The future of work will in some ways be very different: Graduates in 2020 shouldn’t expect they’ll work in the same industry their entire life, artificial intelligence will eliminate many jobs from factory work to accounting that is repetitious, and globalization will continue to keep wages of manufacturing jobs down.
But in other ways, work will remain driven by many of the same things that guided generations to their calling. Young adults will continue to pursue their interests, their aptitudes, and often be attracted to the same jobs as their parents.
Some 80 high school students gathered for the Vision on the Future of Work conference at the Powerhouse Science Center on Feb. 18 to learn not only about how jobs will change but also to learn about internship opportunities in speed interviews with representatives from 90 businesses in the region.
“Everybody in my family has served in the military. And (law enforcement and serving in the military) seems like a really attractive career to me,” said Landon Moranty, a junior at Animas High School, as he interviewed with Durango Police Department Officer Forrest Kinney.
Moranty sees serving in the military and law enforcement as a way to help the community. But the job, with its obvious quotient for delivering the unexpected on a daily basis, has its own attractions for the AHS student.
“I am worried about the obvious danger but am attracted by the different experiences you have. Every day is different,” Moranty said.
Kinney suggested Moranty register for a ride-along to get a feel for the everyday life of a law enforcement officer.
“It’s not a sensational job, but at times it can be,” Kinney said.
Moranty also learned DPD does indeed have internships open, but students must be college-aged.
Animas High School senior Greta Cahill spoke to students about the internship she spent at WeFill, Durango’s store offering bulk, biodegradable products that also offers an alternative to products packaged in single-use plastic – pretty much the standard in the current mass consumer economy.
“I’ve presented before 11 different school groups, and now I’m working to present to adult groups,” Cahill said. It’s really helped with my speaking skills.”
When she first began looking for an internship, Cahill thought she would find something in the science field, one of her passions. However, she ended up at WeFill, but that fell in line with another of her interests: protecting the environment.
“It’s about the passion you put into something,” she told the students. “If you’re passionate and put your mind into it, you will be able to achieve it.”
Katherine Keegan, director of the state Office of the Future of Work, told students four major forces will influence the future workplace and the jobs that will be needed: globalization, market forces, technology and demographic shifts.
Globalization will continue to expand supply chains across the world and will likely create some opportunities for countries to focus on areas where they have advantages, but it will also continue to pinch wages for low-skilled workers as manufacturing jobs continue to migrate to Asia and other developing nations, she said.
Market forces are nothing new, but they will continue to drive shifts in demand, create opportunities for new products and services and also relentlessly pressure wages for anyone involved in repetitive jobs.
Technology developments may mean that robots replace warehouse workers, but Keegan said the key will be how future jobs will evolve so a former warehouse worker can fulfill functions that have even more value.
Demographic shifts, she said, will mean products and services once created for a certain population will have to be adopted to different groups that were never originally envisioned as big users – for instance, adapting gyms for an older, aging baby boomer population.
“Communities can prepare for an economy with fast-changing jobs,” Keegan said. “Communities that can create an environment that supports a diverse economy will have an advantage.”
Sean Madden, a 16-year-old AHS junior, spent one of his speed interviews held at the workshop discussing job possibilities at Purgatory Resort with Cat Vogel, the resort’s ski school officer.
“I ski a lot, and my dad worked at a ski resort when he was in college. I’d like to learn more about it,” he said.
Vogel said she’s noticed the benefit of technology even for jobs focused on the slopes.
“It’s made things more efficient, so you can spend more time with the clients. You want to make their visit more of an experience than a transaction,” she said.