Sunday, August 31, 2003

Workers: Value yourselves

We asked our Local Voices panelists to tell us how they fee about their jobs and about the future of employment in America.

Here are the responses we received:

Eric McDaniel, loan officer, Forest Park - The days of lifelong employment, company loyalty, and job security are over. Employers have demonstrated this by relocating jobs to "Third World" nations, mass layoffs, and by executing mega-mergers. A company's only allegiance, and rightly so, is to its shareholders and the bottom line. Workers need to value themselves the same way companies do by asking "What's my bottom line and where does my family stand?" Automation and the Information Age are changing the types of jobs we have and how well we do them. It's no secret that technology is making workers more efficient, allowing fewer people to do more work. Jobs are moving from country to country as technologies arrive in poorer countries with cheaper workers. We are moving from a labor intensive base to where our knowledge will be our "muscle." Retraining we be almost continuous as we move from old technologies to new.The new model of a good job involves working your mind as oposed to your biceps.

Scott Knox, attorney, Clifton - I will not be optimistic about the future of employment in America until we wake up. U.S. companies are transferring more and more jobs overseas and away from American families. President Bush is pushing for cuts in overtime pay, which many families need to pay their bills. Other countries don't need to attack us - short-sighted corporations and the politicians they help to elect are doing it for them.

Jerry Blanken, photographer, Hyde Park - I am self-employed but like every one else, my work rolls with the economy. Good times bring business, bad times no business. At the moment I think we are on a rise and things will improve. As far as where future jobs come from, that is purely in the hands of fate. When I look back over my life and compare things then and now, no one could have imagined such change, let alone predict it. As a motel owner told me, "It was your bad luck that your plane flight was canceled, but my good luck because I sold 40 rooms for tonight."

Russell Thomas, government worker, Melbourne, Ky. - There is a future for working in this country, but not like we have worked in the past. Since our entry into WWII we have been the producer for the world. With the manufacturing centers of Europe and Asia out of commission, what ever the world wanted, we had to make. That boom is now over. We have retooled to world, and enabled them to compete with our manufacturing base.

We need to stop crying over what we've lost and find the next wave to ride. NAFTA didn't move any jobs south, it made the exchange between our countries easier and more profitable- profit that went into your 401k.

The secret is still the same as it was a thousand years ago: find out what folks want, and provide it to them at a better price than anybody else. We're listening world (again), what do you need?

Henry Williamson, retired customer service manager, Fairfield - Many retired people had expressed the idea that since they were no longer active in the workplace they were immune from changes in our economy. Unfortunately, with the stark realization to the contrary, brought to light by the actions of companies the likes of Enron, World Com, and Bethelem Steel those people must face the realization of economic trends effecting all of us, including retirees. Good, productive people have always been an asset to employers; however, in today's marketplace people need to make themselves more valuable to their employers by being more productive, efficient, and available. The future of employment will be as bright as ever, but not until we solve the energy problem. On the other hand, new inventions will continue to aid the health and welfare of each American. Within the next 10 to 20 years the world will discover a new, clean energy source and then, Katie bar the door. Until that happens we are going to have problems.

Henry Chai, insurance agent, North College Hill - I will be 60 next year and I am proud to say I loved every job I held. It is really a shame that many corporations are not seeing the benefit of reliable and hardworking senior citizen work force. I see the growing future employment in technical fields, personal service areas and insurance industries, which will do very well due to rampant lawsuit-crazed society and constant unrealistic profit expectations where consumers have no choice. But, only the young are expected to do well. So, what do we do with ever increasing number of senior citizens?

Kent Vandersall, restaurateur, Columbia Township - The definition of job security has changed greatly over the past few decades. The burden is now upon the employee to enhance their security by being as valuable as possible to their employer. Employees who learn multiple tasks and have varied skill sets will be the most valuable, and most secure. Future job growth in the USA will most likely track the aging baby boom population. The fields of health care and related industries as well as service segments like travel and tourism should see great job growth. Already waning categories, such as manufacturing, will see further job erosion due to cheaper, overseas markets.

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc, author, Greenhills - I have had the privilege, for the past 26 years, to be "employed" as a stay-at-home mom. The paycheck has been lousy, but the dividends unbeatable. When my first son was born in 1977, choosing to stay at home was definitely out of vogue. Even though I knew I'd made the right choice for me and my family, I sometimes felt, during those early years of the women's movement, like I was missing out on something bigger and better. But as the old saying goes, "what goes around comes around." The women of today have begun to realize that "having it all" is a frustrating and exhausting enterprise. In choosing the role of full-time mom, women are immersed in the life-lesson that our value as human beings is more in the "being" than in the "doing." What a freeing concept! I am overjoyed to see so many young women opting to stay home, work from home, or work part-time, and believe that bodes well for the future of our children.

Brenda Holliday, social worker, Roselawn - I enjoy my job because it gives me the opportunity to interact with all types of different people from different backgrounds, with different ways of coping and resolving issues. If I can help one person during my work week, I feel satisfied that I have used my skills to the best of my ability. I work in the health care industry, and the employment opportunities are not always there for the social work profession. At times it gets discouraging because our profession has to constantly prove that what we do benefits the hospital as well as our communities. I wonder if our profession is a dying one - especially in this age of technology where the emphasis gets further away from one-on-one personal interaction. I believe there will be opportunites for individuals who have creative ideas on how to meet consumer needs in the easiest, most practical and least time-consuming manner. I don't think we will ever see a time where people work for one employer until retirement, but I do think that jobs will exist if people are willing to acquire new skills and be flexible to change when opportunities present themselves in a totally different arena.

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