Hate to admit this, but if your son or daughter (maybe even your grandkids) can’t find a job, the reason is probably me. It’s hard to know just how much damage I am doing, but it’s bound to be a lot.
As you may know, I recently (late December) leased a new Chevy Volt, which is an extended-range electric vehicle. It has an electric motor, backed up by a small gasoline engine. When the electric charge depletes (after about 40 to 50 miles) the gas motor kicks in and runs a generator to supply juice for the electric drive.
But if you have a short commute (as I do) you use the gas very seldom. In fact, I haven’t bought any so far in 2013; I’m still working on the original tank of gas that came with the car.
The Volt is not exactly a household name, but it soon may be. Nissan has its electric Leaf, Tesla is making waves with its roadster and Ford is coming out with an electric soon. Add to that the new Cadillac electric and you’ve got an energetic wave of autos on the way.
So how does this put Kyle or Kelly on the unemployment line? First off, if electric cars take off (and I believe they will) there will be fewer jobs all along the petroleum food chain, from roustabout oil drillers to the guys selling cornnuts at the AM/PM mart.
Car repairs are still a big business. Most new car dealerships find that about 40 percent of their profits comes from service. But electric cars have fewer moving parts and need far less service. I used to change my oil every 3,000 miles with my Ford Escape. With the Volt, the manufacturer recommends an oil change every 24,000 miles. Yikes! There goes Jiffy Lube!
Auto manufacturing is moving toward parts as modules. Think of how you replace cartridges in your inkjet printer and you’ve got the general idea. The only thing you may need to get done at the dealership is get your tires rotated.
Imagine this spreading out around like an inkstain. Car parts stores will look more like Office Depot. Who do you suppose makes more money, an experienced auto mechanic or a store clerk?
The fact is that the employment picture of five to 10 years from now is difficult to predict. When I was in intermediate school, all the boys were required to take wood and metal shop, because it was assumed that many of us would go into construction and manufacturing jobs.
Girls had to take home economics, because it was believed that most females would be stay-at-home wives. Of course, reality took a different direction.
When the Internet boomed in the Nineties, a lot of folks figured they could get ahead of the curve by learning how to create and maintain websites.
That made sense for a time, until do-it-yourself platforms such as WordPress and Google Blogger made it possible for folks with little or no programming skills to be webmasters.
Even for those with sophisticated computer engineering skills, the outlook is murky. Some big firms are outsourcing coding and programming to overseas firms, citing the cost of labor. If some guy in Madras with a master’s degree is willing to work for $3 an hour, why should an employer here hire you for 10 times that much?
It appears that the career areas with the most growth potential in the future are in the medical and health care fields. People are living longer than ever, and medicine is getting ever-more sophisticated.
There will be a big demand for nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, etc.
But other fields have interesting possibilities, too. The hottest field is actuaries, who analyze risk factors for people and businesses. Glaziers (installers of windows and other glass features) are hot because many buildings are being retrofitted to reduce the need for artificial lighting.
The drawback? It doesn’t pay all that well (mid-30s) and has a very high rate of injuries from broken glass and falls.
Another interesting field is interpreters and translators. The demand for this is up both because of increased diversity here and globalization everywhere.
Most of these jobs will require some specialized training and education, and not necessarily in the customary path of attending a four-year college.
My point here is that anyone entering the work force now (or soon) needs to take an active part in planning a career. Don’t assume that what you’re training for now will be in demand five or 10 years into the future. You’ve got to keep your eye on the horizon.
Those darned Volts are multiplying, you know.