Job market sure has changed

Last week in Times, we ran a story about a labour shortage across Rainy River District.
Then in Monday’s Daily Bulletin, we reprinted an article from 1936 about employment in the bush of the district. More than 800 men had appeared to work in the logging camps.
Between 1936 and today, huge changes have occurred in jobs across the world.
We have been part of the computer revolution for more than five decades. From its beginnings in the 1960s, most people felt computers would play a very small role in their lives because computers were just too complicated to use easily.
Life changed in the 1980s when Apple came out with the Apple 1 that sold for $666.66. At the same time, IBM and many other manufacturers came forward with computers operating on the Microsoft software platform.
We were into the computer age—and the computers replaced the typewriters and large accounting spreadsheets. Fully-integrated computer systems now allow businesses to be connected with employees anywhere in the world accessing common databases.
Computers soon found their way into homes across the world. Through telecommunications, people now “FaceTime” or “Skype” with friends and relatives across the globe. The millennial generation now chooses to use the Internet over cable television.
Our cellphones can do more than computers that only are a decade old.
Similarly, phone systems have changed and in many businesses, automated systems now answer the phone and direct the caller to the appropriate location. It has saved businesses millions upon millions of dollars through employee reductions.
When the newspaper all was prepared with lead, the staff was considerably larger. When the newspaper purchased its first generation of computers in 1971, the staffing did not change a great deal although overtime decreased.
By the late 1990s, with the speed of computers and their ability to do so much more, staff reductions were realized. Other modernizations in the printing production also have produced staff savings.
I come to this column thinking about the anger in the United States over workplace changes that have reduced workforces in manufacturing plants. I remember across the district, the number of loggers that were put out of work with the automation of cutting, de-limbing, and bucking of trees: the feller-bunchers.
The mechanization in the woods increased productivity and reduced work site injuries.
In automotive plants around the world, robots do the majority of the work in building cars and trucks—and those improvements have made cars and trucks last much longer.
Unfortunately, the modernization of the assembly line has reduced workforces.
Today, companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are testing the technology of driver-less dump trucks in their mines in Australia. More than 200 trucks now are operating as test vehicles there.
Caterpillar and Komatsu, meanwhile, have huge software development programs to place more robotics in even other pieces of equipment.
Below ground, other manufacturers are developing mining equipment that removes workers from working underground. Some are controlled from the surface while others are operated robotically.
Computers and mechanization have led to significant job losses. But they also have created thousands of new jobs that didn’t even have descriptions a decade ago.
We already know future homes will be controlled totally by computer applications. Apple, Amazon, Google, and hundreds of other software companies are developing new software tools to operate all your appliances, heating and cooling systems, and security systems year-round.
New products are entered onto the market daily.
And just as we wondered why we needed a cellphone, in the future we will wonder why we would require new software and gadget.

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