During his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. In his first few weeks as President-Elect, he claimed to be instrumental in keeping a Carrier plant stateside.
But is it really practical to assume that manufacturing jobs are going to make a comeback? It doesn’t matter who’s president. The research indicates those jobs aren’t coming back.
In the past, the economy has relied heavily on middle-income jobs that require mid-level skills. However, these jobs are routine and can be replaced by automation. These types of jobs have been disappearing at an increasing rate during the past three decades.
It’s called “labor market polarization,” and it impacts more than just factories. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, routine, middle-skill, middle-income jobs will continue to disappear as technology improves.
When looking for the best jobs for millennials, it’s a good idea to understand what types of jobs are disappearing. Stop looking back to a bygone era of jobs. Instead, develop skills for the jobs likely to survive the continued march toward automation.
Which jobs are disappearing?
When you look at routine middle-wage jobs that are disappearing, it helps to use the following grid from the Dallas Fed:
As you can see, it’s divided into skill level. It also compares blue collar and white collar jobs. In the past, these types of routine jobs offered the chance for a wide swath of the population to access jobs that would put them squarely in the middle class.
The types of jobs that are disappearing are those that can increasingly be done by some sort of technology; for example, mass production in factories, as well as clerical and administrative jobs like bank tellers. Even sales jobs are on the decline, thanks to online selling.
Research from Ball State University indicates that 85 percent of the job loss in manufacturing is due to automation. Additionally, Boston Consulting Group points out a human welder costs an employer about $25 per hour, while a robot can do the same job for $8 per hour.
It’s not hard to extrapolate similar cost savings to routine white collar jobs. Online banking and ATMs mean fewer human tellers are needed. The growth in apps that can take care of a lot of administrative work, from scheduling appointments to managing payroll, also means a decreased need for humans to do this work.
So far, automation hasn’t completely replaced human efforts. However, the rise in the use of technology for some of the routine middle-skill cognitive work of the world means that fewer humans are needed to fulfill these roles.
What are the best jobs for millennials?
The important thing is to remain relevant as a human. The report from the Dallas Fed points out that those most likely to succeed are those willing to upgrade their skills.
With labor market polarization, it’s all about nonroutine jobs. Naturally, nonroutine low-skill jobs are likely to pay less than high-skill jobs. You don’t necessarily need a four-year degree to succeed in this new job market, though. Instead, the focus is on skills and the kinds of jobs that are hard to automate.
Adviser group Young Invincibles released a report in 2015 that includes some of the best jobs for millennials. As you look at the list, you’ll see that not everything requires an advanced degree:
Dental hygienists, elevator installers and repairers, and public relations specialists might not need to go to school for a long time to qualify for their jobs.
What about skilled labor and STEM?
In 2016, The Conference Board released resources looking at the expectation of skilled labor shortages in different industries and regions of the United States. These skilled labor positions offer millennials and others the chance to earn middle-income wages without the need for a four-year degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that there are some STEM jobs available that might not require advanced degrees:
In certain cases, it does not even matter whether a candidate has a bachelor’s degree in a specific area: companies are looking for candidates with hands-on experience in software development through “hack-a-thons,” extracurricular projects, and internships. These anecdotal accounts are supported by a falling unemployment rate for software developers, from 4 percent in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2012 and down to 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Also, the recent “big data” trend has sparked demand for data scientists in all areas, from health care to retail.
What’s really cool is that some of these jobs don’t require you to be in the office all day. The Society for Human Resource Management points out that telecommuting is on the rise.
How to stay relevant in your career
Look for nonroutine work in areas that are likely to see rising demand if you hope to remain relevant. Health care professions, skilled labor that involves the ability to repair machinery, and programming jobs are likely to remain viable in the coming years.
Additionally, according to the Pew Research Center, occupations that require higher social or analytical skills are in demand. Employment and wages are growing in these types of jobs. If you want to remain relevant, developing your social and analytical skills is vital.
Prepare for the future of work
Are you doing routine work and earning an average income? Watch out. Your job could be next. Tweak your skills or go back to school to complete a certification (without getting a degree).
Now is the time to prepare for the future of work. However, this doesn’t mean you have to get an advanced degree or even a four-year degree. The Pew data indicates that Americans aren’t convinced that college is the best way forward for everyone.
The best jobs for millennials are those that let them develop the skills likely to be in demand in the future. As you prepare for the future, look for a career that a robot can’t easily do.
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