Over the last several months I have either read or found myself involved in various conversations that have all included some aspect of the notion that significant change is happening within a variety of different employment markets. No doubt that this happens all the time, but I would maintain that there are a number of factors that make this particular point in time somewhat unique!
For instance, not only are we still slowly coming out of a rather serious recession with still high unemployment overall, but add in the significant explosion of technology advancements that really started to take hold right about the same time as the recession hit. Consequently, some industries – one of them being the printing industry for instance, were challenged with competition from the online digital media formats that severely cut into market share. Over time the competition is beginning to sort itself out somewhat now, but still the effect was dramatic. Many other examples exist as well – just look at businesses such as Blockbuster Video for example!
Another factor that is coming to the forefront is an issue very prominent in the state of Illinois, but also evident in other states as well – the problem with underfunded pensions.Why is this affecting employment you ask? Well consider a report that suggests nearly one-third of the faculty professors at the University of Illinois will be applying for retirement this summer! And another report that suggests nearly 4 times more applications for retirement from state workers was received in Illinois due to the fact that their benefit package was expected to drop significantly if they waited to the following year. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that there could be a real shortage of qualified workers to take their places next year!
I happen to serve on an Advisory Committee at Illinois State University for their Graphic Arts program – which is where I graduated from some 36 years ago. At our last meeting a month ago, the discussion came up that one of the major challenges facing all of the businesses represented – both large and small, was the aging workforce. Not that I am getting any older mind you, but the bottom line is that for many businesses, the “baby boomers” are rapidly getting closer to retirement – and quite frankly, there are not enough of the next generations that are in place to fill the gaps! Oops, another problem.
Yet another thought came to mind based on something I had read recently – with some of the rapidly changing technology that we are seeing, it is not out of possibility that someone entering college as a freshman today in a specific program, might well graduate in four years and find out that this program is obsolete! Or at the very least, they had better hope that their instructors have been staying current with all the new trends and advancements. One would hate to graduate with a significant debt load – and not a viable education!
All of this is certainly a little scary and definitely makes for interesting times. Or, on the hand, it could also make a tremendous opportunity for the right-minded individual. Employment Which side of the coin will you choose?