The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Engender a Radically Different Job Boom
By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University
The 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in every state and in over 150 countries. As a result, the world has embraced what could be considered a disruptive technology as part of the “new normal” of conducting business meetings, discussion groups and even education. This disruptive technology is Zoom.
Start a transportation and logistics management degree at American Public University.
Due to government-mandated “stay at home” and personal distance requirements, hundreds of thousands of people do not get close together or hold group functions such as weddings, birthday parties, or even just family gatherings. From this worldwide change has also emerged a new acceptance of how to work safely.
Along with other rapidly accepted technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and computer skills – a new breed of job skills has emerged for the next generation of workers. And that next generation has already begun to use those skills, while overshadowed by the disruption the pandemic has caused in their lives.
The fundamental skills needed for this new workforce are:
- Actively listening to someone or to many people
- Speaking well
- Demonstrating critical thinking
- Reading with a view toward comprehending what is being read
- Writing well
These basic skills will also lead to the ability to properly analyze all the data and information that is thrust upon us 24/7/365. The newer jobs coming in the future will be data-driven and data-heavy.
So if you are the manager of a logistics operation or a supply chain, you will need the ability to take data and perform some measure of systems analysis. This way, you will be able to categorize that data so that your employees, your bosses and others in the complex web of supply chain partners can understand what the data means.
It’s not that every supply chain manager or logistician needs a degree in mathematics. But in the future, the ability to see what a chart of numbers means will be essential.
Key Business Skills Will Also Be Advantageous for the Green Economy
These fundamental business skills will be a vital adjunct to the growing green economy. For example, these fundamental skills will be needed to understand how to curb pollution or how to control greenhouse gas emissions.
One favorable result of this pandemic is that roads and highways are practically free of traffic. That has reduced the levels of urban smog to such as extent that a visible difference can be seen in before and after photos of Los Angeles.
Similarly, states and countries have seen their waterways turn clear and sea life return to ocean areas where they disappeared decades ago. These changes have led to an increased focus on reducing dependency on fossil fuels, oil and coal, for instance.
In the post-pandemic era, which could stretch well into 2021 or longer, there will be more emphasis on more robust and creative ways to recycle all manner of trash from our homes and offices. This green economy will create new occupations and cause the reverse logistics industry to rethink how current jobs are performed.
Data Analytics and Programming Skills Will Also Be Vital in the Future
While these green jobs in recycling or reverse logistics have led to an increase in the need for mechanical skills, also increasing is the ability to be proficient at data analysis created by these activities. Governments and industries need properly analyzed data to create new rules and procedures to better manage our environment.
We will see new recycling and reverse logistics jobs that require data collection, data preparation, and analytical skills that can tell us the meaning of the mountains of recycling data. Some of these new jobs in recycling or reverse logistics will also require computer programming skills.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Upon Us
The fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, pushing for advanced and updated job opportunities. Today’s workforce is a merging of digital computation and human talents.
The emergence of green economy jobs is interlaced with new skills needed for automation — what we used to refer to as computer skills like programming and data management. The need for a college degree in computer programming is being supplemented by a different set of talents that are more creative and innovative in manipulating tomorrow’s computer-based tools.
According to a LinkedIn study, the emerging focus is on artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis. AI or smart technology and data analysis tools have been growing in use for years in warehouses, hospitals, newsrooms, and executive boardrooms.
Robotics is a big part of AI. Robots and automated (self-driving) transportation is growing in many sectors of manufacturing, logistics and in the next generation of passenger vehicles.
Top 15 Emerging Jobs in the United States
Job recruiter Smith Hanley lists the top 15 emerging jobs in the U.S. as:
- Artificial Intelligence Specialist
- Robotics Engineer
- Data Scientist
- Full Stack Engineer
- Site Reliability Engineer
- Customer Success Specialist
- Sales Development Representative
- Data Engineer
- Behavioral Health Technician
- Cybersecurity Specialist
- Back-End Developer
- Chief Revenue Officer
- Cloud Engineer
- Product Owner
What this acceleration toward AI means is that we will all be learning how to interact with a growing list of AI tools, so our current skillsets will require some retraining. Job titles will change too, and we will undergo a rebranding of our skills. In exchange, we will become more efficient, effective and more successful workers.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Added a New Dimension to Changes Caused by Disruptive Technology
The fourth industrial revolution, which grew this past decade, is a wide highway of new technology and people skills in great demand. The road of disruptive technology always ran in a parallel lane on this freeway of talent and techniques for communications and critical thinking tools. But the COVID-19 pandemic added a sudden and unexpected additional freeway — not just a road, but a freeway of disruptive technology and culture slamming right into our fourth industrial revolution.
Disruptive technology usually requires a decade or two to really take effect. For example, television upset our culture at home in the 1950s. In the past decades, the cell phone became an absolute necessity, turning millions of people into 24/7/365 texting addicts.
Today, the deadly coronavirus pandemic that produced COVID-19 has turned our slow, disruptive growth into a new age of live, televised meetings with technology such as Zoom. Previous live, televised contacts between friends and family were a playful game, mainly for youth.
The use of teleconferences for business or government once was a rare event. Now it is routine. Even Congress and the Supreme Court recently have begun using it.
This year, Zoom-like classrooms became an overnight reality for colleges, business leaders, and at-home mothers turned schoolteachers for their homebound K-12 children. This disruptive culture descended upon us almost without warning.
And the culture of how to work from home rather than in an expensive downtown office has caused workers a lot of stress. But resistance is futile; telework has become a standard new normal in business, government and education.
More Teachers Will Have to Be Trained to Teach in Online Classrooms
In the future, we will see more emphasis on online or remote courses. Prospective teachers in college will have to be trained to go from the actual classroom to their home office classroom, because they will be teaching students using video technology. These classes may be live or asynchronous, during which students react to written discussion board posts a few times a week on their own time and complete written assignments.
Active Listening Skills Will Be Necessary, Even After the Pandemic Ends
The bottom requirement for all these new jobs coming in the future is the ability to be an active listener. With all the unfolding complexity of news about society, culture, and employment, active listening may be the one asset that helps get you hired over all the other candidates for these new jobs. Active listening means concentrating on what is being said and not interrupting, reflecting on the speaker’s words, summarizing what was just said, or asking a clarifying question.
Active listening is a part of critical thinking and problem solving. Developing the skill of active listening will set you apart from the others who show up on your Zoom laptop screen.
About the Author
Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia.
Ready When You Are
At American Public University, students are priority one. We are committed to providing quality education, superior student resources, and affordable tuition. In fact, while post-secondary tuition has risen sharply nationwide, the university continues to offer affordable tuition without sacrificing academic quality.