The landscape of opportunity is evolving. The reality of the workplace is that we are in a state of drastic change. Every era has seen shifts in workplace opportunities. As with the industrial revolution through the desktop computer to the modern reality of robotic engagement and augmented reality, the purchasing and use of goods and services is drastically changing. This has led to drastic changes in the workplace and shifts in the employment landscape. The ability to remain gainfully employed throughout one’s career requires an understanding of the tide of change that is coming.
To highlight the point of change, two Oxford professors estimated that 47% of jobs in the United States are at risk of automation. While this is a forecast and as such is no guarantee, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook supports this forecast. Of those jobs at risk of being replaced by automation, half are service jobs. Service economy jobs require little to no education and have a high probability of disappearing in the coming two decades. This is interesting to know because once there was a belief a person could always become a bartender, maid, taxi driver, or telemarketer to put food on the table. In two decades this will no longer be the case. Gainful employment is becoming even more of a challenge. The robot bartender, maid and telemarketer already exist. The robot taxi driver is rapidly approaching.
Automation is only one aspect of employment, what is important to understand is that the growing industries in America will produce the most jobs in the future. The growing industries are in response to growing trends in (a) automation, (b) our aging population and (c) alternative energy. While automation has been discussed (think software developer, robotic engineer, data-mining), the aging population in America will continue to be a significant driving force of the future of employment.
Technological advances are curing diseases and extending life at a magnitude unprecedented in prior history. There are biotech companies in Silicon Valley attempting to actually “cure” aging. One such scientist, Aubrey de Grey, predicts that a person alive in 2017 will be the first to reach 1000 years of age. While this prediction may be farfetched, what matters is the focus of efforts on keeping people alive longer and the jobs that come with the effort. As people age, they require more services and thus a growth in jobs. A significant number of the jobs of the future will come from attending to the aging population (think home-care, biotech, nurse practitioner).
Alternative energy is the third growing trend in the world. Two out of the ten fastest growing occupations in America relate to renewable energy. A strong way to ensure future employment in this sector is to be an expert. A person can start as a technician and advance to becoming an expert through increased education. This layering on of skills creates a full array of training a person can leverage throughout her or his career.
What I believe is most important for a person who does not have their mind set on a career and educational pathway to get there, is to not be in a rush. A person’s working life will likely exceed 47 years minimum after high school. This is a long time to figure out a lifetime of employment. I recommend considering first an industry that is of interest, hopefully this industry will be growing, and then determine the least amount of training required to enter the field. Do not borrow money to gain this experience. Pay cash and experience this industry at its entry level so you can better understand what a lifetime of employment may look like. When considering what’s next, think about what will keep your interest for half a decade, and walk slowly down the path, gaining relevant training along the way.