The Future of American Jobs

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The Future of American Jobs

The nature of work in America is undergoing a radical transformation. As recently highlighted in The Futurist,1 it's the most dramatic change since the Industrial Revolution. This new paradigm requires workers to be far more skilled in technical matters than in the past. The need for these talented workers will grow for at least another decade, and probably a lot longer. As a result, we'll have to rethink nearly everything, from the way we educate our children, to the way we go about looking for jobs, to where we look for them. Many of the jobs that we'll be looking for — and especially those that our children will be seeking — don't even exist yet. And many others that do exist are quite new today.

We're now in an economic recovery and, contrary to some reports, the future of the American economy looks bright. The Congressional Budget Office estimated recently that the real U.S. gross domestic product could grow from $14 trillion today to $20 trillion a year by 2019.2  But who will benefit from that? And what will the job market look like?

The U.S. unemployment rate has reached 9.5 percent, and the Federal Reserve Bank has warned that the rate is set to rise to 10 percent in the year ahead. If you include people who've stopped looking for work and those who are under-employed, the figure rises to at least 15 percent. But the paradox of the new jobs paradigm is this: There are really plenty of jobs out there. But the kind of workers those jobs require are in short supply, even while the type of work done by legacy employees is drying up. Consequently, we have an over-supply of low-skilled workers, and an under-supply of high-skilled workers. This "skills gap" is only going to widen as time goes on.

So far, the U.S. economy, despite its strong base of high-tech industries, has done a fairly poor job of educating the nation's youth to prepare them for the coming wave of scientific advances that will be essential for highly technical industries. Right now, many of America's high-skill jobs are going overseas to people in Europe, Japan, and Singapore, where the level of education in science, math, and engineering is higher. Simultaneously, U.S. industries are being forced to import talent from those places, as well as India, to fill existing jobs that too few American workers are trained to do.

In the meantime, China is churning out 600,000 new engineers a year, while India graduates about 400,000...

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