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Home > Green News > Editorials

Jobs and Careers That Won't Be Coming Back

Sustainable community isn't utopia -- it's a necessity. Ask the millions of Boomers who are teetering on the edge of an unsustainable future.

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The New York Times has looked into some of the jobs that appear to be gone for good. Can you guess which ones they are? I was surprised by some of them... but then, I'm over 50 and a lot of things surprise me these days ;-)

But just reframe it. Anything that technology has made possible to DIY -- do it yourself -- is losing a workforce. Computers and workers abroad claim to make American businesses more efficient. I'm still curious who's going to buy the products and services by the people still working... at least at the levels (or higher) that managers assume are still possible.

Clerical and Administrative

1.7 million Americans were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began, but were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year.

There have also been outsize job losses in other occupation categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery.

Printing machine operators

Nearly halved from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009.

Travel Agents

The number of people employed as travel agents fell by 40 percent.

The occupations they worked in, and the skills they currently possess, are never coming back in style. And the demand for new types of skills moves a lot more quickly than workers — especially older and less mobile workers — are able to retrain and gain those skills.

Jobless benefits and food stamps can serve as temporary palliatives, but they cannot make workers’ skills relevant again.

As displaced careers begin to take focus, we have to put aside rationalizations like blaming the "bad" economy -- it's really a "new" economy.

And assuming employers won't hire highly skilled workers because they might "jump ship for a higher-paying job" doesn't make much sense when companies are struggling to maintain the status quo in a global economy gone amuck.

Today's office environment is more automated and digitized than ever -- and even more dispersed with more and more information workers stationed in their own living rooms. Bosses can handle their own calendars, travel arrangements and files through their own computers and ubiquitous BlackBerrys.

The problem is that many occupations based on information work and service have been largely computerized. I first experienced this about 20 years ago when my career as a graphic designer was totally transformed by the desktop publishing revolution. That career was the first...but certainly not the last to have the heart cut out of an industry of skilled workers. And now the second generation of information workers are finding that their "old computer skills" just don't cut it -- and an industry transformation is taking place here again.

Even computer programmers can get easily left behind if they don't keep up with the new software languages that are released every couple years. It only takes one long term employment in a focused job to put you behind in your field.

Rehiring will focus on younger people with different skills

“This always happens in recessions,” says John Schmitt, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Employers see them as an opportunity to clean house and then get ready for the next big move in the labor market. Or in the product market as well.”

"Structural job losses" help explain why the last two economic recoveries were jobless — that is, why job expansion lagged far behind overall growth.

But the New York Times reports that there is "reason to think restructuring may take a bigger toll this time around. The percentage of unemployed workers who were permanently let go has hovered at a record high of over 50 percent for several months."

The Boomer-driven "Economy Within an Economy"

As a Boomer, I want to shout out... "Kids, get ready to support your parents! If you won't hire us, you will subsidize us!"

What are the most readily available opportunities?

  • Part time, seasonal work as a retail cashier
  • Rely on any minority status you can draw upon
"If you’re not a minority, or not handicapped, or not a young parent, or not a veteran, or not in some other certain category, your hope of finding help and any hope of finding work out there is basically nil," says one frustrated part-time older woman.

And don't forget to look at the volunteering requirements that many employers count on in their newly trained recruits. Volunteer work usually undertaken while young adults live at home with ... working parents. Right.

And the conclusion to this New York Times article about a woman in California points out a thought that even I have caught flitting across my brain...when I worry about what would happen if anything happened to my little business.

"Sometimes I think I’d be better off in jail," she says, only half joking. "I’d have three meals a day and structure in my life. I’d be able to go to school. I’d have more opportunities if I were an inmate than I do here trying to be a contributing member of society.”

Kids...get ready

Get ready for the world you are helping to perpetuate with your fast-paced, technological wizardry with global hopscotch lifestyles.

And you need to keep in mind, that if we don't work harder on a sustainable community today for all these Boomers who have buffeted several economic upheavals ... you're next.

That's a tough future to confront

I feel like a pioneer without the promise of open plains and untapped natural wonders. Our wilderness frontier is made up of landfills, urban density, overpopulation, languages we can't understand, and technologies that change every six months.

"Beyond human scale" comes to mind.

But as a creative thinker, I also know that when things look darkest, we get creative. "Darkest before the dawn." "Necessity is the mother of invention." Those folk sayings weren't invented during THIS economic upheaval. They are witnesses to the ongoing boom and bust of modern (and not so modern) society.

So... Boomers (and your kids), let's put our heads together and come up with a new solution. With new values. With new, more sustainable methods. With clarity that each individual's dignity and self-development never ends...and needs a fertile field in which to sprout and thrive.

Let's talk. Let's design a better tomorrow... and let's get started today.

Carolyn



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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