Monday, December 23, 2013

Help Wanted


This is a guest post by The Urban Blabbermouth. Comments are welcome!
The interns in my office are studying for very traditional degrees in very traditional subjects: management, accounting, finance, human resource, and law.  I wonder if this is wise.  The job market has changed and will change much more and much faster.  Jobs that paid well in the past and assured a good lifestyle are diminishing.  The task before the interns is to predict what skills will be valuable for the next ten years and to get that skill.

Many professions have diminished prospects. We just do not need so many of them any more in the USA.  Take accounting.  This was one of the professions trashed by technology starting some thirty years ago.  At one time, we needed lots of accountants. Now with the push of a button on a computer somewhere, we can get all types of financial statements plus sophisticated account analysis in minutes.  All this reduced the need for accountants.  Well, the same is happening in finance and  law.  In other cases, like computer programmers, the jobs still exist but they were shipped to India. It is indeed an amazing feat that a computer person in India can log on to your computer that sits on your desk and repair it remotely. Medicine faces this technology too.  Robotic surgery is increasing. Imagine that a doctor in India will be operating on you.  Lastly, we have too many applicants for many jobs.  Law schools probably turn out more lawyers than there are jobs for them.

So what jobs appear to be safe?  Well personal service jobs look safe:  hair dressers, home health aides, bus driver, and, of course, fast food server.  We have not yet figured out how to replace these jobs with technology or how to export them to India.  One issue is that too many people will be applying for them including those with college degrees who cannot get a job in their field.  The main problem, however, is that these are traditionally low paying jobs.

There is a movement to increase pay in these low wage jobs but as pay goes up, pressure will be exerted on management to figure some way to either push the pay back down or reduce human involvement to keep cost down.  Imagine this: your fast food order is taken and paid for at a touch screen, sent to a computer that cooks and assembles your food, and delivers your order to you in a manner similar to the way an ATM dispenses cash.  For you Oldies out there, it is the famous Horn & Hardart Automat (Newbies, Google if you do not know what that is) but with a lot less people.

Maybe the interns are gambling.  In any field, there will always be successful individuals.  They will do well while their peers fall back and are left behind.  Who are the successful ones? No one knows, hence the gamble.  Many interns think that it will be them. Success is dependent on many factors -  your talent, what school you attended, but, in my opinion, mainly lots of good luck.   Right place, right time, kind of thing.

I hope that when the realization hits the interns that they are not among the successful, there will still be a place for them. Many of them will end in areas far from  the field in which they earned their degrees.  I suspect and hope that it will be in new areas yet to be imagined.  Consider that thirty years ago, as accounting was being trashed, new and well paying jobs opened up for computer programmers and web designers.  Hopefully, many of those displaced accountants ended up in those new jobs.


The Urban Blabbermouth said...

Briggo Coffee Company now makes a robotic Barista. What will Starbucks do?

Vol-E said...

They'll laugh when the robot freaks out and pours coffee all over the floor.