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Helping Middle-Skilled Workers Find a Job (Part 1)

Helping Middle-Skilled Workers Find a Job (Part 1)
As the American economy becomes more knowledge-based and technology-driven, employees who formerly occupied middle-skilled jobs need to gain new competencies to find new work.

Technology has been driving significant changes in the American workforce over the past few decades. Employers have placed higher premiums, salaries and benefits on educated workers due to the increasing demand for skilled workers to navigate complex technologies, transfor­mations in the organization of the economy and a developing global marketplace. Consequently, these changes demand a review and analysis of needed changes in securing a position in the job market.

Future of the American Worker

The economy is pushed by consumer spending. Every time consumers purchase items or services, demand is created that, sooner or later, leads to job growth in particular industries. A major concern among today’s workers and those seeking work is just that: job growth. The question is, where are the jobs and how do we secure a high-paying one? The lack of an answer to the unemployment crisis continues to push individuals to take on multiple precarious jobs to replace their lost full-time positions. These jobs, initially thought to be temporary measures, have in many cases become long-term positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 7.5 million citizens are currently involuntary part-time workers — representing a little more than five percent of the workforce (BLS, 2014). Workers need a framework and methodology to guide them through this period of employment darkness.

Technology, with its mixed economic messages, was once thought of as an avenue to provide jobs. Hobijn, Stirob, and Antonades (2013) stated that the technology sector led the 1990s in economic explosion. Later, the country experienced the technology burst. Despite the 2000-01 drop in technology positions, technology still reigns in the top three sectors for job availability. Several years after the technology bubble burst, an article in Technology Central New York Business Journal noted that the American technology industry increased jobs at “2.5 percent for a total of 5.81 million” (A.R.R., 2006, p. 28). This is an increase of more than “140,000 net jobs” (A.R.R., 2006, p. 28) in the first six months of 2006. If technology was to be the saving grace, what happened?

The answer may extend back to John Maynard Keynes’ (1930) optimistic essay, “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.” Keynes pointed to what he termed a new disease: technological unemployment. Ironically, Mulbrandon and Robison (2013) pointed to the cause of job losses as “tech-driven innovation” (p. 38).

Yes, efficiency has improved through technological innovations. On the other hand, the number of jobs is decreasing. The trend toward no or part-time positions does not appear to have an end in sight. Whether this trend is due to companies not wanting to give their employees benefits, or just not enough business to keep workers, there needs to be a new and innovative way to decrease this downshift in jobs.

Middle Skill Positions

Middle-skilled positions necessitate more than a high-school diploma, though not a bachelor’s degree (McGuire, 2014). These middle-skilled positions include: (1) construction workers, (2) nurses and health care technicians, (3) truck drivers, (4) IT professionals, (5) EMTs and paramedics, (6) computer support specialists and (7) biotechnology workers. Businesses that generate middle-skill jobs must be supported by the states in which they exist. After all, “managing change is inevitable and sustaining results will require game-changing transformation” (Brown-Jackson, 2013, p. 1629).

To read the conclusion of this two-part series, please click here..

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