I once worked for a cardiologist who did cardiac catheterizations. When he described the procedure to the patient, he would explain that the odds of having a serious complication were 1 in 1000. Those are pretty good odds, unless you are that one. Then, not so much.
The reverse is true for the Carrier deal. Trump claims that 1,100 jobs were saved. Carrier says some 350 of these jobs, primarily in research and development, were not slated to be eliminated and that only 800 were spared by the deal. Additionally, Chuck Jones, union leader, says Carrier informed him of the layoff of 550 union employees (1, 2).
Factually, 800 jobs are insignificant to employment on the whole. Still, if you’re one of those people—the ones depending on that job to pay the mortgage and feed your family—it’s the answer to a prayer.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that 1000 is the correct figure. For anyone who hasn’t heard, Carrier has agreed to keep these jobs in Indiana in exchange for roughly $7 million in tax credits over a ten-year period. This breaks down to $700 per employee, per year. As Kristin Powers notes in her opinion piece for USA Today, when you look at it this way, it’s a pretty good deal, especially for those who will not lose their jobs immediately.
Did you see what I did there? I said immediately. Sadly, all this deal has really accomplished for most workers is to postpone the inevitable.
Greg Hayes, CEO of Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies (UT) sat down with Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” to discuss, among other things, the deal and the future of manufacturing jobs with Carrier. (highlights and analysis here), full transcript here.
The financial implications of moving manufacturing to Mexico versus remaining in the US are significant. Chuck Jones says that moving to Mexico would save Carrier $65 million, much more than the $23 million the Union could muster. Not only are wages lower—about 80% lower, according to Hayes—but absenteeism is around 2% and turnover is around 1%, also significantly lower, according to Hayes, who attributes this to assembly line jobs being low-skill and not desirable as a long-term occupation.
In order to remain competitive, UT plans to invest $16 million to further automate the Indiana plant. For the workers whose jobs have thus far been spared, this means that most will eventually become unemployed. There is no guarantee in the deal that requires Carrier to keep them employed for the ten years in which they receive tax credits; Carrier could lay them all off later today and still receive these credits.
Hayes himself admitted that the deal would result in a net negative of jobs at the plant and this is substantiated other data. A research study conducted at Ball State University found that 88% of factory job loss was due to automation and other factors that reduce the necessity of human labor. The automotive industry has long seen the effects of automation on production (increased) and labor costs (decreased).
Rainr, a company that manufactures electric toothbrushes and toothbrush heads, is a (possibly extreme) example of this. They returned one-fifth of their manufacturing—13,000 brush heads daily—from China to their existing facility in Michigan, creating four (4) jobs.
Yes, you read that right: FOUR. Four people is all it takes to maintain and supervise their automated production line. Though AC units are certainly more complex entities than electric toothbrush heads, and therefore likely requires more human involvement, it’s safe to assume that, once the Carrier jobs are eliminated, they aren’t likely to return, even if their manufacturing does.
Is the average assembly line worker qualified to supervise and maintain these automated production lines? Probably not. The skill set required to work on the line is different than the one required to maintain it. United Technologies, for their part, is working to bridge this gap between the skills required for today’s jobs and what will be required tomorrow. According to Hayes:
”The key here… is not to be trained for the job today. Our focus is how do you train people for the jobs of tomorrow? I’ve talked about our employee scholar program. The fact that 45,000 people have been through our employee scholar program. 38,000 degrees. We’ve spent $1.2 billion over the last 20 years educating our workers. We’ve got 7,000 people currently enrolled in this program. And the whole idea improve your own marketability. Improve your own skills. Because the skills that you have today are not the skills that are gonna get you through tomorrow.”
The skills gap is at least as important, if not moreso, as jobs lost resulting from outsourcing.
But, actually, that’s good news. Why? It’s easier to reverse.
Much has been written about this skills gap. Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame and founder of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which provides “financial assistance to qualified individuals with a desire to learn a skill that is in demand,” noted in February, 2016 that “according to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings… [and] most of those 5.6 million opportunities don’t require a diploma – they require a skill.”
The American Welding Society estimates that by 2019, industry will need an additional 240,000 additional welders and welding instructors, and that number need is expected to increase by 100,000 by 2024. Meanwhile, the average age of today’s welder is 58, accounting for at least some of the increase in need. Other shortages include long-haul truck drivers and forklift operators.
These skills can be obtained in a variety of ways, including community college programs, trade schools, and apprenticeships. The nearly 2 million marginally attached workers, defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as those “who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months… but had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey,” are particularly well-suited for retraining. This is especially true for discouraged workers, those “not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify.” In February 2016, 53% of those marginally attached workers were male. Of those men, 38% were classified as discouraged workers, compared to only 27% of marginally attached women. The reasons for this discrepancy are varied, but among them are traditional gender roles.
The Family Caregiver Alliance states that women provide the majority of informal (unpaid) caregiving in America. In fact, and estimated 66% of all caregivers are female and the average female caregiver is 49, married, and unemployed. Most of these women would not be considered discouraged as most do not want jobs. These numbers account for elder care only and do not include stay-at-home moms—29% of all mothers in 2012; this figure also includes disabled women and those in school.
Another gender-role related factor is the type of jobs where shortages are most prevalent. In addition to those mentioned above, significant shortages exist in nursing, nursing assistants, and other healthcare occupations, and in education, fields which “conflict with traditional notions of masculinity,” Betty Stevenson notes in her Bloomberg article. She continues, “The challenge for men is much greater than what women faced in the 1960s through the 1980s, when the latter entered the workforce in greater numbers. Women’s new role clashed with social norms around femininity, but they were able to merge the two.”
In an article for Minority Nurse, Les Rodriguez, a clinical nurse specialist and clinical education specialist, lists the common stereotypes surrounding male nurses: “all male nurses are gay, men only get into nursing so they can see women naked, men who become nurses are failed doctors, and men go into nursing because it’s easy.” Male teachers face similar stereotypes, including the idea that men who choose teaching as a profession are pedophiles.
Interestingly, neither of these fields is traditionally female; both traditionally excluded women. Eventually, women entered these fields and these careers became accepted and “respectable” jobs for unmarried women. As it became acceptable for women to hold these jobs, it became less and less desirable for men to do so. The result is that when men enter what are now female-dominated fields, they are discouraged by the negative criticism they experience. Teachers and nurses also experience lower status than principals and doctors and that lack of perceived importance can negatively impact how desirable a career path is to men.
The men facing the reality of job loss to plant closures, technological advances, and manufacturing exportation are honorable, hard-working, blue-collar men. Many are employed in fields that find them disposable and burdensome as compared to automation. Many have already been disposed of.
So on the one hand, we have these men with no jobs and, on the other, jobs with no men to fill them. We as a society need to overcome the negative stereotypes associated with some jobs. We need to connect these men with the available opportunities for retraining for sustainable careers in growth and stable industries. The opportunities are out there.
Honorable, hard-working, blue-collar men are capable of evolving and broadening their skills to meet the demands of a changing economic reality. They are America’s greatest underutilized workforce resource, and they deserve more than a temporary reprieve.
If you are interested in retraining for a new career, here are a few places you can start.
Trying to decide what to do? The Bureau of Labor Statistics can help. They publish a list of the occupations with the most projected growth. Find something intriguing? Type that job into the search field on the same page and find a wealth of information on your choice, including median income, job growth, education requirements, a brief explanation of the job, and information on related and similar occupations. For example, here’s the skinny on nuclear medicine, my field.
Want a new career, but can’t afford retraining? Check out your local private industry council. Private industry councils are non-profit associations that partner with local businesses to provide training opportunities to displaced workers while helping businesses meet their manpower needs. Many internships are paid. Search for the private industry council in your area in your favorite search engine.
Another source for re-training can be found at your local or regional “workforce services” office, often affiliated with a community college. Underemployed citizens may qualify for tuition assistance and coverage for related expenses.
Interested in a Federal Government job? This is the place for you! This website includes unique opportunities for Veterans and the disabled, among others. Also check your home state’s website for employment opportunities and application procedures.
The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration has a variety of resources for job seekers, including skills assessment, assistance when dealing with job loss, and job search tools.
CareerOneStop can also help. In addition to career information, resources include help for job seekers with criminal convictions, older and disabled workers, veterans, and those who have been laid off.
Photo credit: Flickr/ Vaticanus