When jobs disappear

From Slashdot | Young IT Workers Disillusioned, Hard to Retain

Yes! Yes! To Obi-Wan you listen! (Score:5, Interesting)

by dtmos (447842) on Saturday January 12, @05:32AM (#22012706)

This is not the first time entry-level people have thought times were tougher on them than the preceeding generation.

In the mid-1960s my father worked for a contractor on the Apollo space program. Realizing that once the moon rocket design was substantially complete, engineers would be superfluous (a Briton would say redundant), in 1968 he transfered, within his company, out of the space program to a group in another state designing time-shared mainframes for business applications. It was the best decision of his career, but one that was very controversial at the time (“you’re leaving the space program?!?“).

I will carry the memory of the period that followed to my grave. Some time after the transfer, the NASA cuts began, and we started getting phone calls (at home!) from my father’s former coworkers, looking for work — any work, any where, in any field. More than 20,000 engineers, scientists, and technicians in the state of Florida alone — and probably 100,000 or more around the country — were laid of as fast as the mimeograph machines could reproduce the pink slips. Engineers were driving taxis and bagging groceries in the towns around the Kennedy Space Center.

The ultimate was when my father returned to the dinner table from another call to announce that the caller had been his former boss’s boss’s boss, looking for any work — even a drafting position (six levels down the corporate ladder, and one that did not require a college degree). Like all the other callers, he had a wife, x young children, and a mortgage to support. (Homes were essentially unsellable in the areas around the major contractors’ plants; the mortgages were greater than their market value, so foreclosures were the norm.) I hope I have sufficiently expressed the desperate nature of the situation.

And yet…

No university dropped its engineering program; freshout engineering graduates appeared, just as they always had, at the end of every semester. And all of them needed jobs. Entry-level jobs. All of these people entered school at the height of the space program, only to find when they graduated that the job market was considerably more difficult than they had expected. Having a difficult entry-level job market is not a new thing.

One of the pleasures of age is that one sees the world as dynamic, rather than static. A young person sees a constant world, for it’s the only one he’s ever known. With age, however, one sees things change, and can evaluate, say, the first derivative of the world function. With greater age, one can see the rate of change change, and appreciate the second derivative; at that point, one can begin modeling the dynamics of social structures.

The shortage of engineers in the 1960s led to the glut of engineers in the 1970s. However, because of the 4- to 6-year delay between entering and completing engineering school, the system is not necessarily stable; the glut of the 1970s led to such an engineering shortage by the early 1980s that separate, higher, salary ladders were established at major corporations for entry-level engineers (creating salary compression that demotivated experienced engineers, but that’s a different thread). The system continues to oscillate today; the point is, it’s oscillating through values we’ve seen before.

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