Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should we do something simply because we can? 4: finding a new path forward

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 15, 2014

This is my fourth installment to a series on fundamental change that is starting to take place in the nature of work and of employability, in the face of dramatic and fundamental changes in our capacity to automate and robotize what have traditionally been human-performed jobs (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, supplemental postings at the bottom of that web page, postings 56 and following for Parts 1-3.)

I began this series with a discussion of our rapidly increasing capacity to automate in Part 1: facing an emerging next generation of automation and Part 2: Automation and its discontents 1. I then switched directions to discuss how loss of levels of employability and even of ability to successfully reach any work opportunity at all, in what have been reliable areas of human labor, collide with challenges in remaining a viable candidate for the work that is available due to changing training and experience needs (see Part 3: Automation and its discontents 2.

To round out Part 3’s discussion and more firmly connect it to that of Parts 1 and 2, I note here that at least now and for the foreseeable future robotic and other work automating systems are all specialized systems that can neither design, construct or program, or maintain themselves. So when this type of system is developed with a goal of limiting or eliminating a line of work that has traditionally been carried out by human hands, this simultaneously opens up new avenues for employability and for career path opportunity. But these new jobs need new and I add highly technically oriented training and experience. And as a general rule, this type of automation is only going to be pursued and developed where it can lead to savings in overall operational costs. And as one component of that, this almost always means a reduction in the total number of hands-on employees needed.

To expand upon that last point, new work that is created as a direct result of automation is going to be diffused out across a wider range of hiring business types, and even across a wider range of hiring industries than would hire for more traditional hands-on labor for meeting any given specific, now-automated task performance needs. Certainly the end-user business that brings in an automated work performance solution will expect to see a reduction in its headcount and payroll expenses as a result. And overall, and across the entire build and support cycle for these automated systems, fewer people will be needed for their labor than these systems would replace.

• So when I address the issues of workplace automation, I write of a need for next generation emerging needs-oriented training, and a need to gain workplace experience that can be convincingly presented as being relevant to new types of work, that are increasingly going to be technical in nature.

And this very specifically brings me to the topic of discussion that I said at the end of Part 3, I would be addressing here: possible responses to this rapidly emerging change, and both on the part of individuals as we all seek to find jobs and develop careers, and societally. And I begin this at the individual job seeker and employee level and with that last bullet point. And I begin there by noting that as stated, the options I have just proposed are not going to be workable possibilities for many if not most and certainly if they have to take all of the initiative and bear all of the expenses involved there on their own.

• Advanced and high level technical training requires a more basic and intermediate level of scientific and technical training too, and hands-on experience actually using and refining these new skills. But as I discussed in my series: If It’s Not Broken Don’t Fix It, But It Is Broken, the full direct cost of college or I add technical school training is high, and for most who need their paychecks prohibitively so (see the supplemental listings at the bottom of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 44 and following.)
• And internships and other standard paths for gaining real world hands-on experience, when a prospective new-career job candidate is still gaining the knowledge and background that they would need to be competitive in the job market, do not generally pay more than the lowest possible compensation levels if anything. And working without a livable wage is too costly for most job seekers too.
• So when ability to claim and demonstrate new critically needed skills and experience are essential for gaining and retaining employment in the new job opportunity areas that do open up from automation, but gaining these basic qualifications are prohibitively expensive and challenging for many if not most of those who would need them, how can and should this impasse be resolved, and in ways that would lead to fuller and more stable employment and reduced societal challenge and stress?

I am going to address that question in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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