Friday, July 8, 2022

From years past: "Where are the Jobs?"

From random clicking on the ACS website, this cri de coeur from November 1972 (Environmental Science & Technology, 1972 6 (12), 958-959)
Where are the Jobs?

Dear Sir:

The articles, “New skills for out-of-work engineers” and “Jobs in the environmental field,” (es&t, April and August, 1972, respectively) have been of particular interest to our organization, the Association of Technical Professionals. The atp, consisting of employed, underemployed, and unemployed technical professionals, was formed in 1971 in the Boston area in response to the critical and continuing unemployment problem among our colleagues. 

Our scope includes both immediate assistance to the unemployed and a critical study of long-range national policies and priorities that affect the productive utilization of technically trained manpower.

Professor Daniel Okun (Letter to the editor, ES&T, June 1972) has expressed a point of view that has hindered many well-qualified former aerospace technical professionals in obtaining employment—that they (a) are less competent than the employed, and (b) cannot possibly cope with new applications of their skills unless properly  certified by an accredited academic institution. This narrow, self-serving viewpoint was eloquently rebutted by Lawrence Slote (ES&T, August 1972). 

It is our observation that universities have been the principal beneficiaries of federally funded retraining programs, which have cost millions to train a few, only a fraction of whom have found jobs at the completion of their courses. Thus far, the opportunity for retraining has been offered to about 1 or 2% of the unemployed technical professionals. 

Professor Okun’s protestations about the quality of retraining are probably irrelevant. The plain fact of the matter is that the jobs simply are not there. We have heard inflated projections of demands for technical professionals in environmental sciences and other fields for the past several years, but they have failed to materialize in any significant way. 

We will not be able to absorb productively our technical manpower resources until there is a change in national priorities to create a market for their services. As an overworked but appropriate analogy, we “put a man on the moon” by virtue of a firm national commitment in both will and dollars. There was then a market for technical talent. No one inquired whether a PhD chemist had been retrained in space sciences. The technical professionals working on those programs created space sciences.

No such national commitment to environmental quality in an expanding economy is in prospect. In fact, the real EPA budget for fiscal 1973 has been reduced from that in 1972. Until we are willing to devote the same resources to the quality of life as we have to space and defense, all the retraining programs for nonexistent jobs will be merely window dressing for political rhetoric.

S. P. Jones
Association of Technical Professionals
Cambridge, Mass. 02142

It's good to know that these kinds of concerns have been with us for a long time, and that the projections of economists and other seers-into-the-future often fail to materialize. 

1 comment:

  1. I did not realize these problems went this far back, in particular the problem of insufficient demand for degree-holding STEM folks, and the bias against the unemployed.

    I looked up Okun's letter and found it disappointing. My opinion is that there is an element of luck in one's employment situation. Certainly, there are better scientists than me (or others who excel in their field) who are unemployed, and there could be some who aren't as technically good who find new employment easier than I do. Furthermore, I think anyone who's been around knows that there is more to it than being the best by some "objective" measure of technical skills - anything from effectively working with others to being political.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20