Three reasons we can’t just “bring back jobs.”
There’s been a lot of talk lately about bringing jobs back to the United States. But which jobs are we bringing back exactly? Light industrial work? Coal mining? Call centers? More importantly, how long will we be able to bring them back for? And why?
Bringing back jobs is a great thing (particularly for the people who lost them), but it won’t deliver what’s needed to keep our economy humming. In fact, “bringing back jobs” isn’t a realistic long-term solution for lots of reasons. Here are three of them:
1. Policies don’t create demand.
No policy — no matter how friendly to industry — is likely to return demand for coal to its heyday. In fact, last year Goldman Sachs predicted the decline in coal demand is “irreversible.” This means that the jobs of coal miners will always be declining. So, the real question is how do you move those workers (along with all the folks in the coal plants) and their skill sets to jobs that actually exist? And how do you make sure young people aren’t training for jobs that won’t be around?
This gets at why we created Amavitae, a career advancement platform — basically an identity finder that helps people discover what they’d love to do and what skills they’ll need in jobs that are growing.
2. Robots, of course.
Despite what you may have heard (for, oh, the past 70 years), robots aren’t coming to take all the jobs. They’re just taking some of the jobs. They’re also creating plenty of others. Ohio recently announced an investment in driverless trucks — an innovation long expected. This means the only drivers who have jobs to look forward to a decade from now are the ones with the skills to sit behind a computer and operate the trucks. Someone needs to program those computers. Someone else will service the trucks. In other words, there will be plenty of jobs in trucking, just not the same jobs.
What’s funny is the business of trucking is already changing. When you imagine that road warrior out there, you probably aren’t picturing someone who knows about logistics, purchasing and process improvement. And yet, these are three of the most in-demand skills for truckers today. (I know this because thanks to our genius data scientist, Amavitae provides the top 25 most up-to-date skills for every job we recommend.)
3. The problem isn’t lack of jobs. It’s lack of people with the right skills to fill them.
As of December 2016, there were 5.5 million open jobs in the United States. How could it be that we need to bring back jobs when there are 5.5 million of them open? Nearly half of employers saying they can’t fill jobs due to lack of available talent.
When Carrier famously opted to keep 1,100 jobs in Indianapolis, observers quickly noted that 350 of those jobs were never moving to Mexico in the first place. The jobs they planned to keep in the States were skilled R&D jobs. The United States is no longer a production economy. Thanks to technology, it’s a knowledge economy.
Who’s training for the R&D jobs that were never moving in the first place? Who’s planning to run that drone or drive that driverless truck?
With millions of unfilled jobs, there’s an obvious disconnect between employers and jobseekers. What’s missing is the relevant, useful information to help people understand what they might love and how to train for it.
I’m all for bringing jobs back. I just think we need to plan for the jobs that will be around in the future while we’re at it.
Nicole Howson is a co-founder of Amavitae, a career advancement platform that helps people explore careers they’ll love.