Here’s an interesting fact: 40% of the most “in-demand” jobs in IT did not exist ten years ago.
Here’s a frightening fact: many of the so called “white collar” knowledge based jobs that exist currently will disappear in the next ten years – rendered obsolete by advances in technology.
The “new” jobs include almost anything to do with Internet technology, advances in biological engineering, genetic engineering and all of the other brave new worlds that have appeared in recent times.
The jobs that will disappear will go in some really surprising business sectors including law, accounting, retailing, general management and even, dare I say it, the recruitment sector that Elevate inhabits.
We can see the effects of this now; the self service checkouts in supermarkets, the closure of ticket offices on the London Underground and elsewhere, travel agents dis-intermediated by the ubiquity of information available on the web, and so on and so forth.
In fact it would not be inappropriate to compare the current changes in industry with the disruption caused by the Industrial Revolution that moved workers out of the fields and into the factories and workshops of the world.
Should we all be scared? The answer is almost certainly “yes” in the short term but “no” in the more distant future. It takes time for revolutions in the workplace to offer benefits to the general population.
What happens is that the early beneficiary of technological advancement is Capital, that is, those people or institutions that have funds invest in the new businesses that promote the disruption. You can see this happened in the 19th century when investors built railways, factories and steel industries. Later this moved to energy companies whether providing power or harnessing it for the purpose of people’s use. Huge fortunes were built on the back of these early innovations just as they are being made in the tech worlds of today.
You have to remember that these early innovations, that we take for granted now – and which we would not choose to live without – were not universally popular. The Luddite’s of 19th century Britain took great exception to the mechanisation of the weaving industry, smashing looms and generally resisting the march of progress. What you have to remember however is that in those times the average person might only own two or three entire sets of clothes. Go look in your wardrobe and see how you would manage today with only three shirts, two jackets, three pairs of trousers and one pair of shoes. Horrible isn’t it. But you don’t have to live like that because weaving technology made clothes plentifully available.
So Capital gained and Labour (by which I mean the workers who were displaced) lost. In the short term.
Gradually however, the advances in technology meant that more and more people were employed in factories making more and more articles for people to consume. Even now there are intelligent people who question whether this is such a good thing – but I don’t see them living in unheated houses with outside lavatories or returning to till the land behind a horse drawn plough so I tend not to take them too seriously.
And in the end of course Labour realised that Capital needed Labour to drive the onward march of progress and to disseminate the fruits of Capital’s investment. Sadly we are probably not at this stage of the process with current day disruption but trust me, it will come. When it does, the employment landscape will have changed beyond recognition again. What are we all going to be doing, I haven’t the faintest idea but what I do know is that skills, transferable skills, will be key to getting a job.
What do I mean by that? Well, here’s an interesting fact. Musicians are usually very good with computers. There’s a correlation because both music and computing rely on mathematics. Mozart was a good mathematician – probably a better musician, but still a good mathematician. So if you are a decent musician but not making a great living then perhaps you should look at IT as a career. That’s what I mean by a transferable skill.
The other thing to do is to get as much exposure to different industries as you can when you are young. It doesn’t matter what you do, you will get knowledge in the process. In an earlier life I canned peas, stacked pallets and drove a forklift truck. The other day a mate of mine needed to move some heavy troughs. Lo and behold, my experience with forklift trucks came in very handy. And working in the IT sector, I have always been able to hold a sensible conversation with potential clients about factory production as a result of this employment.
Finally, go and work for the underdog and make a difference. What I mean by that is that you don’t have to work for the industry leader. The industry leader has only one way to go: down. Much better, and possibly easier, to work for the number two or three – or even the number one hundred and two or three and help that business move up the leader board.
So, grit your teeth and push onward. The sun will come out, we just don’t know when.