EDITORIAL: Low-skill jobs are disappearing fast

2014-03-28T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Low-skill jobs are disappearing fast nwitimes.com
March 28, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Times reporter Joseph Pete's story on Northwest Indiana's manufacturing sector last Sunday should be required reading for all high school students.

Unlike in previous generations, the jobs that require brawn but not brains are disappearing.

That's not to say there aren't any manufacturing jobs left. About one of every six employees in the Gary metropolitan area works in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

And Indiana continues to lead the nation in steel production. But it's doing so with fewer workers, and different kinds of workers at that.

Since 2001, Northwest Indiana has shed 31 percent of the jobs in the primary metals sector, according to Micah Pollack, assistant professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest.

That's partly because security and some other positions once filled in-house are now outsourced. But it's also because of automation.

"New technology improves productivity and allows firms to produce more with fewer workers," Pollak said.

The local steel mills' output is as high as it was in 1990; it just requires fewer workers to accomplish that level of productivity.

Today's steelworker no longer does all the menial work. He — or she — now controls the equipment that does that work instead.

Today's students have heard stories from their parents and grandparents about getting hired right out of high school and going to work in the mills. That paradigm is spent.

Low-skill jobs are disappearing fast, and the ones that remain don't pay well.

Education is increasingly important as technology takes over menial jobs that once employed tens of thousands of people in the region. That's clearly true in manufacturing, as Sunday's story points out, but it's true in other sectors as well. Just look at an ATM if you need a reminder of this.

Now more than ever, students must focus on getting good grades and taking classes as difficult as they can manage. Success in life takes hard work, beginning with schoolwork.

Study hard!

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