Image: Mjolner Informatics

Image: Mjolner Informatics

For some time now, I have been watching the downward slide in income and wealth of the American middle class while the income and wealth of those who control capital have soared. Part of this is due, of course, to the accelerating transfer of traditional manufacturing to countries with lower labor costs and with less environmental regulation. But increasingly, automation of blue collar manufacturing jobs in our remaining onshore companies is exacerbating the problem. I am also aware of the fact that increasing numbers of Americans with new college degrees are having a very difficult time finding work that makes their investment in education seem worthwhile.

I am now a teacher of non-traditional students, those adults going to school to gain a college degree that will help them compete for and win a good job in this rapidly changing economy. For the most part, the folks that I teach have already chosen well – they are training for jobs that are currently in high demand.

But for the kids who will be entering primary school today, 65% of the jobs will have titles that are yet to be created. What career advice should a parent or mentor give them?

What is known, is that the 4th Industrial Revolution, which is now upon us will result in a further segregation of jobs: low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay.

This morning I watched Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on CNN and stumbled on a new book written by Alex Ross, Industries of the Future. Mr. Ross, it seems, has written a book to answer that specific question. Although I have yet to read it (I just downloaded the Kindle edition), The discussion between Zakaria and Ross hit points that resonate with my own thinking, and I recommend watching it, [Alex Ross on GPS 2-14-2016. Video beginning at 20:21 through 26:16. Unfortunately, that video is no longer available. This talk by Ross at TedX is a good substitute: https://youtu.be/TuE6J5Y4Yek ]

Key points:

• Robotics – from routine and manual to cognitive and non-routine. Cloud-connected intelligence means cheaper robots.
• The single most common occupation of an American male is driving a car, bus or truck. – driverless cars, busses, and trucks will eliminate most of those jobs.
• The combination of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence will displace low-level white-collar work – e.g. real estate lawyer.

Jobs that require cognition but have a lot of rote work involved will be at risk.

To prepare, kids need:

  1. Statistical literacy – being data-savvy.
  2. Language learning – foreign and computer. Economies are now global and to be effective, you must be able to communicate. If you are a competent coder, you have decades of employment open to you.
  3. Interdisciplinary learning – STEM and skills in the humanities.

The most important job right now is parenting – guiding children into the industries of the future.