It is often less than clear where job losses originate. Are they shipped overseas? Are workers being replaced by machine? Setting national policy is very dependent upon breaking down losses into the where’s and why’s.
With the new administration arriving in about three weeks, the New York Times took a look at the topic on December 21. Their conclusion is that more jobs are lost to automation than lost to overseas competition.
One of the best examples is the steel industry. It collapsed when the massive mills that dotted states such as Pennsylvania were closed. It rebounded when manufacturers adopted the methods being used by steel makers in Japan and China. Minimills became the norm, but employed far fewer people.
The MIT Technology Review has an even better example from Australia. The Rio Tinto iron ore mining complex in NW Australia uses 73 massive autonomous trucks to haul ore from the mines. The trucks are loaded and operated with no human involvement. The ore is mined by equally autonomous drills.
In the near future, the trains that transport the ore to seaports will also be loaded, operated and unloaded with no humans involved. “The company’s driverless trucks have proven to be roughly 15 percent cheaper to run than vehicles with humans behind the wheel…” All that automation is overseen by humans at a control center 750 miles from the mines.
Automation and Job Loss – a Local Issue
The Times points out that automation affects some demographics more than others. One man profiled by the paper is 35, and lives in Evansville, Indiana. He does not have a high school diploma and has trouble finding any sort of work since his packaging job with an auto parts company vanished.
There are jobs, good jobs, for people with training and education. In Rochester, New York, one company needs CNC operators so badly that they have established a training program. Students are paid while they learn and are guaranteed a job upon successfully completing the program.
Education and training
And, for that fellow without a high school diploma, there is hope. A quick Google search shows many ways in Evansville, some free to the student, that he can obtain his GED. A similar search reveals any number of job training opportunities in the region, some with financial support for the student.
If you want a good job, invest your time in preparing for one. And, never, ever pass up the opportunity for free training. It’s true – the job you have today may not exist five years from now. But if you ensure you’re continually training, the jobs of tomorrow may only be a paid education program away.