Spend a few years dabbling around the edges of the workforce and you cannot help but notice the blokes struggling to make it. Males between the ages of thirty and sixty used to be the bedrock of the economy mostly because they would fill the entire spectrum of jobs from miner to missile-maker. We were the mortar of the labor market.
Beginning in the seventies, when global markets and global production reduced geographic and political impediments, the jobs went global too. In the fight to the bottom of the cost curve, where skills are either irrelevant or easily taught, the willingness to work is no longer enough. Capital in all its forms will always seek the highest return, so why pay an American worker five or ten times as much for the same output as a Thai or Chinese man? The answer is; employers will not pay, and so we find ourselves with an under-educated, inappropriately-skilled generation of men.
Women have fared better because they’re more adept at the skills that matter thesedays. Communications, design, abstraction and networking (all in the human as opposed to the silicon sense) play to women’s natural strengths. I also believe that women are more flexible, more willing to re-train and adapt to the new needs of business than men. A single skill for life is often a ticket to the poor-house thesedays.
What to do? Well, a lot. Begin with stowing your pride somewhere, guys. Being a “proud” autoworker or steelworker succeeds only in making you look even more of a dodo. Open your mind to the fact of a changed landscape AND the enormous opportunities out there. Jobs for life are gone. Jobs for today and tomorrow are many.
In the longer term, re-educate yourself. No-one likes going back to the starting line, but here’s the thing: once you have a new, valuable skill it takes surprisingly little time to get places. You will look back and wonder at your resistance. And if you don’t want to train, then you have no choice but to be entrepreneurial. Overcome your fear of selling, of being in public, of talking to people, of advocating, of trying the new, of making change.
For the distant future to be different, the state-run education system must go. It is a failed enterprise. I look with admiration at parents who choose not to abrogate their responsibilities by educating their own children. They are in the vanguard of the reaction against the statist indoctrination camps we call schools, calling them out for their corrupted values and self-serving employees. It worked for a few generations: no longer.
Men of that certain age will likely fail at getting past their lowly hourly-paid jobs. Let’s do what we can to ensure the young men who follow have the knowledge to tap into their creativity and application. Otherwise…well, the alternative is just too depressing.