How Many Sorcercers Need Apprentices?
Future Ex-President Trump has rolled out his jobs plan, and he’s proposing – wait for it – an apprenticeship program. I could squeeze two pages of jokes out of that alone, but I wouldn’t respect myself in the morning. In TV land, Trump’s apprentices were actually untrained and lacked the mentoring of a successful apprenticeship. The candidates were treasure hunters without a map – or a clue. But if it worked on TV, he reckons, it must work for the inspiration for all reality shows – the American Dream.
Apprenticeship was a great innovation for the Middle Ages. Bring back artisanry and the trade guilds – wait, no organized labor – and you’d really have something. Good-paying jobs will require skills that so far robots can’t improve upon. Apprenticeship will help in certain industries but will be a hopeless mismatch in others.
The apprentice program targets the retail, health care and hospitality industries, where reprogramming – pardon, retraining – would work. But, this week, Amazon swallowed up Whole Foods like an anaconda inhales a jaguar. The gist is, the prospect of job growth in the retail sector is not especially rosy. Jeff Bezos will automate checkout, and cashiers will go the way of the carrier pigeon. Retail is among the ripest targets for job attrition.
Aside from his treatment of US allies, women, American media and people of color, Trump does know something about hospitality. At entry level, those jobs are not well-paid. Besides, assuming mining jobs could be turned into hospitality jobs, people would need to move to the jobs (the need for portability of health care). Apprenticeship can help some step up into middle-management roles and better pay because there are relatively few technical demands. But not every stripped-out mine can be turned into a golf course and resort. How many convention centers will we need when robots are running the meetings?
Health care is a non-starter. Beyond entry level, good healthcare jobs require skill and education, even some college. And college, well, we’ve had enough of that! A semester or two at Clackamas Community College is one thing, but a four-year program to a Bachelor’s Degree is a different covfefe altogether. Even in the higher reaches of healthcare, artificial intelligence is expected to take over routine diagnosis and treatment.
There is no fast, cheap way to better jobs. We need new industries. More than ever, job seekers will need education, not on-the job training, to acquire the necessary skills. People’s needs and entrepreneurial innovation will prompt new industries. Let’s hope people will be needed to run them.