In the 1980’s, a song was produced by a European rock band called, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” In this song, band members croon about how the advent of video overtook the importance of the individual radio DJ that people used to swoon over late at night. It argued that since people can now see visual images dancing upon their screens, that they would no longer have an interest in radio.
Have they proven to be right? No. While video did steal the public focus when we changed over from the Golden Age of Radio to the TV era, and people are certainly less enthusiastic about radio than they used to be, people do still listen to radio. The same could be said of the modern digital technologies.
Digital technology is a new invention, and it permeates everything we do in our modern age. Our network TV has become Netflix and Amazon Video Direct. Our news source has become Internet video and Internet radio that highlight the day’s events, where we do not have to sit through the entire thing. The conveniences of modern-day technology have certainly helped us and made our lives more convenient. But what has it done to the workforce?
The Effects of Outsourcing
Many companies have opted to outsource much of their work to online virtual assistants and other specialists, in order to save overhead and expense of paying full-time employees. In this way, it could be argued that technology has killed some jobs. However, an interesting phenomenon has occurred with this transformation. Many freelance clients seem to be hiring the same people to do work that they laid them off for just before that. The truth is that employers often like the workers they have laid off, but they do it to save money. Then by finding them online through a digital platform, they can pay them only for the work they do for them, rather than the extra time they paid them for before as an employee.
This saves business owners a great deal of money over the long haul.
But what is the effect on workers and what happens to their careers?
Many of these workers will find other employment in the “real world,” while others will discover that online is not a bad place to be.
With digital tools and endless connections, someone can literally set up shop at home, avoid the commute and huge expense of going into a job,
and work at home instead. So, in this way, technology invents jobs, rather than kills them.
Survival of the Fittest
The problem, though, lies in the fact that many of these workers who lost their jobs, simply do not have the technology skills they need to adapt to this changing work climate whose sole source is digital technology. The European Commission recently released a study that revealed that 50% of potential workers lack the essential skills that such online companies need.
The HR (hiring process) has also gone online, so the fact that many applications are first fielded through an online tech bot or automation system discourage some Europeans from going after such jobs. The European Commission also reported that “Lack of skills is proving to be more of an ICT access barrier than cost. 37% of households without a broadband subscription say that this is because of a lack of skills, compared to 26% who cite equipment costs as a barrier.”
Workers are going to be forced to bone up on their digital skills in order to compete with the marketplace to even get an interview. The hiring process itself is largely manned by technology now. Applicants often also have to pass a test that requires some degree of technical skills in order to qualify.
Bridging the Gap
The only way to bridge the gap between the jobs that exist and the people to fill them is to educate them with the digital skills they need to perform such jobs. The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs was created for this purpose. The main focus of this organization is to increase ICT training, draw more young people into the ICT field and help modernize technology education. The key is specialization. Business owners need experts, not general knowledge gurus. The days of the academic mainstream may be coming to an end in Europe, the U.S, and elsewhere.
Outlook for the Future
The world is changing. Technology is moving this change forward at lightning speeds. The jobs of the future will not require as much of a liberal arts education and will focus instead on a practical outlook toward education that involves a paradigm shift in thinking from the old ways to the new. If online education systems do not change their basic philosophy to fit the current need, they are nothing more than a 19th-century system that was put online.
So as education changes, opportunities will change. More people will go online to obtain these missing skills that they lack so that they can go after the really great jobs like software engineering, IT engineering and design, and others related to the digital world.
The Rhetorical Question
So, does technology kill jobs or create them? The answer is: both. It terminates many positions that required traditional liberal arts education in favor of specialists who may not have graduated at the top of their class but they are experts in their fields. Technology trends and the need for highly-skilled experts in the IT field will continue to rise. Companies are hiring more workers who can deliver in record time and with pristine quality. For those who do not have the skills to keep up, this can mean trouble.
Reteach, Retool, or Retire
As long as you are willing to retool and update your skills to meet the changing need, you will be successful. So, for those who are willing to change with the times, welcome to the new world. For those who are not, the future looks bleak.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row
In the grand scheme of things, this shift toward a digital workforce requires the individual looking for work to change the way they approach the job market. They must focus on what they have to offer to the modern employer that stands out above the crowd and they must be the best at it. Freelance specialists are growing at record rates, digital jobs are becoming more common, and people are moving their offices from an office on the square in the middle of town to a home office in the virtual workplace.
Employers are moving toward hiring on a per contract basis, not a year-long employee contract so that they can focus on getting the specific tasks done that they need without paying workers for “downtime.” This saves them money and increased their ROI (return on investment). So it is a trend that is likely to continue.
So what can you do to increase your chances?
Think outside the box. Think about what skills you have now that could be improved, or skills you do not have that could be learned in order to increase your chances of success.
You have to learn to rethink the workplace. It’s not in the real world anymore. Online. It’s moved online. Isn’t it time you joined us?
“Beam me up, Scotty! There’s no intelligent life down here.”-Star Trek.