Obsolete careers give way to technology advancements

2013-01-20T00:00:00Z Obsolete careers give way to technology advancementsBy Bob Moulesong Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The last two JobsSunday features provided information on projected job growth both nationally and locally.

While there are indicators of strong employment in many industries that are projected to grow in the coming years, there is also evidence that some occupations are becoming obsolete.

The majority of these obsolete positions are in office and administrative support and production occupations. In most cases, these careers are being impacted by the implementation of office technology that reduces the need for these workers, changes in business practices, and escalating plant and factory automation.

A majority of the job openings occurring in these occupations will arise not from job growth, but from the need to replace those transferring to other industries, retire or leave for other reasons. It’s imperative for those looking for work to recognize that a job opening in a particular field does not necessarily mean that field is growing. Sometimes a worker is replacing another worker who went to a more lucrative field.

Here is a list of careers and jobs that are expected to decline over the next few years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Farmers and/or ranchers. This dwindling occupation will see the largest decrease of all sectors, losing 250,000 jobs in the next few years. The complexity of modern farming and keen competition among farmers leaves little room for the marginally successful farmer. Therefore, the long-term trend toward consolidation of farms into fewer and larger farms is expected to continue displacing small independent farmers.

Apparel workers in the textile industry. Apparel workers have been among the most rapidly declining occupational groups in recent years. Increasing imports, the use of offshore assembly and greater productivity through new automation will contribute to additional job losses. Employment in the domestic textile and apparel industries has also fallen in recent years as foreign producers have gained a greater share of the U.S. market.

Word processors. This sector, which includes data entry, is expected to decline due to the proliferation of personal computers. Employment growth of data entry will be dampened by productivity gains, as various data-capturing technologies, such as bar code scanners, voice recognition technologies and sophisticated character recognition readers become more prevalent. In addition, employment of these workers will be adversely affected by businesses that are increasingly contracting out their work.

Stock clerks. The growing use of computers for inventory control and the installation of new, automated equipment are expected to inhibit growth in demand for stock clerks and order fillers, especially in manufacturing and wholesale trade industries whose operations are most easily automated. Firms in these industries are relying more on computerized inventory systems, sophisticated conveyor belts, automatic high stackers to store and retrieve goods, and the use of automatically guided vehicles.

General secretaries. Automated equipment is changing the distribution of work in many offices. Professionals and managers increasingly do their own word processing and data entry, and handle much of their own correspondence rather than submit the work to secretaries and other support staff. Also, in some law and medical offices, paralegals and medical assistants are assuming some tasks formerly done by secretaries and others are "sharing" secretaries and administrative assistants. NOTE: This does not include medical and legal secretaries. Those two fields will see modest gains.

Electronic equipment assemblers. As manufacturers strive to improve precision and productivity, automated machinery increasingly will be used to perform work more economically and more efficiently. Technological advances should continue raising the productivity of assembly workers and adversely affecting their employment. Also, many producers send their assembly functions to countries where labor costs are lower.

Computer operators. Advances in technology have reduced both the size and cost of computer equipment, while increasing the capacity for data storage and processing automation. The expanding use of software that automates computer operations gives companies the option of making systems more user-friendly, greatly reducing the need for operators.

Telephone operators. Developments in communications technologies -- particularly voice recognition systems that are accessible and easy to use -- will continue to have a significant impact on the demand for switchboard operators. Electronic communication through the Internet or email provides alternatives to telephone communication and requires no operators. Operators are going the way of the pay phone.

Processing machine operators. The demand for such clerks will be offset by the use of electronic communications technologies and private delivery companies. The number of these workers is expected to decline because of the increasing use of automated materials handling equipment and optical character readers, barcode sorters and other automated sorting equipment. Advanced sorting systems, longer routes and centralized delivery will also reduce the demand for postal workers.

Travel agents. An increasing reliance on the Internet to book travel, as well as industry consolidation, will continue to reduce the need for travel agents. Also, airlines no longer pay commissions to travel agencies, which has weakened revenues and caused some agencies to go out of business.

So is it time for a career switch? What is the right or wrong way to go? Next week, JobsSunday will examine the do’s and don’ts of career changing.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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