What Happens if the Jobs We Want to “Bring Back” No Longer Exist?

Years ago I worked for the Coca-Cola Company at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The company gave an orientation tour for the new employees. As part of the tour, we visited a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

I was amazed at the small number of workers employed in the plant. A few people tended the bottling machines. Since then, even more manufacturing jobs in diverse industries have been lost to machines.

We can talk about bringing jobs back from overseas. Indeed, transportation costs and other factors have led some U.S. companies to return operations to the States. However, they may be employing less workers than before due to the machines that have taken over.

Jon Talton, writing in The Seattle Times (November 27, 2016), observes: “. . . so much manufacturing is automated today. In 1980, generating $1 million in manufacturing output took 25 workers. Now it takes about 6.5.”

The five fastest growing jobs listed in the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are wind turbine service technicians, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapist assistants, physical therapist aides, and home health aides. As you can see, technician and service occupations predominate.

Changing our work force for today’s jobs will require more than bringing back “manufacturing jobs.” Our work force needs job training, and it will need continuous training.

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