The New York Times has a good article on jobs that won’t be coming back even after the recession is over. It tells the story of Cynthia Norton , a 52-year-old former administrative assistant who hasn’t been able to get a similar position since she was laid off two years ago — this despite sending out more than 100 resumes. Instead, she’s been working at Walmart for a third of her former salary.
The writer’s point is that Norton’s difficulties have less to do with the bad economy than the fact that, as I’ve noted before, many clerical and other jobs — travel agents, manufacturing, data entry –are being eliminated because they can be easily automated or done overseas.
The story goes right to the heart of what many ex-offenders must deal with as more lower-skilled but decent paying jobs disappear. What I don’t get is why the Obama administration continues to downplay the permanent loss of these jobs due to structural changes in the economy.
As I often tell my students, certain doors are going to be closed to you, and it’s better to know that at the outset. Individuals who were sentenced for drug offenses aren’t going to get jobs in medical offices. If you stole money from your last employer, you’re unlikely to be hired as an accountant. Petty larceny? You can probably forget the job as a bank teller.
So why can’t the government be as straight with us? After all, their own statistics support declines in certain occupations and even spell out the reasons why. And it isn’t just low-skilled jobs, either. Take computer programming. Many people believe having a background in information technology (IT) is a golden ticket. But it really depends where your expertise is. And right now the demand for computer programmers isn’t exactly growing. In fact, since peaking in 1999, the number of computer programming jobs in the U.S. has actually declined by nearly a third –529,000 to 394,000. Current projections see the number of positions going down by 3 percent through 2018.
What gives? In part the fall-off is due to advances in programming languages and tools, as well as the growing ability of users to write their own programs. In addition, these jobs are very easy to outsource to places like India where programmers are a good deal cheaper. Instead, the demand has moved to software engineers, who design and develop software for users and systems. The number of these positions is expected to increase by as much as 32 percent between 2008 and 2019.
The takeaway here: Be prepared for the fact that not being able to get a job may have less to do with you and your record, than the fact that certain jobs are disappearing and/or morphing into something else. These days everyone is having to learn something new — so don’t feel bad if you need to update your skills. Fortunately, the government is also putting a lot of money into retraining, so you may qualify.
But before you set your heart on a certain job or career, do your research. Talk to real people. You may be surprised. When I was over at my local Career One Stop Center recently, manager Trang Montgomery told me that despite declines in many manufacturing jobs, there were areas where there were going to be shortages. Welding, for example. Yes, apparently this is an specialty where employers are having difficulties finding skilled workers. If this interests you, you might want to check out training and apprenticeship opportunities.