Many thousands of jobs have been lost throughout North America in recent years and the trend will likely accelerate in the years ahead. Some blue and white collar jobs are being lost to cheaper labor in China and/or Mexico. But something far more pervasive is happening in many parts of the world that is a much bigger threat to jobs, namely automation and robotics.
Online banking and self-serve kiosks are replacing bank tellers. Robots are replacing people in the preparation of pizzas. 3D printing or additive manufacturing, the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file, is a growing trend. Each year an increasing number of people are shopping online, reducing the need for brick and mortar operations and retail sales clerks. While some jobs are being replaced by others (i.e. retail sales clerks by customer service clerks), many are not.
Looking ahead to the future, some industries such as Transportation and Logistics will go through profound changes that will drastically reduce the requirement for human beings. Conveyor, sorting and packaging systems are already replacing people in many freight terminals and distribution centres. Computers can do an excellent job of dispatching and routing truck fleets. The change that will have the biggest impact in this industry is still a few years away, namely driverless trucks. Truck drivers are one of the most popular professions in North America. There are millions of people employed as truck drivers in North America. Many, but not all truck drivers, will be eliminated over time.
Is higher education the answer?
Many people believe that the answer is staying in school longer is the answer. Parents are encouraging their children to pursue a higher education in the hope that this will provide them with better opportunities to secure a good paying job.
According to a recent report on CBC Television, the number of students enrolled in university is at record levels. However, in the same report, they noted that a significant percentage of graduates cannot find jobs in their chosen profession.
In their report, the CBC highlighted a mechanical engineer who took a job as a meat slicer in a grocery store deli; a political science grad who took a job as a bartender. These are not just isolated instances. Many grads are taking jobs for which they are greatly overqualified; others cannot find jobs. How to Prepare for the Next Round of Automation and Robotics Here a series of steps to consider.
1. If you are a parent, make sure your child takes an aptitude test and obtains a personality profile as a teenager.
These tests can ensure that your child takes courses in areas where they have the most skills and passion, and where they are most likely to succeed.
2. Do your due diligence on the emerging skills and jobs that are most in demand.
Each year there are published reports on the jobs that will be most plentiful in the years ahead (http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/jobs-in-2020 ). These reports are available online and should be carefully scrutinized.
3. Identify the career opportunities that best fit with your child.
Completing steps one and two allows for a matching exercise. The idea is to collaborate with your children and help them make education and career choices that are a best fit with their interests, aptitudes and with future job prospects.
4. While in university, look for summer jobs and coop opportunities to get a “foot in the door.”
Since the job market is so competitive, students should carefully consider what they do with their summer vacations. While going to camp is great for those who can afford to do so, the summers can be a ideal time to explore working in the “real world.” Look for opportunities to perform specific tasks or participate in coop programs that may build relationships and act as a stepping stone to future careers.
5. Cast as wide a net as possible in your job search.
Learn how to network with friends and family. If you don’t know how, take a course. So much of life is about making contacts and forming relationships with people who can help you and whom you can help throughout your lifetime. Another key is to be flexible. This flexibility should come in the form of location, starting job, starting pay and a host of other variables. They key is to get “in the door” of a solid company in a growing industry.
6. Take a course or courses in becoming an entrepreneur.
As exposed in the CBC report, one can do all the right things and not land a good job. This is a fact of life in the current era. I encourage everyone to learn how to become an entrepreneur. There is great value in learning how to launch a business, even a small one, particularly in such a challenging job market.
7. If you cannot find a full time job, take various part time jobs that are related to what you would like to do.
In speaking with millennials, many of them are performing multiple part-time jobs as a means of creating an adequate income and as a way of exploring various career paths.
8. Be a continuous learner and take courses in IT. As soon as one comes out of school, go right back into one.
In this highly competitive era, continuous learning is essential. Look for opportunities to augment your current skill set and to learn a new one. Make sure you take courses where you can put the skills you learn into action. Time is a precious commodity. Be very focused on where you apply your time and what you learn.
9. If you cannot find a job in your chosen profession, find an underserved or underserved niche and launch a small business.
Try to find a niche that is poorly served and evaluate how to provide a superior or unique product or service, for a fee, to meet the need. The product or service doesn’t have to anything exotic but it can be as basic as selling mattresses over the internet or opening a store that sells tea.
10. Make it a priority to evaluate how what you are doing can be replaced by automation and plan accordingly.
This may seem like an odd thing to do but it can be a lifesaver. In this era, it is important to stay ahead of the curve, not two steps back. Being proactive can allow you to take the necessary steps (i.e. acquire education) that can help you transition to an area with better job prospects. Become as computer literate as possible and be alert to how computers and automation can impact on your job and career
Most people of my generation (i.e. baby boomers) were able to find jobs and launch a career. While some changed jobs and industries over time, jobs were available if one searched hard enough. This is no longer true. Plan early so that you maximize your opportunities for success in what is becoming a highly-automated world. If you achieve early success, don’t get complacent. Keep learning and growing as a means of advancing your career.
Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express.
Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability. All posts by Dan Goodwill