Jobs for All? Disruption and the Future of Work
On Friday, October 5th, we went to the City Club to hear a presentation titled Jobs for All? Disruption and the Future of Work by U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna who represents California's 17th Congressional District in Silicon Valley.
As the biography posted on his website reads, U.S. Rep. Khanna reads understands that "for each job created in the high-tech industry, another four jobs are created. The tech multiplier is even larger than the multiplier for U.S. manufacturing. Rep. Khanna will work to ensure the technology sector is at the forefront of the U.S. economic policy and strive to provide opportunities to those our changing economy and technological revolution has left behind. To do so, the U.S. must implement policies that will not only create tech jobs in Silicon Valley but across America..."
During the course of his presentation, Rep. Khanna spoke of how he has traveled the United States and spoken to many people in rural and impoverished areas who are very much aware of the potential benefits of the digital/technological revolution and want to be a part of it. The trouble is that they often feel that pathways are not really available to them and that this is a significant factor in the creation of the kind of resentment that divides the U.S. right now.
In order to address this issue, U.S. Rep Khanna offered several suggestions like making high speed internet available to all parts of the country; encourage the formation of two-year instead of four year hi-tech training programs for workers; and incentivize employers to establish more internships that will lead to permanent jobs in the digital/technological industry.
Another suggestion that was particularly interesting to us would be the adaptation of the Land-Grant University concept to today's conditions. As we know, Land-Grant Universities were first established in the latter part of the 19th century with the mission of teaching "agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts, as well as classical studies, so members of the working class could obtain a liberal, practical education." The Ohio State University was one of these institutions.
Rep. Khanna credits such institutions as the basis for the economic engine that moved the industrial revolution forward. Accordingly, he would like to create a comparable version that would emphasize teaching the skills necessary for employment in digital/tech.
But, by no means would Rep. Khanna discount manufacturing as a vital ingredient; in fact, he even wrote a book titled Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future. During the Q and A, in response to a question he spoke of how technological equipment will have to be manufactured and praised the 3-D industry in Youngstown. To be sure, manufacturing will figure very prominently in the future but probably not via the large factories with which it has been traditionally associated.
We read in Rep. Khanna's biography that he is the son of parents who immigrated to the United States from India in the l970's and settled in Philadelphia, PA. Thus, we asked him how being a child of immigrants influenced his perspective. He replied that he was one of the few persons of color in his neighborhood while growing up but he was helped immeasurably by his family, friends, and teachers, who all believed in him and helped him realize his potential. Therefore, he strives to do the same for others who are in a tough spot economically and/or socially.
He smiled as he talked how societal conditions have become more cosmopolitan over the years. When he was younger, his cultural origins were not widely celebrated in the U.S. Now a school in his U.S. Congressional district offers Bollywood dancing as either an elective or an after-school activity.
We soon learned that Rep. Khanna is the son-in-law of our good friends, Mr. Monte and Dr. Usha Ahuja who were there with several other members of their family. Both have given a wonderful amount to the Cleveland (and the world) community.
(see http://www.uhhospitals.org/ahuja/about/history/ahuja-family-story/and http://blog.cleveland.com/pdworld/2007/09/monte_ahuja_profile_businessm.html/)
When we first arrived, we chatted with Ms. Amanda Wishnek, Manager of Business Development from the Center for Families and Children. Ms. Wishnek had never been to a City Club luncheon before, but was drawn to this particular one because she realizes the importance of a well-trained workforce.
In the spirit of today's program, students from the Young Entrepreneur Institute were in the lobby displaying their wares. We really liked chatting with Mr. Aiden Owens who has established a 3-D printing business that creates such objects as signs, magnets, ornaments, and team logos. Some of his work is even for sale at Aurora Farms and Sweeney's. Mr. Owens is only 13 years old so we would say that his future is very promising indeed.
During his introduction, City Club President & CEO Mr. Dan Moulthrop expressed his admiration of the students and their products as he said, "you may not think that there is anything out there that you need but if you buy something, you will feel better about the world."