5 Insanely Important Jobs (We're Running Out Of People For)
Supply and demand should ensure that we never run out of people to do the really key jobs. If there was a dire shortage of, say, potato chip flavor developers (don't panic, this is strictly theoretical), chip companies would make the salary and perks of the job more attractive, colleges would hype up the benefits of majoring in flavor science, and new blood would enter the field, bringing with them the caramel-and-Worcestershire-sauce-flavored Pringles we truly deserve. But reality is nowhere near that efficient, and we are running out of people for some especially vital jobs. For example ...
Old Programmers Are Dying Off ... And Taking Their Computer Languages With Them
As far as we're concerned, computers are magic. We don't know the technical details of what goes down when we order a book from Amazon or stream truly shocking amounts of pornography, and frankly, we don't want to. That's why we have computer programmers. They do all the important behind-the-scenes work that lets us take complicated technology for granted, and they give us someone to complain about when that technology fails and we can't stream Gilmore Girls on our toaster at three in the morning.
But there's a problem: An enormous amount of our financial data is stored on systems still running ancient programming. Roughly three trillion dollars a day runs through computers still operating on COBOL, a language that was developed in 1959. Everything from ATMs to credit card networks to mortgage payments rely on a system that makes calculator watches look like absurd science fiction. And the majority of people who know how to fix the many problems with COBOL are getting ready to meet their programmers.
It's not as simple as moving everything onto a more modern infrastructure. At this point, the financial system is so intertwined with its COBOL roots that it would be like trying to simultaneously replace all of your veins with fiber optics. A switchover is theoretically possible, but if something goes wrong, the financial data for millions of people could vanish.
Since it would be impractical to make everyone temporarily withdraw all of their money until the problem is fixed, geriatric programmers are making good money running firms that specialize in COBOL. Meanwhile, the industry is rushing to train young programmers (and rehire the old guys they fired because they thought their skills were obsolete). Further compounding the problem is that programmers of the original COBOL systems rarely wrote handbooks, and deciphering someone else's computer code 40 years later is like trying to communicate an elaborate sexual fantasy via slide whistles.
And it's not only banking. NASA once desperately needed to find programmers who knew Fortran to communicate with their Voyager probes. These are by no means insurmountable problems, so don't panic and put all of your money in Dogecoins tomorrow. But it's kind of like suddenly discovering that we have to teach thousands of people Latin to prevent the English language book industry from collapsing.
The Demand For Oncologists Skyrockets While Supply Plummets
We're living longer than ever, and while that's mostly awesome, it does have some downsides. Now that we're not frequently devoured by wolves, we have to deal with other, increasingly common causes of death, like heart disease or insisting that you could kick everyone's ass in a hot dog eating contest. And then there's cancer.
We need oncologists more than ever, and that's a problem, since burnout is taking a serious toll on that profession. We're estimated to be short 2,500 to 4,000 oncologists by 2020. The burnout can be physical -- you're constantly required to stay up to date on lab results, deal with sudden calls from patients at all hours of the day, and fight for settlements with insurance companies -- but there's also the emotional exhaustion of forming close bonds with suffering patients, having to break difficult news to them, and in some cases, watching them die.
We need to increase the number of America's oncologists by an estimated 40 percent by 2025 merely to keep up with the need. Improving medical care is going to make us better at surviving other diseases, which means more people are going to be confronting nature's final boss. To close the gap between the high retirement rates and new trainees entering the field, we'll need hundreds more people to enter oncology programs each year. And we're currently losing them hand over fist. So if you're getting ready for med school and have no issues with emotionally crushing situations, we've found a promising career for you.
We're Short On Farm Labor Because It's Such A Terrible Job
85 percent of farm laborers are immigrants, and roughly 70 percent of those immigrants are undocumented. And between 2009 and 2016, that workforce decreased by three million people due to deportation. Those who do remain are growing older, and there might not be anyone to replace them.
OK, but isn't that the whole point of deporting undocumented immigrants? To free up jobs for unemployed citizens? In theory, yes ... but not enough Americans looking for work want to get into farming. It's exhausting, physical labor with long hours in harsh weather. One farm started offering Americans $20 an hour, but still couldn't retain workers. 401(k)s? Health insurance? Generous bonuses? None of it makes up for the fact that the work blows, despite what Stardew Valley told you about the appeal of quitting your office job to live in the country.
With demand vastly exceeding supply, farmers have had to rethink what they can afford to grow and harvest. Nuts, for example, can be harvested by machines, but peaches require the delicate touch of a human. But replacing human labor with machines means that only a minuscule fraction of employees will be needed in the future. So an entire industry will up and vanish, and then we'll have to think of some new problem to blame immigrants for.
Nobody Wants To Be A Skilled Manufacturer Anymore
While the United States undeniably has a shortage of skilled jobs that provide stability and security, there's also a huge, undiscussed problem in the opposite direction. We don't have enough people trained to do skilled manufacturing jobs.
That means factory work, machine maintenance, melting Terminators in giant vats of liquid metal, etc. Up to two million of those jobs will go unfilled over the next decade just because people aren't trained for them. We're literally running out of people who know how to make things that aren't Minecraft videos and snarky Tweets. Do you remember Trump saying that he wanted to bring good jobs back from overseas? Factory CEOs turned around and told him that those jobs are already here, but vacant.
Why the shortage? Well, corporations cracked down on unions, which lowered wages and led to the perception that manufacturing jobs, even skilled ones, were boring, repetitive positions for lower-class bozos. So colleges started de-emphasizing manufacturing skill sets, and graduates in relevant fields, like mechanics and engineering, started dropping accordingly. The industry is turning to automation, but factories still need employees to install and maintain those machines, and even those employees are missing.
If you're a cartoonish conservative stereotype loudly wondering why "America doesn't build things anymore," it's not because of them lousy foreigners. It's because corporations neglected those jobs, and now nobody wants to do them anymore.
We Don't Have Nearly Enough Pilots To Meet Our Demand For Air Travel
Air travel is perhaps the modern luxury that we most take for granted. It is a damn wonder that we hurtle through the sky at will, but tell that to the tired, grumpy people in economy. Or wait, maybe you won't have to, because we're running out of people who know how to operate those magical flying machines, to the point where flights are getting cancelled due to a lack of pilots. Obviously there's a lot of training required before you can be trusted with the controls of a jet-powered carrier of human lives. In fact, after the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 (a disaster partly attributed to insufficient pilot training), the people in charge got together and said, "Hey, maybe we should re-examine how much experience pilots need before we let them take off in these soaring hunks of metal and fire that actively defy God."
The result was a whopping 500 percent increase in the amount of flight time required before you can pilot a passenger or cargo plane. That's great from a safety standpoint. The more experienced the better, right? But the unfortunate side effect is that it's turned people away from wanting to become pilots in the first place. Those new requirements, and the north of $100,000 price tag that comes along with all that education and training, make simply becoming an accountant and buying a flight simulator look a lot more appealing.
Boeing predicts that over 600,000 pilots are going to be needed over the next 20 years to fill a demand that's already forced one regional airline into bankruptcy. The aviation industry is trying to respond by offering increased pay and sign-on bonuses, but that's mucking things up for another industry that needs pilots: the military. In 2017, the Air Force announced a "national aircrew crisis" which left them 1,555 pilots short of what they need, and the best thing you can say about that is that Top Gun 2 might actually be topical.
Check out Dwayne's Facebook and Twitter accounts, where you can see the famous musicians he interviews for Revue Magazine. T.W. would like you to consider checking out the International Committee of the Red Cross. They do pretty cool stuff. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.
It's not, NOT worth your time to learn COBOL, here's a beginner's book.
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