Worker Displacement Due to Tech Obsolescence Is a Socioeconomic Crisis Not Properly Addressed

Let’s say you’ve been in sales for a retail company chain that is closing down due to competition from online sales. You apply online for a sales manager position, then are interviewed on zoom or another face-to-face app. Most often everything is now done online in the jobs hunting process. The interviewer asks: “How have you boosted sales in your company in the last five years?” And “How many people have you managed on your sales team?” Job hunters say creativity (unique ways to realize profit potential) and leadership-managerial experience are the top soft skills they’re looking for today.

This scenario could be typical in today’s ever-increasing complex, high tech work environment that has many intimidated, underprepared and confused.

Digitization, automation, technology and now the latest robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly changing the labor market and often rendering occupations obsolete. Job replacement is a serious social-economic issue not properly addressed.

In the last presidential election candidate Andrew Yang was the only and first candidate to seriously address technology’s takeover of many industries via automation, which means massive job replacement and unemployment in various sectors.

Precisely who are currently and will be facing job replacement? Experts say automation and robotics will hit hardest those whose work is “predictable physical work” or can be done without much expertise analysis. We’re looking at assembly line workers, cashiers, customer service representatives, to name only a few.

The automobile and transportation industries are models of the tech trends impacting workers. For example, auto mechanics (97% of them) are not able to repair electronic vehicles (EVs). As more EVs are sold, auto mechanics will be replaced by computer auto experts. That’s already happening now.

Moreover, in the not too-distant future with advancements in auto self-driving technology, transportation industry experts predict some truckers and other commercial drivers would also eventually have their jobs obsolete.

Generation Z be prepared
Choosing the right major and occupation has never been as critical as today given the rapidity of work environment changes. College students of course will gravitate towards a career they’d enjoy doing, something that fits with their interests, personality and ability.

But if they’re not careful, many could find themselves in college debt with no job to turn to.

Students must also consider industry growth, job stability (based on supply and demand) for the next 10-20 years, salary, and new technological developments.

There are no guarantees, but students should be asking themselves: “Are the skills I’m learning now the type of skills that are robust to weather the storms of change powered by technology?”

There are plenty of resources to turn to on the top degrees in demand for the future that show career longevity.

Bottom line, your chosen career should be able to stand the test of time and not just excite you.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) careers have withstood this test for decades now amid all the dynamic developments. Such careers should be in the mix for strong consideration.

Workers, update skills, be aware of work trends
Like students, workers of all ages should be aware of the constant flux of work and trends. For example, the trend of digitization should be met with honing skills on digital platforms.

So, if you must change your job due to obsolescence, you can take with you the skills you’ve learned (whether at work or outside of work).

Government response to what is an untold socioeconomic crisis
The U.S. and governments globally are and will be faced with perhaps is the biggest challenge – how can we keep as high a percentage, our working population employed and productive in society.

At the very least, government should work with the private sector on worker retraining programs. Unemployment caused by company closure – which will be happening more – in those situations the worker should be eligible for a retraining program. That program should include advising and personal support, funding to help retraining when unemployment benefits are exhausted. The retraining could be at a college or government-led type classroom.

And there should be awarding upon completion of such a program certification of some sort to be able to present to potential employers. Employers, in kind, should recognize such certification.

This is a basic governmental role to deal with what is really a socioeconomic crisis that has people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s suddenly deemed not productive and not skilled in today’s labor force.

And many of them have worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes and contributed to government and society, only to find themselves in this dire and emotionally deflating situation.

Just as corporations put stock in “creativity” as the most important soft skill to help their companies make a healthy profit – so too, should government be “creative” in finding ways that would enable displaced workers to make government continued profit as taxpayers.

Corporations, especially those tech giants that are spearheading all these rapid changes, should be required to help displaced workers with some sort of retraining work program.

For millions of Americans the current work environment is daunting and a source of anxiety. Workers’ displacement due to obsolescence is a socioeconomic problem under the radar of policy discussion. It’s time to change that.

Worker displacement due to tech obsolescence should be what Andrew Yang started – a political issue, a political platform. In so doing, only then, can we have the financial backing and vehicle (whatever form it would be) to correct what really is a tech industry caused phenomenon.

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