Monday, December 27, 2010

The Truth About Unemployment and
The Digital Divide




In 1970 Alvin Toffler's book, Future Shock warned us about our not too distant future. Both Heidi and Alvin Toffler's research revealed a future where the human race would not be able to keep up, or stay sane. More scary than amazing the resulting emotional pathos was entitled future shock (much like culture shock. Except in this world, you could never return to your culture of origin). From the pages of his book, comes a startling revelation...

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”


In this new world of Future Shock the adults would be displaced by the youth for several reasons:
1) The younger generations would be more employable due to their relationship with technology and their ability to rapidly discard old methodologies and 2) the old methods would be dying so quickly, mom and dad would be unable to keep up. Does any of this sound familiar?

According to the Toffler's research, in this fantastic future we would be facing a world where everything would become disposable, traditional values would become nonexistent and seasonality (experience) would actually become a burden. The equivalent of horse & buggy workers being displaced by the automobile one hundred years ago. How did those employees of the past reinvent themselves for an auto factory assembly-line?

In order to stay relevant and employable these days, a person must do the opposite of what made them successful all these years...namely get rid of knowledge hoarding. To stay up to date in this new world, one must discard old knowledge and replace it with new...consistently. Something Baby Boomers have trouble doing because we have been trained to memorize and use that knowledge to get ahead.  Gen Y on the other hand has had a lifetime of software upgrades. They are built to live in a constantly upgraded world.

If you are upset by Unemployment Benefits being extended you might want to wake up to a simple fact: as we get under full swing in the 21st Century, many Baby Boomers are unaware that their traditional skills are no longer in demand. Now, not all jobs will be influenced by technology - we still need waitresses and postal workers - but the jobs that matter have been automated with technological improvements. Shockingly much of the technology in use right now is simply not on a Baby Boomers radar! If you are 46 years old or older, the idea of the corner office, years of experience, higher salaries and a solid work ethic are simply not in demand. But Generation X & Y have skills that are in demand - skills they are born with.

This has created a gap in skill sets. A gap that
will keep many unemployable...
permanently.

This gap is called The Digital Divide. Eerily, Alvin and Heidi Toffler's future is happening right now before our eyes. Check out this video...it should make things clearer.


The Digital Divide is growing wider yet many Baby Boomers I speak with don't see it. From Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials and now Net Gen, we have one generation after another that wants action, activity, engagement and creativity in their learning AND working environments. Yet Boomer bosses want them to sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day.

On many a college campus tenured professors have no idea that their students are texting, blogging, twittering and playing Multi-player Online Games. They are sharing ideas. Boomers see this as playing instead of working. The Net Generations are using digital tools to collaborate, work and play...the teachers are not. Why does it matter? Well we need to teach young people how to use their intellect in this world while embracing the high-tech tools as that: TOOLS. We need to show them how to reason and how to see the bigger picture.

But more importantly for this article is the big question: what will employment look like in the future when half the population is using technology to get their work done and the rest are waiting for "the jobs" to return? And by the way, the job market is so bad for entry level positions that the unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is over 9 percent. What is about to happen is nothing short of a train wreck:

College graduates will be interviewing for the same jobs
as Baby Boomers with 40 years of experience!

Yes we can blame the economy, modern economic theories and outsourcing on much of this, but please do not confuse Unemployment with Welfare. People who are on unemployment were fired. Some in the middle of a quarter century of employment at the same company not knowing that loyalty is dead. These were hard working people that were let go, laid off or simply phased out. Many were let go because computers have automated their jobs. Others, because their jobs were moved overseas.

And what is worse is Baby Boomers that are losing their jobs may NOT have the skills to successfully transition into new positions being created right now. As I point out in the pages of my book Liquid Leadership...
Millions of jobs have been phased out over the past ten years because they are no longer relevant. Key positions have become extinct, relics of the twentieth century, because the technology and methodologies they supported no longer exist. At the same time, there is a misalignment between those losing their jobs and the newly created jobs. This misalignment between jobs lost and jobs created exists because the skill sets don’t line up. This is leaving millions of unemployed workers wondering what to do next, unaware that all they need is training to fill key positions in high-growth sectors like Green jobs or robotic repair.

Any sharp entrepreneur can see that there is a golden opportunity to build a training company to reposition the unemployed for the demands of a high tech job. This type of job training can’t be found in college. It’s just a matter of how the reeducation process gets actualized.

Being able to learn faster is the key to success in the twenty-first century. This means you must have not only the capacity to pick things up quickly but also the openness to let go of old methodologies while embracing new ones. Knowledge sharing works well when confronted with speed learning to learn, unlearn, and relearn in record time. Immersive learning has become the apprenticeship of the twenty-first century, and information driven entrepreneurs—infopreneurs—are making a killing teaching new methods of learning. Citizens of the Information Age must be dedicated to being lifelong learners."

- Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia, page 58

Many who are still unemployed cannot find jobs because there aren't any in their chosen field or the same jobs were moved to emerging countries were a dozen workers can be had for the price of one American worker. To keep a paycheck coming in, many Boomers may have to downgrade their expectations and take an  entry level job. While at the same time, colleges are creating degrees in technologies that do not exist yet in anticipation of future needs. It may be time to upgrade those antiquated skills.

Like I said before, a smart entrepreneur could create a training service to help align skill sets. If only our current Presidential Administration were savvy enough to allocate money for retraining and college tuition instead of bank bailouts.

Currently our GDP is so low the rest of the world wonders if Americans actually work. Well as long as we manufacture nothing here in the US (except war machines and construction equipment for overseas companies), and we consistently overlook the need for retraining along with normalizing quantitative easing (inflating the money supply), foreign investors are staying clear of the United States for at least 5 more years.

In other worlds, there will be a larger unemployed population chasing fewer and fewer jobs. Many Boomers will have to start working at McDonald's to pay the bills as jobs will continue to be scarce. Additionally do not be surprised when local municipalities, State and Federal Pension plans cut back on that monthly check they promised to pay. Think that won't happen? Guess again.

Boomers and their higher salaries may not be in demand, but their experience is. It may be time to start that business you've always dreamed of, or go back to college or start consulting. And prepare yourself for the long haul. Self employed full-time independent consultants make on average 17% more than a salaried employee.


Thank you once again for reading....









Brad Szollose


If you are unemployed or facing the possibility that you'll be laid off soon, may I recommend a couple of great books?:


The idea of employment has changed dramatically yet most are still looking for jobs the old fashioned way - perfect resume, suit and tie, and answering a series of questions. How do you set yourself apart when you are competing against thousands of applicants from 24 - 48 years of age?  This book, if followed, will awaken you to the facts...we live in a different world. You need different tactics.


Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink
Daniel Pink interviews "America's new independent workforce" and offers analysis of the "new economy" with advice on how to succeed in it. Pink examines facts and figures, explores the roots of increasing free agency, and considers the new work ethic, employment contract, and time clock it generates. He outlines the structure of free agent work and major disruptions (especially for involuntary free agents) and offers some predictions about how this new paradigm will affect institutional arrangements, including education, "e-tirement," real estate, finance, and politics.