emember Jurassic Park, the blockbuster movie of 1993 about using ancient, amber-encased DNA to reproduce dinosaurs? While fictional, the book and its film adaptation were based on real science.
CATCH A GLIMPSE; FUTURE JOBS
To Rely on Nano- & Bio-Sciences
Now, catch a glimpse of what futurist Ed Barlow says about present day reality and what's foreseen down the road in the real, evolving disciplines of life science, nanoscience, biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. A vital point to keep in mind is that many future jobs in Marshall County and across Northern Indiana will link inexorably to these dynamic scientific areas.
"In the future, we will not make a car we will grow a car. An emerging occupation is called 'smart welder' that integrates organic and inorganic material; the conditioning will be found on the outside of your car or truck and will self-repair if dented, to a certain degree," Barlow explains May 14, 2008, during a Forum on the Future gathering in Plymouth, Marshall County.
"Nanotechnology is smaller, lighter and stronger; it includes self-healing materials, like epoxy that breaks, repairs itself," he says. And a private airplane expected to be flying next year has no seams in it, Barlow notes, it's all composites that have been molded."
The prefix "nano" usually goes with a material, device or substance, yet Barlow cast it with a person to illustrate the enormous impacts this concept is having on workplaces, homes, hospitals, industrial facilities, offices and restaurants. Amid an emerging "nanofoods" specialty, "there is a nano-gourmet out of New York," Barlow notes, "he looks at nanotaste increments and makes meals on that."
Barlows professional experience includes 22 years in education as a high school teacher, a superintendent of schools, and vice president of a college. In addition, Barlow was the chief executive officer of a medical center for eight years, and served as a senior associate for 12 years with a Washington, D.C.based management consulting firm.
STRUCTURAL CHANGES AHEAD IN ECONOMY
Will Call Individuals, Communities to Adapt, Learn
WorkOne Northern Indiana and the Northern Indiana Workforce Board, Inc., which oversees the regional WorkOne System, sponsored the presentation by Barlow. The board views his fundamental message that ongoing structural changes will require individuals and com- munities to adapt and learn continuously as carrying paramount importance for Northern Indiana (Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, constituting Indiana's Economic Growth Region 2). Barlow became a futurist upon realizing traditional business approaches were ineffective when dealing with large-scale, global changes. He delivers 120 presentations annually to audiences in the United States as well as business, government, edu- cation and nonprofit organizations in other nations, including countries in Europe, Asia and South America.
In speaking to business people, elected officials, educators, students, and others in Plymouth, he notes that additional wonders are on the horizon.
The future of everything related to science and technology is all about molecular science. It's all about how things work at the molecular and submolecular level, he remarks. "We're storing medical record information on fingernails in Japan. Your medical record goes with you because we can store information on molecules, not chips." Beyond data storage, scientists are moving toward providing individual's with something extraordinary a map of each person's genetic structure.
"In the future," Barlow says, "there will be personalized medicine, which means you will have a personal genome print. And we will treat you medically, or you will eat, based on that genome print to enhance your quality of life and your performance." Such breathtaking advances, however, expand far beyond healthcare. The advanced manufacturing industry, including shops and facilities in Northern Indiana, is propelling toward "mechatronics," which blends several disciplines, including mechanical engineering, information technology and electrical engineering. In working with economic development professionals from around the country, as well as internationally, Barlow has witnessed officials invest lots of money unwisely "into the last generation of an industry."
After such companies have "gone through the lifecycle with their tax incentives," they're done with a community, "they don't need to stay," he says. Communities should seek "to recruit for the longer term" by attracting manufacturers moving to adopt mechatronics, Barlow notes. And addi- tional, profound changes are coming in the months and years ahead.
"The future is how all this stuff is coming together; it's called convergence," he main- tains. "You won't be a nurse in the future unless you know how to monitor a patient offsite. You won't be a nurse in an operating room unless you understand how nanomaterials are used to fix a broken leg."
CONVERGENCE; HAVE YOU SEEN IT?
Look and You'll See What's Happening
Regarding the key area of convergence, Barlow recalls a recent phone conversation with a friend who farms acreage in Kansas. Barlow's friend, for instance, was operating his tractor while talking on a cell phone, and, at the same time, he watched CNN on a screen, con- ducted sales and purchases of agricultural futures on another screen, and, also concurrently, he harvested crops and tested soil to reveal what grade of fertilizer would be needed for next year's harvest. "That's convergence. So life science is about animal, plant and human intervention at the molecular level, as long as we accelerate evolution within a species, ethicists are okay," Barlow says. "It's when you cross species, like cross the DNA of a tomato with the DNA of a cod [fish] to get a tomato that grows in cold climates. That's when ethicists have trouble with it. Accelerating within a species is alright."
Amid scientific advances, the processes for not only workforce development but also business operations are undergoing dramatic changes as well. For example, from now through about the year 2030, companies as well as nonprofit employers will implement strategies to reduce costs while in- creasing value of their operations. Technology and automation will be a chief component of these strategies, but employers also will need well-trained, productive, efficient, and problem-solving workers. In fact, individuals, regardless of their stage in the workforce, should make preparations now to respond firmly to the following question in a job interview.
MAINTAINING EMPLOYMENT WILL
Focus on Skills, Problem-Solving
"Everyone of us now needs to be thinking about better rate of return on investment," Barlow says. "If I'm going to hire you into my company in the future, you know what I'm going to ask you, 'How can you improve my profitability?' Now, has anybody ever had a conversation with you," he adds, looking toward the high school students attending the Plymouth presen- tation, "in any of your school programs that you've had to think about what you're learning [in terms] as helping your [future] employer improve his profitability. I'll bet not, right."
In years ahead, a key to employment, Barlow comments, will involve not what you know; rather, a persons ability to maintain employment will center on his or her talents to solve problems. In this light, "we need to incorporate that kind of practical thought process in [K through 12] school," he adds. Education and training, however, shouldn't cease for a person upon high school graduation.
"We used to have a cyclical recovery," Barlow notes, "and that is: 'If I got laid-off by an employer and I hung around for fourteen months, when the economy got better, they'd hire me back to my old job.' Not any more!" Whenever a worker suffers a layoff, "where should they be: Back to workforce training!"
A key area for adult training as well as instruction for young people involves boosting financial lit- eracy of many individuals. And individual financial literacy grows increasingly important for employers to weigh in business decisions, and Barlow explains why. A company, for instance, has employed a worker for seven years, and he gets into financial trouble by accumulating $10,000 in debt on credit cards. But the worker won't reveal his perilous financial situation to his manager because it's a private matter, Barlow says. "They get in financial trouble and productivity goes down because they're distracted, and theft goes up."
HIGHER EDUCATION IS ANSWER
To Global, Structural Changes in Economy
Therefore, a paramount issue in current employment relationships is to find an avenue for Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to confidentially reach out and assist workers in getting financial advice "to get out of a situation they didn't intend to get into. Does that make sense?" he notes.
"This is out there sitting as an open wound, and nobody's paying attention. So, two things," Barlow observes, "we've got to get young people more aware of what the real world's going to be like in terms of balance sheet and personal wealth. And we've go to offer some opportunities for current workers because they're headed down a path that isn't too pretty and they may be a less effective worker."
In part, ongoing structural changes spurred by globalization have mandated postsecondary education for everyone seeking to earn decent wages. "We need a skilled workforce here that can work with advanced manufacturing. And it's not just get out of school and just go to work in manufacturing, right. There's a whole different skill set [now, compared to any prior era]. The good news for the worker is: They earn more."
In this light, Northern Indiana communities should consider carefully the relationships between educators and business-people. Noting these trends ripple through other U.S. and international regions as well, business managers often lament that educators appear to listen to their concerns, but nonetheless they disregard business issues by going back to their classrooms "and saying, 'I've got No Child and need to teach for a test'," he explains, referring to the 2001 No Child Left Behind law.
For their part, educators feel frustrated as well with the relationship, he remarks, with teachers and administrators often "saying, 'well, business can't clearly define what I need to do'" to prepare K-12 students for the workplace. "So, we need to take the conversation between business and educators to another level, and it's based on this stuff. A fifth grade teacher in math needs to be able to say, 'This is how fifth grade level math is used by somebody in the workplace.' Does that make sense to you? That's where conversation for workforce de-velopment needs to go."
EMPLOYERS SHOULD EXPAND USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Language in Job Descriptions, Barlow Recommends
Moreover, another pressing education and training issue involves encouraging more working individuals to use tuition reimbursements offered by their employers. Highlighting this point, Barlow recalls an inspiring story of a longterm employee with a Sandusky, Ohio, advanced manufacturing company who graduated in September 2007 with a PhD in mechanical en- gineering. Remarkably, this doctorate holder joined the company at age 28 without a high school diploma. Over the course of 16 years and concurrent with his employment, he completed the necessary academic work to earn a PhD, with employer paid tuition fueling his educational journey. "Isn't that neat," Barlow observes, adding "we need to be thinking about that; we need to have education flexible enough to allow that."
Employers need to weigh certain issues beyond just offering tuition reimbursement for continuing education. For the community of employers generally, current job descriptions are poor, Barlow says, in part because "they really don't totally characterize what you're doing. They really don't embellish the technology you're using." In addition, job profiles generally are too narrow in scope; for instance, "you hire someone into that job description and three years from today that job is different," he notes, "and when a manager says to a worker, 'you've got to change,' they'll tell you 'that's not what you hired me for.'"
By expanding technology language in job descriptions, firms would strengthen their own appeal to talented young people in the labor pool. "Today's young people want to see they will be using technology," Barlow explains, "quite frankly, the research says young people are more interested in using technology that they are in the kind of work they do. We've got to be thinking about that." Another crucial element should be featured in a revised job description, and this factor will help an employer's recruiting and also serve as a job performance gauge. "So, if we're going to connect the real world of education and the real world of work and get young people excited about working in our company at all levels in the future your job description needs to be rewritten to incorporate ... 'Here is the value of this job in the value chain of my company, whether it's technical or professional ... here's the difference this function makes'," he says.
EDITORIAL NOTE Hired by the Northern Indiana Workforce Board, Inc. (NIWB), Barlow delivered his multifaceted message about how globalization is impacting Northern Indiana's workforce and economy to Forum on the Future audiences in Rochester, Fulton County, in October 2007, and, in a separate address, in South Bend, St. Joseph County, in November 2007 (the articles covering these early presentations feature different information than presented here; in other words, those two articles joined with the news story here collectively present a full picture of Barlow's message for Northern Indiana).
Article and Photographs by
CHUCK KNEBL, webmaster & writer.