Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should we do something simply because we can? 5: finding societal support in meeting societal needs 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 25, 2014

This is my fifth 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 1-4.)

I began a discussion of how automation is creating new job and career paths even as it closes out older and more traditional ones in Part 3 and Part 4, and two of the points of challenge that I raised in those installments were that:

• The overall number of new job openings created from this will consistently remain lower than the number of job openings lost from automation, and
• These new job and career opportunities will require new forms of training and workplace experience, for job seekers to be competitive in seeking them out.

This means the competition for securing a new job will just get more intense. And with the costs of gaining necessary training and hands-on experience needed to be competitive in the emerging job market becoming so high, many potential new employees will simply be left out. That, at least, is the bleak point at which I ended Part 4, there developing my line of argument strictly in terms of potential employees having to gain and retain competitive employability skills and experience strictly on their own and at their own personal expense. Then I ended Part 4 by citing without explanation the possibility of a more societal response, and my goal here for this posting is to address that complex of issues.

I am going to discuss this developing impasse in terms of the jobs market situation as found in the United States, not because that country offers any special answers, but rather because political divisions there so amply highlight the challenges faced. And I begin that by noting that much of the debate and much of the heat generated on this in the United States, if not light shed, has been focused on the wrong issues.

• The numbers of would-be members of the American workforce who remain unemployed long-term, remains high and even as the overall economy has recovered, and certainly for overall productivity and profitability and across multiple and even most all industries.
• But the fiercest debate has not even noted the issues of training and retraining, and of helping the long-term unemployed to become more competitive in the job market again. It has focused almost entirely on whether or not to maintain ongoing unemployment benefits to help these people and their families to pay their bills and keep their homes.
• That means this entire debate has been myopically short sighted and has not even considered the long-term structural nature of how employability has changed.

Any long-term viable response to long-term unemployment has to be built around a realistic, fiscally sound approach for helping the long-term unemployed to become more competitive in the job market again. When politicians and their supporters argue stridently that unemployment benefits discourage the unemployed from trying to find work by removing their incentive to do so, they miss the point that the long-term unemployed desperately seek to find their way back into the workforce and into active employment again. When their political enemies argue just as stridently that long-term unemployment should be met with longer and longer term unemployment benefits – but with no thought given as to how these people will gain employment again in our changing economy and workplace, they show just as profound a lack of foresight and understanding as to what is really needed too. The one point that can be made in their favor is that they are at least thinking short-term where their political opponents are not even doing that.

So with that said, I would suggest a modest proposal, and of a type that might perhaps be applied in venues other than just the United States, too.

• Since we are facing a long-term and even permanent structural change in the workforce and in the nature of employability,
• And since the challenges that this create for our job seekers are ones that unacceptably large numbers cannot surmount on their own, and in numbers that are consistently so high as to create societal discord,
• We need to develop, enact and sustain a societal response.

I could be writing here of long-term unemployment in the United States as I do, or of the equally long-term unemployment in the Eurozone countries or of essentially anywhere else where this flood of change is developing and taking hold. And this employability and workplace change will arise and grow where it has not done so yet, and as a truly global challenge.

I am going to finish this posting with that point, and continue its discussion in a next series installment where I will offer some thoughts on what such a societal response might entail. I will note here in anticipation of that, that this does not and cannot mean simply throwing money at this problem, as that has never worked, and certainly in addressing educational system challenges. What we need are cost-effective, and I add politically acceptable solutions that can be used to bridge the too-often hyper-polarized political divides that separate us from actually addressing large numbers of ongoing societal problems. 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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