Two weeks into a new presidency & chaos abounds. However, whether you agree or disagree with this president, one undisputed fact is that he campaigned on some very specific promises; one of which was to bring manufacturing jobs back to this country implying that our economy would return to being a manufacturing mecca circa the 50’s & the 60’s. He may well achieve half of this particular stated goal which is to say manufacturing may return stateside but chances are excellent the jobs they once generated will not. Why? Human capital will be seen as too expensive & too inefficient. Why pay humans when robots can do the repetitive rote work of manufacturing for a fraction of the cost? The subject of robotics in manufacturing has been something akin to a hushed undercurrent this last presidential cycle, one that no candidate wanted to touch. Every presidential contender treated it like the new “third rail” in politics bringing me to a recent article in the Washington Post which both celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone while suggesting that before we blindly embrace the next wave of change, we fully think through the consequences. While there are many who are just resistant to change, people who are sometimes referred to as Luddites, the term does not apply to this author. The point of that article was closer to" let's prepare the way" rather than "let's not change at all " which are two very different messages.
The Robots Aren't Coming; They Are Already Here
There is no doubt the robots are coming….well, not really; they are already here. They just haven’t displaced the human workforce in a significant way….yet but the transition is underway! Amazon has begun deploying robots in their fulfillment centers, it won’t be long before you hop in a driverless Uber car, & that is just the tip of the iceberg. TechCrunch estimates that about 47% of the human workforce are at risk for being displaced. Now certainly. some of those people will be retrained for jobs we’ve yet to imagine but far too many will find themselves prepared to earn a living in one kind of world, only to discover that due to a combination of factors like [lack of] training, skills, age, technology, custom & culture, their work options are considerably narrowed. In the last 30 years, while in politics the typical scapegoat has been globalization, a good chunk of the reason for the hollowed out cities in the rust belt are the non-stop transformations resulting from technological advances. Regardless of what any politician promises, those old-style manufacturing jobs are not coming back so what can you do to prepare for this new work world. Ten years ago, people talked about "embracing technology" a phrase that seems sort of quaint now. As millennials begin to take over the workforce, there are a few things workers can do to prepare themselves:
• Learn how technology works-No, this doesn't mean everyone needs to be an engineer
but if you know how the robots work, there will be demand for your services
• Stay adaptable-Changing robotic functions takes a fair amount of retooling; humans, by
comparison, are mentally & physically far more nimble
• Always present yourself as someone who is intellectually curious, smart, fast & teachable
The World Of World Is Changing: Change With It Or Get Left Behind
When it comes to your work life, the world is changing yet again. These shifting tectonic plates essentially present us with two fundamental options: learn/adapt in order to thrive or resist/remain stagnant which almost certainly will mean you will be left behind.