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Lydia Timmins, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
The conversation about the jobs of the future should begin like every conversation begins. By defining the parameters. What is a good job? What does a good worker look like? As the workforce both ages and gets younger, and as traditional jobs become increasingly automated, the answers to those questions define our search and our success.
During a panel last month at the University of Delaware, Vice President Biden and workplace experts discussed what jobs of the future look like. Opportunity@Work CEO and Co-Founder, Byron Auguste pointed out that many jobs available now were created only 2 years ago. Employers often require 5 years of experience. How does that work? That’s why the conversation about jobs needs to include more than a discussion of what’s available now. That conversation has to also include the vision of where jobs will arise.
The definition of a “good” job also needs refining. Who gets to define that job? Students in my classes are looking more and more to defining a good job as something that fulfills them as well as pays their bills. They want to do something that means something. Not that all of them aspire to be a CEO--not at all. But they do want to be valued and contribute to the greater good. So how does the hiring manager of the future fit that into the job ad, or the mission statement?
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Byron Auguste, CEO and Co-Founder, Opportunity@Work
Conversely, how do we go about defining those jobs that are necessary, even if not glamourous? Automation has taken over many manufacturing jobs, but there are still humans needed on many levels. How can we make sure we keep skilled technicians in the pipeline, providing them with the education they need to keep up with the challenges of technology while also ensuring they have respect from those who use those services?
The answers to the questions raised don’t come solely from academia, or solely from the public, or business or government. The answers come when universities, colleges, community colleges and businesses work with the public to first recognize and acknowledge the questions, then realize that the answers involve people. We can’t forget that each decision impacts a worker, a family, a community.
To answer these questions, we must start by asking the questions. And then listening to each of the stakeholders. Certainly, every single person in the conversation won’t come away completely satisfied. That’s the nature of it. But as long as the lines remain open, and our ears remain open, we can create a workforce that will meet the needs of business and society without forgetting we are all in this together.
Lydia Timmins is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware.
Follow her on Twitter at @LydiaTimmins.