Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D.
Many recent college graduates are living with their parents because they can’t find jobs. That bad news will ultimately become good. The 71 million members of the generation Millennium, who are aged 19-31 in 2013, have delayed marriage, buying a house, and having children because they lack an adequate income and are cautious as they grew up during the economic and psychological recessions. This is an enormous potential market that will naturally generate millions of jobs when they move into their adult roles because houses must be built, children need clothes, families buy insurance…the multiplier effect will be huge.
Seattle has been very successful in lowering its unemployment rate to 4.2% by adding a mix of new jobs especially in manufacturing, retail sales and construction. As a result, local industries also grow and prosper because the new employees need places to live, shop, play and eat.
We are also seeing growth as well as a decline in middle level jobs. Automating processes has resulted in a loss of some routine and repetitive middle jobs because comparatively cheap and capable computers are excellent at organizing, storing, retrieving and mining information but computers are not as good as people in performing non-routine tasks that require interpersonal skills, adaptability and judgment. Growth in jobs which require technical skills in addition to a high school diploma like medical paraprofessionals, electricians, automotive technicians and many others will continue to grow.
And, as our fears and anxieties have prevailed in the last few years, we lost sight of America’s history of successful innovation which is based on our acceptance of multiple ways of seeing things. That’s the reason the U.S. has long been a leader in creating innovations which ultimately result in new industries and products…and job growth. We are just not yet in the upside of the economic cycle.
Here is a small sample of new inventions and technologies that already exist which can potentially create new industries:
- Programmable Robots will lower costs for small and medium size manufacturers and may bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
- Three-dimensional printing can produce auto parts, industrial designs, jewelry…and, who knows what else at less cost and greater quality.
- Blood markers can detect disease early which can lead to early treatment when problems are small and most treatable.
- Gene therapy involving genetically altering a retrovirus with DNA to overwrite a mutation may allow the body itself to reverse the disease.
America is starved for success; and thus for confidence in itself and its institutions. We need trust in our leadership, and hope for our future. American upward mobility has been the psychological engine of hope for a better future and accounts for the low levels of class warfare in the U.S. Historically, Americans have not envied their more successful neighbors; they just want to join them through good luck and hard work.
At work, as in every other aspect of life, success is the ultimate motivator. Thus the primary aim of society must be to encourage self-sufficiency and enable people to achieve some level of success. No one can give someone confidence, resilience or optimism; these qualities have to be earned by doing something risky, something that you never achieved before.
Some amount of failure is inevitable as people strive to achieve more than they ever had before. But, if, after an initial disappointment they return to the task and succeed, both confidence and resilience will increase far more than if the goal had been easy.
In a world full of risk, learning to handle risk is a critical skill. Without some history of successfully managing risk, there cannot be any real confidence or resilience.
As a people, Americans need to work; in addition to earning money, work is where most people achieve and build confidence and pride in their self. And that will also be the way the people of this and many other nations will find they can restore their belief in their values, their leaders, and their country. If this is achieved it is reasonable to believe that opportunity and risk taking will grow, investment and innovation will flourish, and the Can Do! energy of the people will return.