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I was watching the nightly news a couple of nights ago, and I came across a segment which sort of bothered me.

While these programs are pretty valuable for getting young people ready to join the workforce upon graduation, I think this is misguided.  I don't think any child currently in middle school should be mandated to pick a career so early in their lives, especially when the job market is quickly evolving at a faster pace then ever before.

Though NBC failed to mention the name of this state government program in their newscast, it's actually the Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy (BRIDGE) Act.  The idea behind the BRIDGE Act is to prepare Georgia's middle and high school students for positions in the workforce after graduating high school, presumably in jobs that are needed to serve the state population.  While this is obviously well intended, I think this is setting some students up for careers they are not suited for or may not be available to them upon graduation.

With the rapidly advancing pace of technology, many jobs which were once ubiquitous and thought to be necessary for decades to come have suddenly become obsolete or are quickly becoming obsolete.  Granted, some positions, like the typesetter, switchboard operator, milkman, record store clerk, and full-service travel agent, have become or are quickly becoming relics of a bygone era.  In fact, if you take a drive down the downtown area of my hometown you'll find numerous vacant and boarded up storefronts and weathed signs of once-thriving print and copy shops.

However, the rapidly changing pace of technology have decimated many once stalwart professions like manufacturing jobs, the newspaper and magazine industry, and even sales jobs related to those positions.  And even white collar jobs have not escaped this.  Many entry-level attorney, paralegal, and legal secretary/administrative assistant jobs have either been forced to evolve or have been replaced by online templates or outsourced to dirt cheap virtual assistants here in the USA and obviously overseas.  Even many stockbrokers have been replaced by computer programs.  These changes have been rather unsettling, and that's just the current employment landscape.

Some people are predicting that even more professions will become obsolete or drastically reduced in scope within the next ten years.  Some of those jobs expected to disappear or be downsized are the following:

Military pilots
Auto mechanic
Garbage collector
Toll booth operator
Call center operators
Postal workers
Security guards

And the following are expected to be outsourced to cheaper third-world labor:

Assembly line workers
Some engineering jobs
Some graphic designing jobs
Customer service positions

But not all of this is bad news.  Some positions are expected to proliferate dramatically in the near future thanks to natural demographic trends, like health care, real estate development related to retirement and assisted living, and morbidly enough, funeral industry positions from mortuary directors, cemetery/cremation services. and estate planning.

But while the rapid pace of technological change has cratered some industries, it has opened up numerous opportunities within the last ten years.  Some of these hugely in-demand occupations did not exist ten years ago, like the following:

Search engine optimization experts
Social media managers
Content managers
Green energy consultants
Patient advocates
Mobile application developers

Now obviously some of these occupations are only expected to grow even bigger in the next ten years, and some occupations we haven't even imagined yet will become the next hot career for up-and-coming workers, particularly those in the healthcare, green energy, and technology sectors.

The question now becomes whether government, whether on the federal, state, or local level, has the vision to train or young people for these jobs of the future, or are they just wasting our money and our young people's time to train them for positions that won't be there for them once they graduate.  Right now the signs aren't encouraging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just mentioned this (4+ / 0-)

    in another comment.

    The educational playing field must be leveled so children can choose between being a security guard and a geographer.

  •  I taught over 30 years in a vocational high school (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boriskamite, fly, grannycarol, marina, chimene

    and I am sure of two things, first, that kids know what they like to do early, and if you let them travel in that direction, they will enjoy school a lot more.

     Second, there is no reason to believe that anyone cannot change careers when their interest changes... We just need to insure that the opportunity to be retrained is still available for all age groups.

    The news piece concerned me too, but girls and boys who like animals or engines keep liking them as they go through high school.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 05:05:09 PM PDT

    •  that may be true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but does channeling them in specific directions reduce the chances that their career changes can be successful?

      •  I have had several career changes, and so have (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        most other people.  The people skills I used in restaurant work applied when I taught school, and now as a small business owner.  People seem to become more inflexible with age; the young are still choosing even when they have started working.

          I remember feeling sad when, at 36, I knew I would not be having a career in the military, and again when after reading the application, that I wasn't well qualified to be the "Teacher in space" (car-sickness was one of three immediate disqualifiers!) There are still a few things I would like to do with my remaining time on earth.

        If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

        by weck on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 05:27:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A cautionary tale (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, weck

    You can't train people for discrete careers that might not be there, and even some of the safer choices may not in the end, be so safe.

    I have a 16-year-old daughter, and this weighs heavily.

  •  There is a difference between (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boriskamite, weck, marina

    finding your passion and choosing your career.

    Passions can be discovered during the teen years, and one passion can produce numerous careers to choose from.

    I'd prefer igniting passions- not focusing on limited learning.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 05:34:11 PM PDT

  •  I started as a business teacher, but my favorite (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    part of that was the Business management / Entrepreneurship component.  So many of my students went on to either start their own small businesses or jump into low level management positions right from high school.  painting-pizza-clothing-deli; they were able to use business skills to do many things.

    Others went to college or got jobs, joined the military, started families.  They weren't trained to only do one thing, high schools don't have the funding or the time to focus so sharply on only one career.

     Think of the dozens of different kinds of jobs that can develop from early training in auto mechanics!  From NASCAR to nuclear to small engines, starting young to train your passion into a career give you a leg up on the folks who wait until college or later to start to get credentialed.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

    by weck on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 05:58:00 PM PDT

  •  "Careers" no longer exist. The best your child can (0+ / 0-)

    hope for is a series of intermittent jobs.

  •  How do you train to these jobs? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You've got:

    Search engine optimization experts
    Social media managers
    Content managers
    Green energy consultants
    Patient advocates
    Mobile application developers

    Essentially one's a writer, one's social work, two are programming,  two are office administration, and one is so catch-all that it defies classification (guess which one?).  I'd point out that at least four require no formal training whatsoever, yet still have steep prior experience reqs (since paying employers are dipping into early adopters).

    More importantly, I think you've picked on some highly transitory titles.  I mean are we really going to stake our 10 or even 5 year resume on familiarity with Wordpress?

    That's not to knock vocational education--it's an underutilized option in this country.  I don't pretend to have a solid empirical basis for my hunch here, but I feel we're getting to the point of diminishing returns. That these "career" opportunities are anything but for most people.  And that folks would be better positioned if they had broader and deeper grasps of the basics--writing, mathematics, and mechanics--that could form the foundation for on-the-job experience.

    •  That was sort of my point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weck, Pete Cortez

      I was just mentioning that the state shouldn't be requiring middle school kids to go down some career path that may not be suitable or even exist by the time they graduate high school or college.

      And the reason some of the job titles are transitory is because they are exactly that.  A lot of the high paying computer jobs of the late 70's/early 80's are obsolete now, but they were cutting edge during their time.  (Who needs computer programmers with FORTRAN or PASCAL experience these days?) Having said that, many of those early programmers developed the skills that allowed them to migrate to other computer programming occupations later on. And as I said earlier, there are going to be some very highly skilled, highly paid, and highly competitive occupations in the future that don't even exist yet and haven't even been imagined but will become necessary thanks to advances in technology, particularly mobile computing, biotech, and green technology.  

      •  Regarding older programmers. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The employment literature for programmers is pretty soft in this regard, so take what I say from here on out as personal experience.

        The oldest generation just north of retirement age were mathematicians, electrical engineers, etc with a graduate education's grasp of technologies that today's crop either takes for granted or leave unused.  A good number of them transitioned to the management side of the shop, and those that didn't were well prepared for any shifting winds.  Arguably more so than the kids coming up today.

        The next generation saw the trend above continue, but with the additional explosion of the first generation of technician-level programmers.  By this time, you had large companies fielding armies of these guys.  A good number of these also transitioned into management, but admittedly those who didn't were those who couldn't move from assembly microcontrollers and FORTRAN job programming to C or LISP app development, or were tied to particular stacks (physically tied, as in if you didn't have a PDP-11 with an ancient enough Unix, you were screwed).  

        The tail end of that second generation were comfortable with C and a more diverse Unix ecosystem as it emerged, so they didn't suffer from a lot of those weaknesses.  They could also be relied upon to support legacy assembly and obscure language, which made them more attractive than their technician predecessors.  And since Algol 68 and LISP are parents to so many canonical forms for teaching high level computation and programming in the first place, they were well positioned for the explosion in languages that occurred in the 1990s.

        I'd say that today's generation of programmers are the most vulnerable since that second one.  They know a few languages, a few "design patterns" and "paradigms," can probably reason through a few toy issues in complexity, and know how to reuse stuff.  But think of all those people who never cleared Classic ASP, or PHP 3, or sysadmins who thought early Perl was just a niftier scripting tool.  They've learned programming in such extraordinarily specialized domains, which is great for companies looking to field a battalion of code monkeys to implement someone else's design.  

        I just hired a 56 year old former FORTRAN guy who knew (but hated) C and showed no inkling to scrape out of his DoD niche.  That is until he spent ten years unemployed.  Why?  Because it's a lot easier to teach him how to design than to teach a 23 year old script kiddy how to analyze and test his code.

        •   It does seem that programming training is hugely (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          different.   My cousin was taking an entry level class using one of the many new bogus languages.   His assignment was to write code to convert a series of notes in some representation to musical sounds from the speakers -- including polophiny.

          I was rather surprised because that is pretty hard to do (I couldn't do it in one sitting) and as far as I could tell he had not even been taught how to implement anything as complex as strcat().   I sent an email starting to explain how I would do it, but it turns out that this special wiz-bang language has a function that you call to convert a series of notes into .wav form which can be played on the PC using another function.    So instead of learning anything really useful, all he was supposed to do was call two highly complex subroutines that he had no chance of understanding.

          That is the problem with votech done wrong.   You can't teach people to be rangers by teaching them exactly one path through the forest.   They have to learn map reading skills, how to use a compass, etc.   Now an employer might want somebody out of high school who already knows which buttons to push to make the widget on the assembly line but a worker who only knows about the buttons on one specific machine will be at a severe disadvantage for the future, as the diary says.    

          It is the age old conflict between education that is the best for the company vs education that is the best for the student.

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