxpayer investments in public education had a strong positive correlation with the lifetime earning potential of public school students. It also demonstrated that higher property values, greater productivity in local businesses, and greater business, economic, workforce and community development were all associated with quality K-12 education.” (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/lassa/PressReleases/Pages/Strong-Schools-Help-Strengthen-Communities,-Economy.aspx)
A report by the State of Pennsylvania, observed: “A good education provides substantial benefits to individuals and, as individual benefits are aggregated throughout a community, creates broad social and economic benefits.” (http://www.elc-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BestInvestment_Full_Report_6.27.11.pdf)
The message is pretty clear. The jobs picture will dramatically change very rapidly within the next ten to twenty years. Those states, regions and communities that invest in quality K-12 education will be the economic leaders. Those who do not will just have to gamble that there's a magic formula that will come to their rescue.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.