Unwanted: In automated future, who needs skills?

If most jobs are automated, what skills will people need? wonders Marc Tucker. Who will be educated and how?

Some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are proposing a guaranteed basic income — everyone gets a check, regardless of need — to deal with the consequences of automation. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, is funding a trial of the idea.

Matt Krisloff, the manager of the project, sees a day when “95 percent— or a vast majority — of people won’t be able to contribute to the workforce.”

Since the Great Recession, most of the job growth has been among knowledge workers, writes Tucker. Workers doing routine tasks may not have a future.

Raising the minimum wage for low-skilled jobs will encourage employers to replace workers with technology. Self-driving cars, trucks and trains could put millions out of work.

Those on this new dole will have time “to think deep thoughts about protecting the environment,” as one advocate suggests. They can write poetry, create art, grow vegetables or . . . play video games.

If there are a few challenging jobs for the highly educated, and the dole for everyone else, educators would have to decide who’s worth educating, Tucker writes.

There’d be plenty of recess, music, art and sports for those destined for the dole.

Would teaching be automated? I think content delivery might be, but there will be a need for humans to interact with humans. I hope.

On Sunday, Swiss voters soundly rejected a guaranteed income proposal, reports Business Insider. “Supporters had said introducing a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,563) per adult and 625 francs per child under 18 would promote human dignity and public service. Opponents, including the government, said it would cost too much and weaken the economy.”

A dream job? Wake up

Don’t follow your passion, advises Mike Rowe in PragerU’s commencement address. Find a way to make a living — don’t expect a “dream job” –and get good at it.

“Year after year, thousands of aspiring American Idols show up with great expectations, only to learn that they don’t possess the skills they thought they did,” says Rowe. “What’s really amazing though, is not their lack of talent—the world is full of people who can’t sing. It’s their genuine shock at being rejected—the incredible realization that their passion and their ability had nothing to do with each other.”

How Busy Town will keep busy

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Could a robot do your job?

Could a robot do your job? asks USA Today. If it’s routine and repetitive, then, yes.

Driverless cars, trucks and trains could replace 7 percent of the workforce. Robots are likely to replace tractor-trailer drivers, train engineers, garbage collectors, taxi drivers and bus drivers, predicts an Oxford study.

Some personal care jobs could be automated.

Carnegie-Mellon is teaching HERB, the “Home-Exploring Robot Butler,” to retrieve and deliver objects, prepare simple meals and empty a grocery bag.

At a Silicon Valley hotel, “Botlr”  delivers items such as extra towels and toothbrushes to guests upon request. “Not much larger than a child and with a black bow-tie, Botlr navigates the hotel on its own but will send an alert if it encounters an obstacle.”

Hospitals are also using robots to deliver lab specimens, linens, food trays, hazardous waste and other materials, jobs that are currently done by orderlies, nurse assistants, nurses and lab technicians.

A virus-killing robot, the Xenex, is being used in hospitals to disinfect rooms. The robot — which has gotten a lot of attention due to the Ebola crisis — uses sensors to determine room size, a factor in how long to deliver the lethal ultraviolet rays needed to disinfect the room.

Fast-food restaurants haven’t invested in robots because worker pay is so low. However, as technology costs fall and the minimum wage rises, food-service companies are adopting “tablets for ordering and computerized systems for kitchens and inventory,” according to Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry consultant.

The jobs that are at low risk of automation tend to require creative intelligence, negotiation, persuasion, perception, creativity or care.

That’s why engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, Web developers, artists, lawyers, business executives, nurses and doctors are among the safest jobs.

Still, USA Today predicts 8 percent of high-skill jobs, 46 percent of middle-skill jobs and 70 percent of low-skill jobs will be automated in the next 20 years.

College is the new high school

A college degree is becoming the new high school diploma, the minimum credential required to get even the most basic, entry-level job. Thanks to “upcredentialing,” it takes a BA to get a job as a file clerk.

Four-year college graduates in the lowest earning quartile don’t make much more than high school-only workers.

CC, for-profit grads compete equally for jobs

Job seekers are as attractive to employers with a for-profit certificate or degree as with a community college credential, concludes a new study, which sent fictitious resumes to employers. Community colleges charge a lot less, the researchers pointed out.

Applicants with “some college” did little better than those with just a high school diploma.

Grads are too optimistic about jobs

The class of 2014 is overly optimistic about their job prospects. Only 18 percent of 2014 graduates expect to earn $25,000 or less, but more than 41 percent of 2012 and 2013 graduates are earning salaries in that range

Duncan twists truth to hit for-profit colleges

Seventy-two percent of for-profit colleges’ career programs “produce graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a White House news conference. That earned
two “Pinocchios” for lying from the Washington Post’s fact-checker. Essentially, Duncan compares apples to oranges — with a few lemons thrown in — to make for-profit colleges look bad.

Here’s why career-minded students choose for-profit colleges over much cheaper community colleges.

How college admissions really works

A Princeton video shows how high school students imagine the college admissions process, while The Onion explains how college admissions really works.

At step 1, “admissions officers immediately reject all applicants who have the same first name as anyone they don’t like.”

Step 7: The final decision is made as to who is admitted and who needed just one more extracurricular.

Step 8: Once an applicant is rejected, admissions officers call all other universities and warn them against accepting him or her.

The Onion also looks at what happens four years later in College senior plans 14-month job search.

. . . Ohio University senior Kyle Huber confirmed to reporters Monday that he already has an excruciating 14-month employment search lined up and waiting for him when he graduates this spring.

The marketing major plans to “move to a city where he’ll live with five roommates in a small apartment while hopelessly chasing down leads on unappealing dead-end positions he isn’t qualified for anyway.”

He has “arranged to meet with disinterested alumni from his school working in barely relevant fields, friends’ parents who hardly know him, and career counselors who will probably just direct him toward unpaid internships that, after having applied, he will frustratingly learn are only open to those still attending college.”

Is the STEM shortage a myth?


On the Big Bang Theory, physicist Sheldon visits neuroscientist Amy in her lab.

The shortage of scientists and engineers is a myth, writes Michael S. Teitelbaum in The Atlantic.  If there were a real shortage, wages would be rising, he writes. To the contrary, “real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.”

U.S. students earn mediocre scores on international exams because large numbers of high performers are balanced by lots of low performers, he argues. 

. . . there continues to be a large pool of top science and math students in the U.S. OECD data on “high-performing” students suggests that the U.S. produces about 33 percent of the world total in this category in the sciences, though only about 14 percent in mathematics.

“Every high school graduate should be competent in science and mathematics — essential to success in almost any 21st century occupation and to informed citizenship as well,” he writes. But that doesn’t mean there’s a huge unmet demand for scientists and engineers.  

The STEM shortage myth is a myth, responds Robert D. Atkinson in the Washington Monthly‘s College Guide. Science and engineering graduates are finding jobs — not just in tech-based industries — at higher wages.

As the Brookings Institution’s Jonathan Rothwell shows, the earnings premium for STEM skills (controlling for experience, education and sex) has grown from around 22 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2012. Dartmouth’s Matt Slaughter and UC San Diego’s Gordon Hanson found that “the inflation-adjusted wages of major STEM occupations grew over the last decade while real wages for most other U.S. occupations fell.” Hardly evidence of surplus.

STEM shortage denial is rooted in a desire to keep out high-tech immigrants, Atkinson argues.

You can’t go wrong with a computer science major, writes Yahoo’s Rick Newman, looking at PayScale’s 2014 College Report. 

Only two of 288 schools that offer computer science — Indiana University-Purdue and Virginia Commonwealth — produced a return below the median for their graduates. At the top of the scale, meanwhile, more than a dozen computer-science schools returned $1 million or more over 20 years, making this the top-performing field.

By contrast, the return-on-investment for business majors varies depending on the college, he points out. “At nine schools, including Fayetteville State in North Carolina, the University of Montevallo in Alabama and Colorado Mesa University, students studying business actually earned a negative return, according to PayScale. That means they would have done better, on average, if they went to work right out of high school and never spent money on college.”

The earnings data relies on self-reporting, so be wary.

In This is Not Your Father’s STEM Job, Jessica Lahey looks at women who are “forging novel, interdisciplinary, STEM-based careers that blur categories and transcend agenda.”

But are they typical of female STEM workers? Probably not.