June 12, 2015
To all of Lodi’s high school graduates — Lodi High, Tokay, McNair and Bear Creek — congratulations and all best wishes for your futures. Going forward, your challenges will be different than those who went before you — different, harder, but not insurmountable. The work environment is dramatically different than earlier graduates have faced, and is constantly evolving in a more demanding way.
In the short term, the picture is considerably brighter than it has been in recent months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a host of statistical information each month that includes data on job seekers versus job openings. In April, the total number of job openings rose to 5.4 million while the number of hires was little changed at five million. Assuming the economy continues to create its six-month average of 236,000 jobs, the ratio of hires to jobs created will steadily improve.
An interesting footnote to the latest jobs information is than more people are quitting their existing jobs to look for better ones. That’s good news for first-time job seekers; more openings means more opportunities. A larger number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs indicates a strong labor market.
More good news: Wages are up, also. Last month, the average salary hit $24.96 per hour, a 2.3 percent increase over last year and on its way to the target 3.5 to 4 percent range.
One of the biggest changes over the past decades are working conditions that require new graduates to be more flexible and more willing to accept nontraditional employment. My first job was with the United States Steel Company, an industrial giant that had been founded in 1901. USX, as it was known, was continuously expanding its operations into related fields like gas and oil. In the process, USX constantly added to staff and created upward mobility opportunities for existing employees. When I began my career, I was surrounded by lifelong USX employees. To work for USX for decades was common. For some, USX was the only job they ever held.
Gold watches awarded for 50 years of service are a thing of the distant past. Employers are now bottom line-driven, and employee adaptability is the new key to success. In the current employment market, many workers are contracted, and used at the discretion of their employers — no benefits, no paid vacation and no paid holidays.
The latest software technology makes it possible for retail chains and other service related industries like restaurants and hotels to predict exactly how many workers are needed, and staff accordingly. Employers can keep overhead at a minimum, and avoid paying unnecessary wages for their workers to sit around. For the worker who gets a last minute text not to report, it’s inconvenient and often costly if babysitters or other arrangements have been made, but it’s today’s reality.
On a more positive note, numerous opportunities not previously available are out there to earn supplemental income, often work when you can, with no office, no boss, and high-paying to boot. Independent car services claim their drivers can make about $20 an hour, and drive an unlimited number of hours.
Graduation day represents the first step in entering the brave, but scary, new world. Looking to the future, the opportunities will be different than in previous generations. Be prepared.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008, and is currently a Californians for Population Stabilization senior writing fellow. Contact him at [email protected].