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    Entries in Jobs (42)

    Monday
    May212018

    The challenge of recruiting for a job we think is going away

    If there is one job in the American labor force that presents an incredibly interesting, complex, and important case study on supply and demand, price economics, the impact of automation on work, and the current and future labor force it is the job of commercial truck driver.

    A couple of important statistics to keep in mind before we wade into some of the details that make commercial trucking so darn interesting, (at least to labor market and automation geeks like me).

    According to the American Trucking Association there are about 3.5 million commercial truck drivers in the US. And 71% of all the freight tonnage in the country is moved by truck. Finally, according to the BLS, truck drivers earn an average of about $24 an hour, and have an average age of about 55 years old.

    There are a couple of other factors specific to commercial trucking that tend to make it a difficult job to perform and to recruit for - traditionally new entrants have had to fund their own, expensive training and certification, for new drivers, the hours and time away from home are significant, the job itself is stressful, hard, and tends to foster really unhealthy habits, (poor sleep, fast-food, little exercise), and finally, and perhaps most importantly, commercial truck driving has been increasingly seen as being a job that can and will soon be replaced and disrupted by automation. Estimates of the impact of automation on commercial truck driving vary, but one representative example from Goldman Sachs, estimates that as many as 300K trucking jobs will be lost annually, once self-driving trucks become more widely adopted.

    Factor all of this in, the hard lifestyle, the relatively low pay, the looming threat of automation making many of these jobs redundant - oh, I didn't even mention the federal regulations making most of these jobs not available to workers under 21 and the strong market for alternative jobs in construction and energy luring many of the trucking industry's target candidates - and you would probably bet that the US economy is not producing as many new truck drivers as it has in the past.

    And you would be right. But the problem of many US companies, (and consumers), is that while we wait for Elon Musk's fleet of autonomous semi-trucks to take over American highways, and in the age of increasing demand for shipments (driven by the strong economy and Amazon Prime), the industry is seeing an increasing shortage of commercial truck drivers.

    Here's a chart from the American Trucking Association illustrating the problem facing the trucking industry shown as the estimate of unfilled truck driver jobs:

    According to the ATA's estimates, there could be as many as 180,000 trucking jobs unfilled within 10 years. And that kind of a shortfall, should it indeed play out that way, will have a pretty significant ripple effect throughout large swaths of the economy.

    Wages and benefits for truckers, which have been increasing steadily, will have to continue to rise. The transportation companies will have to pass these costs to their customers - manufacturers and retailers and commodity producers - who will past them on to their customers, who will pass them on to you and I. And the development timeline for the kinds of autonomous trucks that might stand in for the human truck drivers will have to accelerate.

    But in the meantime, at least the next 5 or 10 years, if the current trends hold, the US economy and labor market is going to have to find a way to recruit and retain more truck drivers. And lately, it seems like the transportation and other companies have not really cracked the code on just how to do that.

    A tough job, with lots of stress, with relatively poor to average pay, that we keep writing breathless stories about how it will soon be made obsolete by technology, with an aging cohort of workers currently in place, might represent the toughest recruiting challenge in recent memory.

    Sure, everyone likes to think 'tech' recruiting is hard, and it probably is. But I would wager a good commercial trucking recruiter would be worth their weight in whatever it is their company needs to get from one side of the country to the other.

    Anyone out there doing this kind of recruiting? Would love to hear how it is going on the front lines.

    Have a great week!

    Wednesday
    Apr182018

    Job Titles of the Future: Technology Ambassador

    Traditionally the institutions that have wielded power and influence and have amassed significant wealth and made an impact on people's lives were governments, (and to some extent religions). When a country's government enacts a policy or issues some new set of rules and regulations, this tends to have an outsize impact and effect on the people of that country, and if the country is big and influential enough, can even impact people all over the world. Just one recent example - the US/China trade and tariff disputes have sent global equity markets on a kind of wild, roller coaster ride lately - effecting markets and wealth of people all over the world.

    To a less direct, but by no means insignificant degree, changes in direction or policy from important religious organizations can effect people all over the world. The major world religions are not confined within one country or even two or three - they have followers all across the globe. If tomorrow the Pope issued a decree that, say, women are not allowed to become priests, that news would stir congregations in two hundred countries.

    But increasingly there is another set of globe spanning institutions that have perhaps even more worldwide influence and importance in people's lives and in commerce than say do most individual countries or single religions - the world's largest technology companies. Think Facebook with its 2 billion users. Google with its incredible reach and dominance in web search and mobile phone operating systems. Amazon with its seemingly inexorable march to dominate e-commerce and cloud computing. Apple, with more cash on hand than many small countries. And we haven't even mentioned the Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. In China, Tencent's WeChat impacts everything - news, communication, shopping, banking, and more.

    The world's largest tech companies are in some ways like countries or religions themselves. Their users are like citizens, their terms of service, methods of interaction, rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and unique cultures and sub-cultures offer similarities to the framework of large, religous organizations. Their influence on global economics and societies cannot be underestimated. Just like global trade disputes have roiled financial markets in recent days, so has the Facebook data security drama and fallout. At this stage, who would argue that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg isn't one of the world's most important people?

    So all that leads back to the title of the piece, the latest installment of the often imitated, but never surpassed 'Job Titles of the Future' series. The job title is Technology Ambassador and the details of this job come to us from the country of Denmark, who, as far as I can tell, are the first and only nation to create and name an official 'Technology Ambassador' for the country. 

    What does a Technology Ambassador do? Some details from a piece on Wired UK:

    Ambassadors are traditionally staid public officials, holed up in grand embassies in the farthest-flung corners of the world. Their job? Schmoozing the powerful, smoothing over tricky arguments and promoting their country. "Diplomacy has always been about putting people in outposts where there have been new activities and events - be it in conflict areas, or where innovation, creativity and new technology is influencing our ways of life," explains Casper Klynge, who has just taken up the role as the first ever ambassador to Silicon Valley.

    The job came about when Denmark's Foreign Office decided to create the post of what was then called a "Google ambassador", who would interact with the tech giants. The role was officially created in February; Klynge was appointed a few months later. In late August, he moved to California and into his Palo Alto embassy, where he plans to build a team of more than a dozen staff, supported by a back-office secretary and a number of tech attachés around the world - the first of which will be based in Klynge's old stomping ground, Asia.

    The most important role he has as ambassador shows just how much the world has changed in recent years: he's there to meet Silicon Valley's biggest companies in exactly the same way he has previously met with prime ministers and presidents. "We need to build those relationships because of the key influence these companies have over our daily lives," he says, "and, at the end of the day, over foreign policy and international affairs."

    This appointment of a Technology Ambassador show Denmark's really progressive, prescient, and probably soon to be copied approach to their nation's relationships with 'Big Tech' by other countries in the near future.

    These companies seem to only be growing in influence - signing on more and more of the world's population, developing ever more and more convenient capabilities and features to keep users engaged, and expanding into more areas of daily life. Think about it this way - what institution or entity is more influential on a macro basis, Facebook or a country like Denmark?

    These are certainly interesting times, tech companies have more users than most countries have citizens or religions have adherents. And unlike most counties and religions, their size and influence seems to still be trending higher. Denmark's decision to think about and treat Big Tech like nations have traditionally considered other nations is also incredibly interesting too. And a one of the most interesting 'Job Titles of the Future' we have came across yet.

    Have a great day!

     

     

     

    Thursday
    Nov302017

    It doesn't matter if the robots aren't coming for your job, they are coming for your neighbor's job

    After reading a flurry of pieces over the last few days about the progress being made in self-driving vehicle technology, I was reminded that one job category that seems likely to be highly pressured by this type of automation is commercial vehicle driving. You don't have to be a genius to realize that once Tesla (and others), get enough of their new commercial trucks into service, that Generation 2.0 of these trucks will attempt to not just eliminate diesel fuel and noxious emissions from their products - they will try to eliminate the driver too.

    And you probably caught something about Amazon's newest experiments with retail stores that have no cashiers. Or maybe you have heard about fast food giants like McDonald's or Panera pushing more self-service kiosks into their locations, to reduce the need for human cashiers and order-takers. Or the hotels that are using mobile robots to deliver room service meals to their guests. And the list goes on and on.

    And maybe after reading all these stories you say to yourself: "Self, these technology advancements are amazing. But good thing I am a (insert the white collar 'knowledge' job you have here) and not a truck driver or a cashier.' 

    And whether or not the robots are coming sooner or later for whatever 'knowledge' job you have today is probably debatable, let's pretend for the moment in the words of Big Brother, (yes, I am fan), - 'Knowledge worker X, you are safe'. Phew. That is a relief.

    But here is the thing, the kinds of jobs that are most vulnerable, most likely to be adversely impacted by automation are ones that are held by millions of people. Have a look at the chart below, from BLS data from May 2016.

     

    Look closely at that list of the Top 10 'most-held' job categories in the US and think about which of them, (Clue: It is almost all of them), are going to be increasingly pressured by technology, automation, and 'self-service'.

    There are about 150M people in the US labor force give or take. The Top 10 job categories in the above chart represent about 21 or 22 million workers - roughly 15% of all US workers. That is a huge number, especially considering that half a percent or a full percent moves in the unemployment rates are such big news.

    The potential and the consequences of labor automation are concerns for everyone - whether or not your job is 'safe'.

    And one last bit of food for thought. This issue, this challenge of automation and technology threatening jobs is also going to be a local one. Check out this chart below that shows the largest private employer for each state in the US. See any cause for concern?

    When Walmart decides to move more aggressively into online, self-service, robot customer service pods, and Amazon-like efficiency in their distribution centers there will be an impact too.

    But that's ok. You don't work at Walmart.

    But I bet you know someone who does.

    Friday
    Aug182017

    CHART OF THE DAY: There are more job openings in the USA than ever

    I know I have written a couple of versions of this post in the last year or so, but to me, and as the data referenced in the post title keeps increasing, I think it is worth taking a look at the latest job openings data.

    As always courtesy of our pals at the BLS and using the fantastic charting capability from the St. Louis Fed.

    Here's the chart showing the total number of non-farm job openings in the US over the last 10 years or so and hen some words of wisdom and whimsy from me as we get ready to head into the weekend.

    Three quick takes...

    1. It may be hard to see on the chart, but the end of June 2017 data point shows a whopping 6.2 million open jobs in the USA. That is the record high for this measurement since records began to be kept starting in 2000. To give the 6.2 million number a little context, the total US labor force at the end of June is just over 160 million. Said differently, if we could magically fill the 6.2 million openings today, total US employment would jump almost 4%. That is a huge, huge number when talking about this kind of data.

    2. Wages, while growing, are not yet, (maybe never?), catch up to the fact that job openings keep increasing and time to fill metrics also continue to climb. I caught a quote from a random Fed official recently, can't remember which one at the moment, that essentally said something like 'If your business has a hiring problem or you think you have a 'skills gap' problem, and you have not taken steps to meaningfully increase wages and benefits you are offering, then I just don't believe you actually have a problem.' Persistent sluggish wage growth has been the most baffling element of the sustained labor market recovery of the last several years.

    3. I know this is obvious, and I know I have blogged this bit a few times before when considering the tight labor market, but it bears repeating. More and more power is shifting to employees, candidates, graduates - almost anyone with up to date skills and a desire to succeed. Factor in the myriad ways for people to side hustle, and employers have to continued to raise their game and their value props to have any chance of staying competitive in today's market. I am a 'labor' guy at heart, and more leverage and negotiating power shifting to workers just feels like a decent thing to me.

    Have a great weekend all!

    Thursday
    Jan262017

    Two years away (from being two years away)

    At the National Basketball Association player draft in 2014, former college basketball coach and now broadcaster and analyst Fran Fraschilla offered this classic observation of then 18 year-old Brazilian prospect Bruno Caboclo and his potential to become a successful NBA player:

    "He's two years away from being two years away, (from being ready to play in the NBA), and then we'll see."

    I thought about this gem of a line from Fraschilla in a recent conversation I was having with a friend about potential career choices. Why did the '2 years away' line come up?

    Because I think that 2 years may be the new 5 years, in terms of the old classic interview "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question. Take your pick from fast-changing technology, new business models, disruption coming from all sides, and toss in a side dish of the gig economy and I think most people would have a really hard time seeing out five years into the future and be able to offer up a credible or coherent idea of what they think they will be doing then. Two years seems at least more tangible. The future can't move that fast, right? Don't answer that.

    The really important point isn't just that 2 years might be the new 5 years, but that just like our pal Bruno Caboclo, what you don't want is to find yourself two years from now STILL being two years away from whatever goal/plan you had set out to reach.

    It may be more realistic and reachable to set out career plans and goals in 2 year increments as opposed to 5, (or whatever your dopey interviewer says), but the downside is that 2 years passes really, really fast.

    Just ask Bruno, who in 2 1/2 full seasons in the NBA has played in a grand total of 22 games and scored a whopping 16 total points. 

    The upside? Bruno is still only 21 and has time to get to where he wants to be. 'Losing' two years might not hurt him that much. 

    But I am pretty sure that most of the rest of us don't have that kind of luxury. Or an NBA contract.

    Have a great day!