The People Puzzle – Part 2

Education and the Future

Robot businessman imageThis essay is Part 2 of The People Puzzle, a continuing discussion about finding (or creating) a future where “life is still good” for everyone, in the post – industrial economy. Part 1 of The People Puzzle presented a few of the pieces to this puzzle. Those pieces seemed to fall into three primary areas: demographic changes, advances in technology and education. In this essay, we look at education.

Part 1 offered three puzzle pieces especially related to education: (1) a report that over 99% of the 11.6 million jobs created (or recovered) by the U.S. economy in the years 2010 – 2015 went to people with t least some college education, (2) a question about what people whose jobs are eliminated by technology or economics should be re-educated to do, and (3) author Daniel Alpert’s contention that globalization has unleashed a hoard (literally billions) of under-educated people, all looking for a better life.

Here are two more puzzle pieces, all specific to education:

Girls and Boys >> The U.S. Department of Education has reported that 4 out of every 7 American college degree recipients in 2014 were female. [1]

The Cost of College >> The cost of attending college has skyrocketed. A CNBC report advises that tuition and fees in 2014 ran about $9,139 at public, four year schools, compared to less than $500 in 1971. The high cost of college has resulted in more than $1.2 trillion in student debt! [2]

Tomorrow’s Jobs Outlook [3]

This is how American workforce is employed now:

Farming, forestry and fishing –                                           0.7%

Manufacturing, mining, transportation and crafts –       20.3%

Managerial, professional and technical –                         37.3%

Sales and office –                                                                24.2%

Other services –                                                                  17.6%

Looking ahead to the next 35 years or so, it is difficult for me to imagine that employment in farming, forestry and fishing will increase. “Manufacturing, mining, and transportation” jobs will continue to be under heavy pressure from automation and lower wage workers elsewhere, as will “sales and office” jobs. Competition for “managerial, professional and technical” jobs will continue to increase globally as emerging economies produce more and more educated people (South Korea, for example). “Other services” jobs should be OK, to the extent that they serve protected niche markets (hair stylists, for example, serve a local customer base).

Putting the Pieces Together

It seems clear enough to me that tomorrow’s personal occupations are similar to today’s businesses, to the extent that differentiated talents, know-how and skill sets are increasingly necessary. It is education’s task to prepare an entire population for the employment that the emerging 21st century global economy demands.

For the U.S., that means rethinking education from first principles. America’s educational systems have evolved from providing basic literacy for everyone to primary and secondary education for almost everyone. 21st century occupations will require highly individualized – and highly relevant – primary, secondary and tertiary education (or skills acquisition training) on a continuous, life-long basis for everyone, all provided at a much lower cost to those being educated (or trained). Emerging technology will need to play an important role. Existing educational institutions will face extensive change or, in many cases, extinction. Fierce and persistent resistance to the necessary changes can be expected, if not guaranteed.

In Monet's GardenThoughtful comments and ideas on the structure and content of occupations – oriented 21st century education are invited and appreciated.

…  Chuck Harrington


This blog and associated website ( are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome.

Image: Robot and Puzzle – licensed through



[3] CIA World Factbook, (yes, that CIA). Figures are from 2009, the latest available. Should be close enough for our purposes here.


Entrepreneurs and Job Holders

“Chuck in Sedona”

Along with the essays that comprise this blog, I occasionally write book reviews for Amazon under the name “Chuck in Sedona”. Mostly I review business or technical books, especially books I like. At first, I bought Taylor Pearson’s The End of Jobs in Kindle format. For me, Kindle format is fine for most books. However, for books that offer ideas that I want to thrash around in my mind for awhile, hardcopy is better. So I also bought the hardcopy. – C.H.

Here is the review for Amazon:

The End of Jobs – Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9 – 5, Taylor Pearson

Taylor Pearson is an interesting guy who wrote an interesting book about rapidly changing realities. Pearson has a “zoomed out” (big picture) prospective, reads widely, and grasps what he reads. He also reality checks what he reads by talking to a lot of people in a lot of places.

The book’s title, The End of Jobs, refers to the sort of white collar career jobs that abounded in America in the 20th century. Those jobs have peaked and have been declining for several decades now. Pearson regards such jobs as being information–based, rather than labor-based. Information–based jobs rely on education, especially as evidenced by degrees and certifications. Job holders apply that information within a defined system for doing so.

Globalization of commerce and of educational opportunities, fueled by rapid advances in communications and transportation, has resulted in a world of competition for those jobs. So, surprise! Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound applies to white collar jobs as well as blue collar jobs.

The good news is that the advances in technology that fostered the globalization of information-based jobs have also enabled entrepreneurship. Pearson asserts that “Entrepreneurship is more accessible, safer, and more profitable than ever before in history.” The End of Jobs proposes entrepreneurship as the 21st century route to more money, more freedom, and more meaning in life. Not a bad combination.

(End of the Book Review)

I like Pearson’s thinking on opportunities in entrepreneurship as a livelihood. But entrepreneurship requires a certain mindset – it’s certainly not for everybody. There is much more to the entrepreneurship and the jobs dilemma. Innovation, Creativity and Right Livelihood, [i] a recent essay, expands on this. Here are two further thoughts:

>> Redefining Work: Entrepreneurial businesses often start small, but they needn’t stay small. When they grow, they need employees. Entrepreneurial businesses, notably digital technology businesses, have taken the lead in redefining work and restructuring employee relationships away from the Industrial Age model. LinkedIn [ii] comes quickly to mind.

>> Incremental Income: It is often difficult to start an entrepreneurial business and grow it sufficiently that the principals can quit their day jobs. It’s a lot easier to start an entrepreneurial business for the purpose of generating incremental income. The commercial and communications technology that is enabling large entrepreneurial businesses also works for much smaller businesses. Multiple-streams-of-income career models can be quite attractive, especially in light of what economic recessions can do to all-eggs-in-one-basket career choices.Chuck at the Pacific


Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

…  Chuck Harrington

P.S: Contact me when your organization is serious about pursuing Sustainability — CH

This blog and associated website ( are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published weekly.

[i] Innovation, Creativity and Right Livelihood,

[ii] See comments on LinkedIn appended to Innovation, Creativity and Right Livelihood,