The Evolution of Work

Work It!

Carlotta Daniels-Randolph | 8/30/2017, 8:03 p.m.
As we observe Labor Day my thoughts turn to how work has evolved over the last ten years. There are ...

As we observe Labor Day my thoughts turn to how work has evolved over the last ten years. There are more options of how, where and when we work. Many people now have multiple employment arrangements such as a traditional job that may be 8 to 9 hours during the day and then some evenings they drive for one of the alternative ride hailing operations like Uber and Lyft. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a year ago that there were 7.5 million Americans with multiple jobs. Some have online enterprises while they also hold down a traditional “nine to five”. Still many others are contract or contingent workers in a variety of settings performing duties in the areas of information technology, health care, personal services and accounting/bookkeeping services to name a few. There are so many more who are creating their own businesses they are running out of their homes.

This evolution is fueled by technology as well as how post Baby-Boomer generations, particularly Generation X have responded to the economic downturns experienced in the last 30 years. Their demand for autonomy and more recently, the Millennials need for work-life balance have led to the creation of new industry or the reshaping of older industry. Change is disruptive, but inevitable; it is also good when it brings new opportunities. And the great beauty of this evolution is that more people can participate in the new economy in ways that were not available before.

However, some traditional employers are finding it more challenging to find good employees. Those who are prepared are taking advantage and participating in the new economy while some more traditional roles that increasingly require technical skills are going unfilled. Hopefully, this untenable situation may force our society to drastically change how we approach education, particularly in urban and rural school settings. We can no longer afford for the mass of unrealized potential that exists in failing schools to be perceived as a loss or a burden. Everybody can and should contribute something to their life and to our society. How we shift this is to start in middle school, if not earlier, to help young students understand there are so many options for them and with technology their choices are expanding every day.

Labels, stereotyping, pigeonholing don’t help, but high expectations and resources can. Small successes and real accomplishment early on in math, science and the creative arts can be built upon and lead to more and greater success. Young people can achieve their hearts’ desire if they are willing to work for it, and dispel the fear and false beliefs that are holding too many back. But they need us---all of us. How we approach making real change in how we educate the most vulnerable so that more can fully participate in our ever-evolving world of work will take compromise, creativity and commitment.

What we say, do and believe matters and it is essential to understand this if we are to change things so that more people are better prepared to fully engage in the existing and emerging work opportunities.

We are all responsible. The “us and them” mentally based on socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity and other “differences” is hurling us down a destructive path. All work is good and everyone deserves a chance to actively participate in the ever-changing world of work.

Carlotta Daniels-Randolph, M.Ed. is a workforce development professional with 20 years’ experience in the public and private sector and an administrator and adjunct instructor at Delaware County Community College.