Employers need to look for skills of the future

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 at 1:00am

Employment in the 21st century holds a picture for the American workforce that amplifies the changing face of the last quarter of the 20th century. Advancing technology in most every field combined with productivity improvements and the movement offshore of significant number of labor intensive jobs are molding the shape of the economy. The result for new jobs will be towards more highly skilled, highly trained and well-educated employees. But another characteristic will mean even more than in the past for the world's greatest economy - creativity.

Since the end of the recession in November 2001, it is projected that over 2 million jobs have been lost including 1.7 million in manufacturing, according to many estimates. With the economy improving and companies increasing spending there are expectations that jobs will begin to become available in greater numbers. That this has only recently begun has confounded many economists. Why has the job turn-around taken so long?

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said one of the main reasons is the increase in productivity. This means companies are becoming more efficient. It also means, in the short run at least, that employers need fewer than expected employees. In theory, it also means products and services are cheaper. In time, the productivity increase will reach its limits. The resulting efficiency should mean a stronger economy and, hopefully, more jobs.

To keep pace with a growing global perspective of management and keener competition, many companies are seeking cheaper labor. As a result, they are moving many of their operations offshore. In the past century this usually meant only manufacturing. Unfortunately, now it is beginning to mean service jobs as well. This trend will probably continue in service jobs that are similar to assembly line work.

Many economists are saying it is only a matter of time before the U.S. economy begins to add even greater numbers of jobs. In most cases they forecast a continuing and protracted turnaround. Time will tell. But what does this mean to employers wanting to prepare their workforce for the future?

Greenspan said the future American worker needs to be better trained and educated to meet the demand. He is right.

The U.S. economy's greatest advantage is the ingenuity and innovation of its workforce. By developing new products, services, concepts, styles and services the nation has excelled in its competition with the rest of the world. It has also given its population an unprecedented standard of living.

Workers and employees that contribute to this approach will be in high demand now and in the future. In their jobs these people work more with ideas and better ways of doing things.

A book, The Rise of the Creative Class, says the creative workers of America make up only about 30 percent of the workforce but account for 50 percent of wages. In the future, their income will increase even more compared to the rest of the workforce.

Employers and people who put themselves in a position to take advantage of the trend toward more innovation and ingenuity will have greater success in the 21st century.

Employers should be aware that jobs requiring design, education, development, advertising, financing, analyzing, reviewing, recommending, improving or marketing should be in great demand. And because of the nature of some industries, the jobs that comprise them will remain in demand.

So as an employer, look at what your employee contributions will need to be in the long run. Take a close look at your employees' abilities and skill levels and what they will need for future competitiveness. Their existing and future creative abilities may be the difference in a prosperous future or a decline in profits.

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