The Workforce Revolution That’s Long Overdue

Virtual-reality technology can open a new frontier in job training.

Mark P. Mills

July 24, 2018

In these contentious times, perhaps it’s heartening that Ivanka Trump and Silicon Valley’s potentates have at least one thing in common: concern for the future of America’s workforce. As the White House point person on a new jobs initiative, Trump wrote in a recent op-ed that it’s high time “to deliver better workforce training.” That’s where Silicon Valley comes in. We’re overdue for something revolutionary to ameliorate “unfair” outcomes from technological and economic disruptions to the workforce. For too long, we’ve met every cycle of technological dislocation with the same unimaginative policies: financial aid and PR for vocational schools and community colleges, retraining grants, corporate pledges and private-public “partnerships,” or just old-fashioned welfare.

The big problem is that there are far more openings for skilled employment than there are people with the requisite skills to fill them. Contrary to received opinion, technology is not eliminating work so much as it is changing the skills landscape. And there won’t be enough robots to do those skilled jobs for years—if ever. President Trump’s new White House National Council for the American Worker proposes to “facilitate the use of data to connect American businesses, workers and educational institutions.” At the White House initiative last week, 15 major corporations pledged to hire and train workers. All this constitutes a necessary, but far from sufficient, step. The missing ingredient is a revolution in skills training.

Up until now, the best that the Internet could do was enable online learning for job functions like accounting or coding. But that’s a cakewalk compared with mastering welding, plumbing, or machine repair/maintenance online. Fortunately, technology is opening a path to superior skills training via realistic virtual simulators that can be accessed remotely. Remarkably realistic virtual reality (VR) environments are now available in medical and military applications. Microsoft’s HoloLens may be the most sophisticated VR simulator so far, presenting realistic life-size simulacra of human organs for doctors to practice surgery and simulated rescue operations for soldiers. It’s still too expensive for everyday use, and truly immersive verisimilitude remains over the horizon. But near-perfect visual, tactile, and other sensory inputs will soon emerge. AI, virtual and augmented reality, and high-speed network connectivity to supercomputing in the Cloud are merging with the budding revolution in sensors and materials to enable “haptics” that allow a sense of touch and the reality of a “tactile Internet.” The latter will be key to skills training.

It’s time to emulate Edwin Link, who introduced the first aircraft simulator in 1929. Flight simulators revolutionized the skilled trade of flying. While hands-on training remains essential, the simulator accelerates the acquisition and refinement of the aviator’s skill set. Creating VR training systems is squarely in the Silicon Valley wheelhouse; skills-centric VR won’t be easy or cheap, but Silicon Valley’s disruptors can afford it, and they should volunteer to fund it. Developing sophisticated virtual training systems would be far less expensive—and more productive—than imposing new taxes to fund welfare programs like universal basic income. And retraining people is self-evidently more moral than assuming that they should be put out to pasture, with a stipend.

As both history and current trends show, advances in technology mean that fewer people end up working per unit of good produced or service created. But increasing productivity is the point of new technology and has been the engine of prosperity over millennia—and it has always meant more net new jobs. Technological innovation does tend to alter the nature of work and the kind of skills required, though, leading to job losses for an unlucky minority. Today, as in the past, most Republicans and Democrats believe that we should do something to smooth out the technological dislocations thrust on that minority. As always, the devil is in the details of what constitutes “something.” Nearly two centuries ago, we saw a revolution in the means of production. A half-century ago, the first commercial computers triggered a revolution in the means of management. Now we’re on the cusp of a revolution in the means of job training. It’s time for Silicon Valley to step up.

Click here to read the original article.

Get ready for Generation Z at work

Just as the work world is starting to understand millennials, Generation Z is on its way.

by Ananya Bhattacharya

Gen Z, whose oldest members are turning 19, will start entering the work force in large numbers in just a few years. And their career attitudes are likely to differ significantly from the millennials who preceded them, according to a new study by Universum.

Research firm Universum surveyed high school students and recent graduates in 46 countries. Most were born between 1996 and 2000.

One big theme around the world: Members of Generation Z see themselves as entrepreneurial.

In fact, 55% of 50,000 Gen Z-ers Universum polled said they’re interested in starting their own company.

Why? They want to be their own boss and think starting a business is a great way to make an impact, the survey found.

Universum researchers have seen a gradual rise in entrepreneurial interest with each generation, and expect that trend to continue from millennials to Gen Z, says Katharine Lynn, Universum’s associate director of marketing and communications.

The “growing pervasiveness of startups” like Facebook and Uber, “as well as the increasing desire for independence” are helping drive that interest, Lynn said in an email.

“There has also been a strong increase in focus on tech skills, which can be learned regardless of where you go to school or what you study,” she said.

Gen Z’s independent streak is much stronger than millennials’, with 32% of Gen Z respondents saying autonomy is one of their most important career goals, compared to just 22% of Gen Y.

Less essential for Gen Z? Work-life balance, cited by 40% of Gen Z-ers vs. 54% of millennials. And the intellectual challenge of a career is critical to just 19% of Gen Z compared to 32% of Gen Y. Meanwhile, only 27% say it’s important to feel they’re serving a greater good with their work, compared to 35% of their elders surveyed.

Of course, Gen Z is still made up of mostly students — and their relative inexperience may be influencing their expectations, according to Lynn. Once they enter the “real world,” their attitudes may shift.

And despite their zest for entrepreneurship, members of Gen Z are not terribly optimistic about their financial prospects. Only 56% of Gen Z expects to have a better lifestyle than their parents, compared to 71% of millennials.

Click here to read the original article.

The terrible job advice parents give to their millennial kids

By Corinne Purtill

This article originally appear on Quartz at Work. Click here to read.

Parents: the advice you’re doling out on how to seek and secure a job is bad. It’s really bad. It’s outdated and counterproductive. If you love your adult offspring and would like to see them succeed, you must cease and desist immediately.

Alison Green, a consultant who writes the popular blog Ask a Manager, has heard cringingly bad stories from adult children of misguided (but well-intentioned!) parents who don’t realize that some tactics that worked decades ago are likely to backfire now. Quartz At Work talked with Green to learn the most common pieces of advice that job seekers can (and should) ignore.

Regarding that resume

Parent says: You know what you should do? Get some nice paper, print out your resume, and have it sent overnight. Or just go in there and hand it to the boss yourself!

Green says: “It used to be an impressive move, but it’s no longer true that you should “pound the pavement” and show up in person to apply for jobs.

“First, nearly all applications are electronic these days. Many employers have no easy way to get hard copy materials (resume and cover letter) into their electronic application processing systems; they’d have to scan them in, and they don’t want to do that for you. They want you to apply online using their system there. So showing up to hand someone your resume comes across as out of touch. (There are some exceptions to this, like restaurants, but for the most part this is all done online these days.)

“Second, job openings on average get far more applicants these days than they used to. That’s probably a function of how much easier it to apply for jobs online now that you don’t have to mail out resumes individually. And since employers are fielding hundreds of applicants for each position, they really don’t want to deal with random applicants showing up in person and expecting to talk to someone; it would end up being hugely time-consuming. Employers have a system for screening applications, and they don’t want you to circumvent it.”

Following up

Parent says: Did you call to follow up? Well, call them again!

Green says: “This idea that you should show “gumption” to impress a hiring manager—things like call every few days to ask about your application or try to buy the hiring manager coffee—that stuff doesn’t work. To the contrary, it alienates most hiring managers—and it can be really frustrating to be on the receiving end of that advice from insistent parents.”

Carving a path

Parent says: You’re making how much? As an assistant? Don’t you know how many loans you have?

Green says: “There’s a particular misunderstanding these days of how hard it can be for newer grads to find work in their field, and how so often you have to start at the bottom and work your way in however you can. Parents see their kids doing low-paying entry-level jobs and because they don’t realize that will eventually lead to much better positions in the field the kid wants to work in, they sometimes panic and try to push them in a totally different direction.

“I also hear about a lot of parents doing a hard-sell on grad school, figuring that the kid will come out significantly more marketable—and not realizing that in a lot of cases, grad school will make the job search harder, if the field the kid is in doesn’t place particular value on graduate degrees.”

So then what?

Parent says: Fine, I’ll butt out. But what’s your plan?

Green says: “Really, the best way to show enthusiasm and fit for a job is by having a resume that shows a track record of achievement in things relevant to what the employer is looking for, and writing a personalized, engaging cover letter that truly speaks to why you’d excel at the job (i.e., not one that just repeats the contents of your resume). It’s a boring answer, but it’s really the one that works the best, at least with good employers.”

Hear an employee talk about how BARRYSTAFF set him up for success

When David came to see us, he made no bones about the importance of landing a job.

“It’s very important,” he said. “Bills cost money. Without money, you don’t live.

“I’ve got to live,” he said.

Click on the video to hear how BARRYSTAFF took the necessary steps to set him up for success.