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Friday, July 06, 2012

New Jobs 

The Clarion Content ran across a fascinating article in the New York Times recently about the nature of new, American middle class jobs.1

Since reading Jerermy Rifkin's prescient2 and controversial The End of Work more than ten years ago, we have understood that there is an upheaval coming for the American workforce. We are in the middle of that massive, uncomfortable shift right now. And perhaps it is not affecting 99% of the country, but there surely is a goodly chunk of folks who are feeling the socio-economic ground tremble and shift beneath their proverbial feet.

Maybe one day they let Rifkin out of the basement where they are keeping Paul and Anne Erlich...

Here is what the New York Times wrote, June 30th:
Personal training requires many of the skills and qualities of the new typical middle-class American job: it is a personal service that cannot be automated or sent offshore, that caters to a wealthier client base and that is increasingly subsidized (in this case, by employers and insurance companies).

But as people with such jobs have found, the pay is low. Unlike the clock-in-and-clock-out middle-class jobs of the past, personal service occupations have erratic hours, require entrepreneurial acumen and offer little job security.

“The kind of job where you come in and work 9 to 5, and where someone tells you what to do all day is becoming scarcer and scarcer,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economics professor at M.I.T. and co-author of Race Against the Machine, a book about how automation is changing the job market. “The kind of job where you have to hustle and hustle and where you’re not sure whether you will have enough clients next month, where you have less job security, is becoming much more common.”

For personal trainers, the median hourly wage is less than $15. Because they have to find clients and set up their businesses, trainers must be flexible, adapting to client schedules and physical abilities, as well as the availability of exercise machines and accommodating weather.

They must also be able to engage with all sorts of personalities — precisely the skills that help keep these jobs around while others are replaced by algorithms.

“Knowing how to keep someone motivated and how to keep a connection are skills humans have learned and evolved over hundreds of thousands of years,” Professor Brynjolfsson said. “A robot can’t figure out whether you can do one more push-up, or how to motivate you to actually do it.”

1Truth be told, one of our twitterers sent us this way, and we would give credit where credit is due, if we could only remember whom it was. Speak up, if it was you!

2Not that we believe every word of crazy old Uncle Jeremy...but its like the best tall tales, fables or ghost stories, there is a nugget of truth or a lesson at the core.

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