Composer, Police Officer: Robot-Proof Jobs in Our Automated Age

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EDDINGS: Marketplace's David Brancaccio has been traveling throught Northeast Ohio and other parts of the Midwest for a series on Robot-Proof Jobs, heard as a podcast and on the Marketplace Morning Report.  He's exploring ways we humans can adapt to the ways machines, robots and software are edging us out of the workforce.  His journey from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin passed through Oberlin and Sandusky.  Too bad we didn't meet for lunch in Cleveland, David  Hi there.

BRANCACCIO: Hi there, great to be here.

EDDINGS: You chose the Midwest because, as you put it, it's "loudly on the record in the recent presidential election as clamoring for change."  Why'd you choose Oberlin and Sandusky, in particular?

BRANCACCIO: We wee looking for a way that we could discuss this issue of automation in the workforce in a way that would give people tools to make decisions in their own lives.  So, what are the careers out there that are more robot-proof?  We have this repository of data, the McKinsey Global Institute looked at just about every job in America and classified these jobs accordin to robotization potential, you might say.  And a pretty robot-proof job, in fact totally robot-proof completely, in the McKinsey data, was composer.  So, you think 'composer" and you think, Cleveland, because you've got that great music school there, and you also think Oberlin, because of the great conservatory there. So we go to Oberlin and we met with the composer Tom Lopez, who does electronic music.  And in Sandusky -- if the hope was to go to Cedar Point, we were out of luck.  Wrong season!  But we got to hang out with a police officer.  And it turns out that police officer -- there's about 600,000 of them in the economy, and they're hiring -- and that's pretty robot-proof because of the interpersonal skills that are at the center of that job.  Also, technology is not so good at working in uncontrolled environments, which is often what police officers, the environment that they find themselves working in.

EDDINGS: Are the economists and big thinkers you're talking to telling you that if you don't become a doctor, lawyer, a software engineer or artist, you're doomed to be jobless?

BRANCACCIO: There is an overtome that those of us who have the jobs that fall out of fashion as technology increasingly competes in the workforce, that we're going to be in trouble.  so what are some of these big ideas? I found this part of our reporting fascinating.  For instance, there's universal basic income, in which we simply write checks, money, to people to keep the social fabric from tearing further.  There's been experiments going on.  Certainly the state of Alaska, with all the oil revenue, expermients with that.  Norway does that with its oil revenue.  Bill Gates talked about a robot tax to help offset the effects of  technological unemployment.

EDDINGS: If you're looking at robot-less jobs, are schools and governments, too?  Are they using the same tools you're using, like that McKinsey Automation Study, to figure out what jobs are vulnerable to automation and what ones aren't, and how do we support people in getting trained for the ones that won't go away anytime soon?

BRANCACCIO: We talked to a bunch of guidance counselors in high school.  And many didn't seem to connect what they're doing with young people with the jobs of the future.  There is a revolution to occur in this whole area in aligning what we're teaching, what we're coaching people toward, and what those jobs of the future may be.  Part of the problem, though, is, we don't really know what all those jobs of the future i. I identified some.  You go out a little bit further -- and this is what a high school teacher told me -- she'd just come from some professional development in which they were talking about the elementary school students.  And they said, 'We're training them for jobs that don't even exist yet."

EDDINGS:  David Brancaccio is the host of the Marketplace Morning Report.  He joined me from New York.  Hear his series all this week on the Marketplace Morning Report.

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