Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Tomorrow’s Jobs

January 5th, 2004 · No Comments

Barron’s suggests that “Despite the rise of offshore labor, Americans will have plenty of work:”

Over the next 10 to 20 years, in fact, skilled jobs will be on the rise as never before. They will proliferate in nursing, computer science, entertainment, financial services and entire fields that may now be just a gleam in the eyes of the innovative. The upshot: Today’s toddlers and teens will be handed enormous opportunities for challenging and creative careers. There should be plenty of work for older folks, too.

At least five broad trends promise to transform the jobs market. Start with three that are nearly certain to occur between now and 2025. The baby boomers will become senior citizens. The labor force will grow at a much slower rate than before. The Medicare system will be hit by a financial crisis of major proportions.

Two others are worth betting on. The IT Revolution, Part 2, is about to begin, with new kinds of information technology developed to serve the needs of the increasingly prevalent “knowledge workplace” — fields in which brain power, rather than machinery or processes, drive production.

This second revolution will be powerfully reinforced by our fifth and final trend: Spending on intangible capital, or IC — assets like patents, copyrights, brand names, trademarks and trade secrets — will continue to grow faster than outlays on tangibles like structures and equipment. That’s because of both a boom in products developed by science and a proliferation of niches in the global marketplace.

How will these trends influence the kind of work we do? The major effect will be to boost the share of the labor force with “knowledge worker” in their job description. The growth and development of both IT and IC should bring millions of new recruits to the knowledge workplace.

For example, the number of computer programmers, systems analysts and scientists almost doubled from 1992 through 2002, to 2.4 million. No surprise if another doubling occurs in the decade to come.

But greater investment in intangible capital also requires a diverse range of knowledge workers, including biologists, physicists, nehru-scientists, advertising writers, Web designers and high-end salespeople.

Knowledge workers will also find huge opportunities in serving the aging baby boomers, mainly in health care but also in financial services, particularly since older investors often demand personalized attention. Smart, personable bankers and brokers will be in greater demand than ever before.

All the more reason for the US to invest in education, which it doesn’t seem to be doing. I was talking to a friend from California recently – vacation period in one of the state universities was extended by two weeks because of financial cutbacks. This seems completely the wrong the wrong thing to do.

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