In the 1800s, our country was an agricultural society and by the 1900s we had transitioned to an industrial society. Today, it can be said that our economy is in the Service Age.
Many U.S. manufacturing jobs have gone to China and other countries, and they are not coming back. In 1900, 38% of American workers were still employed in agricultural occupations. At the end of the century, that figure was 3%. Persons employed in goods-producing industries (manufacturing) fell from 31% to 19% of the workforce.
However, jobs haven’t “gone away” – they have just morphed into different types of jobs. Service industries accounted for the most significant rise in 20th century employment, increasing from 31% to 78% of the workforce.
As a nation, we must recognize that this shift to a more service-based economy is going to continue, and we must plan accordingly. Plenty of opportunities still exist, but they are very different from the jobs of the past. We still have a good economy, but the job landscape and necessary training to thrive in that landscape have changed.
It is essential that we retrain our workforce – and our future workforce – with new and varied skill sets to compete for the new jobs that accompany the service economy.
All of us – individuals and employers alike – have to wake up and understand that society is changing again to a completely different economic model. As a nation, we’ve been nimble before, we’ve pivoted and adopted. These shifts are hard, but as a society we must embrace and understand the change and adjust accordingly with the education and training that are necessary to adapt to a changing economic landscape.