The world of work is changing

The world of work has changed dramatically since you made your own career decisions, and it will continue to change through your children's lives. Today, the number of career choices are much greater and the process of selecting a career is far more complex. To be an effective career coach, you need to understand how the work we do and the skills we need have been transformed by technology and globalization.

Contrary to popular opinion, the news is not bad. In fact, as of late 2006:

A 2004 Rand Corporation study, The 21st Century at Work, confirmed trends in the nature of work and the skill requirements for jobs that have resulted from both new workplace technologies and a global marketplace.

High skills
First, and not surprisingly, highly skilled workers are critical for our continued economic development. Not only do people need to be technologically competent, they also need to have strong analytic skills, human relations skills, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Employers need people who can reason, solve problems, communicate, and collaborate. They need people who can innovate and work independently. For continued success in some of our nation's traditional (pharmaceuticals, computers) and emerging (nanotechnology, biotechnology) industries, we need scientists and engineers who can do the research and development required to advance new technologies to the marketplace.

Career transitions
A second important trend is that the labor market appears to be shifting away from lifetime work to less permanent employment relationships. Men in particular are staying with the same employers for fewer years. This means that workers in this century need to be adaptable and flexible. Education and training is not just to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to get a start in one's career. It is required over one's life to keep up with the requirements of work.

Population changes
A third important trend relates to the changing nature of the workforce itself. The population is aging, living longer and retiring earlier. More women are working; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women account for 47 percent of the labor force today. In 1975, they accounted for 40 percent. The racial and ethnic composition of the workforce is changing because minority groups are participating in the labor market at a much higher rate than in the past. However, the younger generations may not be able to sustain the growth in the labor force that is necessary for sustained economic growth. The labor market supply may not meet the demand. To do so will require changes to recruitment, training, and benefits so that barriers to participation in the labor market can be reduced. The needs of the population for services (such as services for elderly parents and child care) will increase.

No one has a crystal ball that can predict the future of the world of work. What is important to your children is the vitality of Oregon and the nation's economy in the long hall. Here are some important messages about Oregon's jobs of the future: