“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” – Elizabeth Edwards
2020 provided a quite incredible ending to the first decade of the 21st Century. It was far more than protests and demonstrations reaching alarming heights, coming from many directions, while a shift in national politics was unfolding. The Worldwide Pandemic unleashed a flood of accelerating Trends within an evolving Universe and the unfolding of the Labor Market. While buying products online and long distance electronic communications were already on the rise, they were both accelerated dramatically with the shutdown of many storefront operations and the growth of significant domestic sequestration. The “official” unemployment rate shot up from a pre-COVID February number around 3.5% to a whopping 14.7% during April and even at the end of the year was still over double the early year numbers, hovering around 6.7%. Of course, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics only counts those in the labor force which they defined as people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks. The real unemployment rate according to TheBalance, a part of the Dotdash.com publishing family, offers calculations that include the underemployed, marginally attached and discouraged workers. They reported a 22.8% rate at the April height and an end of year rate still hovering around 12%.
Last summer on 60 Minutes, Taiwanese-born American Educated computer scientist Dr. Kai-Fu Lee explained how Artificial Intelligence will continue to replace repetitive functions on jobs, making the rather startling statistic of a loss at “40% of Jobs Worldwide during the next 15 years. “ Dr. Lee’s doctoral dissertation was about a computer speech recognition system. He worked as an executive with Apple, Silicon Graphics, Microsoft and Google on way to launching Beijing based Sinovation Ventures. His latest book is “AI Super-powers China, Silicon Valley, New World Order.”
As businesses were scrambling to survive the loss of COVID 19 sequestered employees and customers, Time ran the story, “Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic – And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever.”
Manufacturing is still alive and has been showing growth in the US Economy, but it is not because of returning employers that left for a less expensive 3rd world unskilled labor force. To function in a high wage country, factories must be high tech and employees are no longer laborers with low education. Employers are advertising for people with”
- Knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering processes
- Ability to work with computerized systems
- Ability to read and write machine programming code
- Ability to read manufacturing blueprints
- Ability to operate automated manufacturing systems
- Understanding of hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical systems
Employment and Career Development Counseling most certainly will be in demand as the economy continues to evolve. While there is a flood of high tech options entering human consciousness, the draconian scenario of being overrun by superior androids, are not predicted by respectable computer scientists as part of the near future. AI is great at collecting and analyzing huge amounts of data and able to make predictions about human behavior (what we are likely to look at and perhaps buy). But computers do not have emotions or feeling, cannot experience empathy and really are not creative.
As counselors we listen to the stories of those we serve and help them reframe their perceptions into healthier approaches of interacting with the universe. Of course we can appreciate the evolving technology, as available tools to help us provide the best possible information. Because it is our trade we have the experience navigating career and employment systems and can facilitate an easier journey for our customers. Traditionally employment counseling has been described as Choice, Change or Adjustment. We help people find their optimum path, make decisions about what they want to do. Sometimes they are in transition, needing a new job or training to move in a different career direction. Sometimes the conversations are about behavioral modifications or attitude adjustments to function better, stay employed, and grow positively within an organization.
To take our profession to a level of artistry, I believe we need to understand labor market trends, make a commitment to life long learning, and associate with people who are embracing optimistic and healthy expressions of existence. Fundamentally however, at the heart of counseling is an ability to deliver kindness with unconditional positive regard. We feel the energy when we touch a soul and know when we are truly engaged in healing.
There is an incredible amount of work to be done and new opportunities are continually emerging. We choose our sources of information and together we are all contributing to the ongoing evolution of the universe.
Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin