March 1, 2017

∴ The Current Wave of Job Replacement

Alana Semuels - The Atlantic:

In not too long, these jobs may be a thing of the past. The White House released a report in December predicting that 1.3 million to 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck-driving jobs could disappear because of automation. That’s 80 to 100 percent of all truck-driving jobs. Though the White House did not specify over what time period this replacement would take place, some of the technology that will automate truck driving is already in use. In 2015, Daimler received permission to test a self-driving truck, the Freightliner Inspiration, on Nevada roads. A truck from Otto, Uber’s self-driving truck division, delivered cans of Budweiser to Colorado Springs in October. David Alexander, an analyst with Navigant Research, anticipates that most truck companies will gradually introduce automated driving technology in the next five to 10 years.

New jobs will emerge as a result. But they will essentially be in a different field—technology. Autonomous trucks use sensors and a navigation system to drive on the road. They brake independently and use radars and cameras to navigate around other vehicles. Alexander, of Navigant, says that automated trucks will still need people in these trucks, at least at first. But the jobs will be for people who can handle these systems’ on-board computers and fix problems that arise. “It will be less involved with physically driving the truck, and more with monitoring the truck,” he said.

This is a repeat of what we’ve seen in manufacturing over the last couple of decades - jobs replaced not by off-shoring, as in the waning decades of the 20th century, but rather by automation. They have been and continue to be low paying, difficult and not particularly desirable: the article states an average 6-month longevity among new truck drivers.

It has become the norm in America that well-paying employment is not to be had by those with only a high school diploma. To expect otherwise is anachronistic given broad changes in the nature of work and the workforce.

The solution for better employment has always been more and varied education. That remains the case. A four-year degree is the minimum for highly technical or managerial employment, and professional trade school graduation is a necessity for what used to be entry-level employment, such as robotic manufacturing facilities and, if this article holds true, truck “driving.”

This shift has been a long time coming. Political candidates touted retraining the American workforce as early as 1988. Now that it’s upon us and people are lamenting their community and employment, the response must be as Mr. Trump spoke in his address to a joint session of Congress last night: education. It’s not only the civil rights issue of our time, it’s the survival issue of our time.

(NB: I actually agreed with something he said.)

#work #employment #technical #education #minimum #requirements

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