Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The skills of chemists versus other fields

Credit: New York Times
You may have seen the minor kerfuffle about this rather silly New York Times metric that would allow you to choose the opposite of your job, skills-wise (scroll down). (Apparently, "physicist" was coming up the opposite of a lot of things.) I did think the accompanying chart, with its comparisons of various jobs on a Y-axis of "clerical/service work versus machine operating" and an X-axis of "communication and thought versus more physical work" was interesting to contemplate, especially since I tend to think of laboratory positions as ones that require physical work. I see that police officers do more operating of machines and processes than chemists, which I find to be an interesting judgment.

I also thought these two paragraphs were a nice summation of overall thoughts about job dislocation in Our Modern Times:
...Because people rarely spend their entire careers at one company anymore, employers have less incentive to invest in training workers in new skills, because they might quit and take those skills to a competitor, said David Deming, a professor of public policy, education and economics at Harvard. Workers also have little incentive to invest in training, because there’s no guarantee it will pay off with long-term employment. Others have trouble thinking of themselves as doing other kinds of jobs — which Lawrence Katz, a Harvard labor economist, says is an identity mismatch, not a skill mismatch. 
Even if workers want to learn new skills and find new occupations, there is no streamlined way to do so. People procrastinate, inaccurately assess their own abilities and are unaware of what other jobs entail, according to behavioral economists. The United States spends a fraction of what other developed countries do on labor market adjustment programs like job counseling and retraining. Assistance is piecemeal, and many people who qualify don’t use it. 
Meanwhile, employers hire based on credentials that job applicants can’t change — a college degree or previous job title — rather than assessing the skills an applicant has developed, said Mr. Auguste, who was an economic adviser in the Obama administration.  
It probably takes quite a bit of time and thought to assess skills, as opposed to looking at degrees or job titles. A shame. 

5 comments:

  1. The statement by David Deming, "...Because people rarely spend their entire careers at one company anymore, employers have less incentive to invest in training workers in new skills, because they might quit and take those skills to a competitor." is FBS (flagrantly blatant statement). It's usually the employer that decides an employee is ending his/her career at a company.

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  2. I'm curious to know what this assistance is to those who qualify. Any examples?

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    1. The state agencies that administer unemployment usually offer some services (e.g., NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development). I haven't used these, so I can't offer any thoughts on their utility. Anecdotally, though, I can tell you that the one time I went to LWD, the woman at the counter seemed relieved that I had outplacement assistance, and volunteered that their programs would probably help me more than LWD could.

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  3. "...employers hire based on credentials that job applicants can’t change...rather than assessing the skills an applicant has developed..."

    The tyranny of the HR "professionals" continues...

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    1. I've heard from multiple sources that this is true in academia as well. The most reliable way to get in the short stack of faculty applications is to do grad school/postdoc at a top 10 institution.

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