How Do Workers Compete With Machines In the Near Future?
Many of today’s jobs did not exist 10 years ago. And a decade from now, technology’s march will likely replace many jobs of today.
Jennail Chavez, 25, said it was a mid-life crisis that brought her to a noisy classroom where sounds of hammering and sawing surrounded her. She was working at a warehouse and wanted to do something more rewarding. She found her answer back at school. After completing a two-year program at the Los Angles Trade Technical College, Chavez plans to be a general contractor. As a person who loves working with her hands, choosing a career in a male-dominated profession did not intimidate her.
“I need a trade to match my personality and why not come into construction,” said Chavez.
But Chavez realized what she is learning to do may soon be replaced by machines.
“I actually came across a 3-D printer that actually built houses, and I was like ‘no, I’m actually in the industry to start building houses. What am I going to do?”
“Re-skilling is an essential part of so much of the economy right now,” said Laurence Frank, president of the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. He said workers constantly have to learn new skills to keep up with advancing technology.
Jacob Portillo is well aware of the need to keep up. He recently graduated from a program that trained him to work on diesel trucks, and already has had to adapt to changes in brake systems.
“Every year that passes by it evolves into something different, something new. Just keep learning and keep evolving along with the field,” Portillo said, who has found a good paying job working on trucks.
Jobs that require critical thinking will be hard to replace with robots. “Plumbers, people that work as electricians, where there has to be constant problem solving, constant decision making – those jobs are pretty secure,” Frank said.
Soft skills such as communication, time management and teamwork will also help workers stay employed in the future.
“So, are we teaching people to be good communicators? Are we teaching people to work in teams? At secondary or post-secondary level? Are we teaching people to synthesize and analyze,” asked Jane Oates, president of Working Nation, a campaign to help American workers prepare for future jobs.
Oates said many high schools and universities in the United States are not keeping up with the pace of technology to prepare students. “They’re teaching things that are antiquated because that’s what they have the professors to do,” Oates said, suggesting schools hire faculty from industry and develop apprenticeships with industry professionals.
“In the 21st century, you are not ever going to be done learning and adapting and figuring out how you fit into the new paradigm,” said Oates.
After graduating from trade school, Jennail Chavez said she plans on working for a few years before returning to school to learn how to work with electric and solar power.