Three major trends in the work world have recently sparked my interest because I think they may have long-range, major implications for jobseekers with disabilities.
These major trends are: the rapid rise of robotics, the pervasiveness of STEM(M) careers in today’s job opportunities and the increasing value of empathy in the skill sets sought by today’s employers.
Robotics is becoming a double-edged sword for jobseekers with disabilities.
On the one hand, routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks are rapidly being eliminated by robotics. Those kinds of jobs are easier for software or physical robots to handle.
Today, for instance, ticket agents are being replaced by robotic kiosks. Bank tellers have given way to ATMs and sales clerks are surrendering to e-commerce.
Economic evolution has been going on for centuries, and society has always successfully adapted to technological change, creating more jobs in the process. But Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) think this time may be different.
During a “60 Minutes” interview (Sept. 8, 2013), Brynjolfsson pointed out, “Technology is always creating jobs. It's always destroying jobs. But right now the pace is accelerating. It's faster than ever before in history. So, as a consequence, we are not creating jobs at the same pace that we need to.”
During the same “60 Minutes” segment, McAfee admitted, “When I see what computers and robots can do right now, I (think) in two, three more generations, we're going to find ourselves in a world where the work, as we currently think about it, is largely done by machines.”
So, part of the reason we’re not seeing unemployment fall as much as economists thought we normally would experience during this current recovery is that robots are replacing jobs in factories, warehouses and offices.
But, on the other hand, robotics are proving to be life-savers for those of us with disabilities – providing us with a “telepresence” that eliminates traveling to a classroom, a job or a meeting.
Telepresence bots enable people to connect more efficiently with others who are at a distant location via an internet connection in the form of conference calls or of walkthroughs of a factory floor or warehouse.
They allow people to manage those connections from the convenience of their personal computers, wherever they may be located. They provide their owners a virtual presence. The robot’s operator can communicate through video conference calls and interact with distant locations by moving the robot around the facilities, directing the cameras movements and viewing multiple people in a room without those people having to rearrange their positioning to be seen by on the screen.
It’s the ability to move around and facilitate impromptu meetings that sets telepresence bots apart from fixed-desktop videoconferencing, writes Parmy Olson, Forbes Magazine (July 15, 2013).
That could revolution working from home.
STEM careers are those which tap your capabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past when we first encountered globalization and began to function as a knowledge-based economy.
Jim Brazell, a technology forecaster and strategist who focuses on innovation and transformative systems, recommends this:
In fact, Judy Ettinger, Ph.D., L.P.C., from the Center on Education and Work (CEW) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, notes that STEM careers are now morphing into STEM(M) occupations, which include the rapidly changing medical field.
She’s been studying the emergence of STEM(M) careers since 1980, when her initial concerns included the math background women needed to compete in occupations dominated by men.
In 2013, STEM(M) occupations have an even more expansion framework. According to Nelse Grundvig, LMI Director, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, of the 167 occupations listed by O*Net as STEM(M) careers, 57 do not require a four-year college degree.
He cites these STEM(M) jobs which require training beyond high school (but not a four-year degree) about “how to provide feedback using a common language” in problem-solving situations: installation, maintenance, repair, construction, protective services, transportation, farming, forestry, fishing, food preparation and health care support.
Grundvig believes STEM(M) occupations in the medical field alone will double field during the next 10 years.
And, those of us with disabilities need to remember this fact: The employment rate for scientists and engineers with disabilities is 83 percent. That’s much better than the estimated 26 percent for the overall U.S. population with disabilities, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Study this list of fast-growing occupations, as compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Sports coaches and fitness trainers.
- Massage therapists, registered nurses and physical therapists.
- School psychologists, music tutors, preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists.
- Personal financial planners, chauffeurs and private detectives.
These are among the fields expected to employ at least 20 percent more people in the U.S. by 2020.
Did you notice the common thread? Every one of these jobs is all about empathy. We can’t automate empathy. Robots can’t provide empathy. And empathy is a bedrock requirement in many of today’s STEM(M) jobs.
“There's no substitute for the magic of a face-to-face interaction with someone else who cares,” writes George Anders, a contributing editor at Forbes magazine.
That observation reminds me of “Door-to-Door,” the film written by William Macy, who also plays, Bill Porter, a man with cerebral palsy. During the 1950s, Bill gets a job selling Watkins products door to door by taking the worse route that nobody else wanted.
“What do you have to lose?” Bill says, after going back to hiring manager the second time, and finally getting the job.
Bill eventually becomes “Salesman of the Year,” largely because he knows how to empathize with his customers.
So, watch these three trends (the rapid rise of robotics, the pervasiveness of STEM(M) careers and the increasing value of empathy). They’re “game changers” for jobseekers with disabilities.
Copyright © 2013. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jim Hasse, Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), (www.jimhasse.com) has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both job seekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (www.lighthouse.org/), New York City, is the author of the 272-page hard-cover book, which continues to evolve online on Hasse’s forum, Timely Tips for Retaining Employee Talent (forum.perfectlyable.com). He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy.