Recap: The Changing Picture of Jobs

Forum: March 23, 2017

Topic: The Changing Picture of Jobs

— Our meeting generated lively discussion – how are jobs changing, how are our jobs changing, what conditions will a new generation of workers face in specific job categories?  Following the meeting, a couple of relevant articles appeared, which I include here for the record.  And this discussion will certainly inform our next meeting, focusing on people – people who will need and want meaningful work in the future.

Rich Bowers

Chasing the future of the employment opportunity has long been a social and political priority. Since World War II, it has been a foregone conclusion that the way to a good job and a life of success was a good education.  The definition of “a good education,” though has been changing: a good education in a profession that is in demand, then a good education that focused on STEM fields, then an education that focused on creative or so-called “soft” skills like project management, or communications.  In spite of that wisdom, stories abounded of people with levels of education in highly specific specialties that were unable to find employment in those fields . Meanwhile. middle-management and lower skill-level jobs were shedding workers at high rates, and re-training, and skills updating became priorities.  Billions of dollars in students loans, millions of displaced and under-employed workers – all chasing a job.  And like a wisp of wind – just when about to grasp it – the job would vanish.  Not just be withdrawn or reduced in number needed – but in many, many cases – the job itself simply performed tasks that were no longer needed to be done.

Perhaps it is in our definition of “job.”    The “gig” economy, the advent of Uber, the “auction” mentality that has sprung up in so many creative professions – along with the impact of animation, fluid centers of manufacturing and declining costs of transportation of goods and – most significantly – the underlying foundation of virtually free communications technology – has resulted in a new trajectory for employment and the meaning of “earning a living.”

This changing picture of jobs – and all the dimensions and dynamics that have created our current situation is the topic of our discussion this month.

Some suggested reading resources:

One final point – building on our discussion of blockchain last month – and the impact this technology might have when kinks are worked out – consider this quote: “The spread of blockchains is bad for anyone in the ‘trust business’ – the centralised institutions and bureaucracies, such as banks, clearing houses and government authorities that are deemed sufficiently trustworthy to handle transactions,” The Economist argued back in 2015.”