Job Prospects in the New Economy

Last Sunday the family and I woke up at 3:45a to drive the college junior to the Portland airport to catch an early flight. The airport was the midway point of our ultimate destination, a vacation spot in central Oregon. Like a couple of comatose puppies, the high school senior was curled up with her older sissy in the back seat of the car. Picture overlapping blonde hair everywhere. While they dozed the GalPal and I listened to a BBC segment about job prospects in the new economy.

The participants were Oxford or MIT professors. Cut me some slack, at 4:30a.m. the world’s best universities all kind of blur together. They made two points, the first which I’ve been making for awhile. The more my daughters (and their friends) develop sophisticated data processing knowledge and skills, the more job opportunities they’ll have. Quantitative analysis is probably a better term since data processing might conjure up mindless keypadding. This turn towards numbers is not a fad, the Quantitative Era is here to stay. Nearly every organization is analyzing more data than ever before—hospitals, schools, businesses, prisons, college and pro athletic teams, churches, you name it. People steeped in statistics and adept at using SPSS will be able to write their own tickets.

Which doesn’t help the sound asleep sisters. They did well in math, but didn’t embrace it, and have and will stop as soon as they’re able. According to the egghead professors, all is not lost, there’s another strand in the economy that holds promise for secure employment. Work that requires empathy.

They highlighted the work of preschool teachers. I was surprised by the choice, but clearly, unlike most jobs today, skilled preschool teaching can’t be automated because it requires nonstop empathy. The problem of course is unlike most quantitative analysis jobs, preschool teaching doesn’t pay a livable wage.

This excellent BBC dialogue made me think about our empathetic daughters who may end up leveraging their empathy as teachers or counselors. Other empathy-dependent jobs include pastor, social worker, nursing home worker, and nurse.

Had the BBC invited me to participate in the dialogue I would have posed some questions.

• Given the breadth of probable work in the future, why do we emphasize STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) at the expense of the humanities and related disciplines?

• Certainly, empathy is part nature, but also part nurture. How do parents nurture empathy?

• How do primary and secondary teachers encourage it—without usurping parents’ rights?

• More specifically, how do we help young males be more empathetic?

As always it seems more questions than answers, for me, for you, for the sleeping sisters and their friends.

5 thoughts on “Job Prospects in the New Economy

  1. Do schools these days even try to make time for such classes? I’d love to see them bring back the social civic classes we had when I was in secondary school. That would be a great class to include some “empathy” training, I think.

    • Yes, there are still humanities and social studies classes, but math and science still reign. Modeling empathy is probably the most effective way to teach it and adults throughout the school can do that.

  2. I think math and science classes are great for kids interested in math and science. The best advice to young people is to create their own job. When I was in high school in the early ’70’s if you asked kids what they WANTED to be, a majority would say a scientist or researcher. Now you might get one or two kids select those professions. I don’t think the emphasis on STEM education is going to make more young folks WANT to follow such professions.

    • I’ve always liked the saying, “You can’t step in the same river twice.” Today’s economy is most certainly a river. Economist can’t predict future jobs let alone hiring trends. But I wonder, isn’t “create your own job” a bit overwhelming for most teens? At minimum, it takes lots of creativity, initiative, perseverance, and at least some start up $.

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