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Work is Changing – Youth Profit, a probe to explore new opportunities

September 6th, 2014

Silo BreakingI’m working with two colleagues on a new project dealing with youth unemployment. Our perspective is that work opportunities and the skills needed to fill jobs have radically changed.

In the new work landscape, traditional jobs that used to be lifelong and provide wages that could support home and families are no longer present.

Our project is called Youth Profit. In this early stage of development, I envision Youth Profit’s as a probe that will explore the new work landscape and stimulate dialogue about youth unemployment in the 21st Century workplace.

Rising youth unemployment is a complex and worldwide concern. There are successful models and projects that we can learn from. Youth Profit will encourage discussion, interview thought leaders from around the globe and stimulate new ideas for preparing youth for 21st Century workplace.

Youth Profit is creating and supporting an online space for stakeholders to connect, share design tools and exchange ideas for new youth employment training initiatives. To facilitate solutions to long term systemic barriers, Youth Profit’s advocates for closer collaboration between the education, government, non profit and the private sectors.

To give readers a background on why we are developing this project and how work is changing, I’ve included a post from the American Press Association and Harold Jarche website – shining a light on workplace transformation. Harold is a Canadian and is viewed internationally as a leading writer and “sense maker” on the changes happening to the workplace.

These two posts underscore the importance of developing solutions to complex social concerns through collaboration between the Education, Private, Non-Profit and Government sectors.

An article written by Bernard Condon and Paul Wiseman in the Associated Press, Jan. 23 2013 clearly describes the changes to the workplace brought about by technology and the 2009 recession.

NEW YORK (AP) — Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over.

And the situation is even worse than it appears.

Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What’s more, these jobs aren’t just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren’t just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.

They’re being obliterated by technology.

Youth Profit recognizes that young people at the margins of society, disconnected from the school system, without family support or work experience, are especially vulnerable to the changing nature of work.

On our website, we advocate for greater collaboration between sectors and provide opportunities to share, learn and create new initiatives that can meet the challenges of youth finding employment in the 21st century workplace.

In this article, Harold Jarche writes about a major shift occurring across all sectors of the economy and what new jobs and talents will be needed as this shift unfolds.

Shifting Work – Harold Jarche, May 2013

At the beginning of the 20th century, about 50% of of the American workforce was employed in agriculture. Today it is less than 10%. Yet there is still food for consumption and export, notwithstanding the major issues with some industrial agricultural practices. A similar shift is happening now. Jobs in manufacturing, information processing, or other types of routine work are quickly disappearing.

As software becomes even more sophisticated, victims are expected to include those who juggle tasks, such as supervisors and managers — workers who thought they were protected by a college degree.

Today, we are seeing that routine producing work keeps getting automated while technical improving work, for which standardized processes can be developed, usually gets outsourced to the lowest cost of labour. This type of work can be supported by formal learning, namely instruction, based on explicit processes and procedures, for which good and best practices can be developed.

However, the value of this work is diminishing, because of its fungibility, which is defined as the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution (wikipedia). “Jobs” are based on the inherent premise that one worker can be substituted by another. Software and global digital communications are making this type of tangible work a commodity, where over time, price tends to zero. Anything that can be codified and digitized, will be.

There is still valued work to be done, though. Complex work, like craft & building, can provide unique business advantages, is difficult for competitors to replicate, and cannot easily be digitized. Innovative & thinking work can identify new business opportunities and create real competitive advantage. But craft work takes time to develop, and innovative thinking has to continuously evolve and adapt to the changing environment.

However, it is obvious that the valued work in any enterprise is increasing in variety and decreasing in standardization. Valued work, in an economy increasingly based on intangible value, is moving to the right, as shown in the figure below.


 Image – Silo Breaking – Gapingvoid Hugh MacLeod

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  1. Andrew Hall
    September 17th, 2014 at 23:27 | #1

    This is a great article clearly articulating the struggle for many people and young people etryingto engage in the workforce. If we couple the thinking of this aricle with the casualisation of work available it also highlights the difficulty of earning enough to income to meet todays costs of living, especially in high cost countries and cities like Perth in Western Australia where I work and reside.
    Andrew Hall JP

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