Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE — It's Friday afternoon at Friendship Manor in Salt Lake, and Tyrone Winston is rushing around the tiny room filling water bottles and wiping down Richard Uriarte's legs. Uriarte, a former star linebacker at Southern Utah University, is a quadriplegic, and would need a personal aide like Winston if he ever wanted to look out of his 10th floor window at the nearby University of Utah football stadium.
Uriarte has lived at Friendship Manor, which caters to seniors and people with disabilities, for over 20 years. Since becoming a quadriplegic, Uriarte spends the day lying in his bed next to a filled ashtray, often listlessly watching whatever comes on the big screen across the room. Tyrone Winston's visit is a daily highlight for Richard.
Winston is part of an often forgotten, and misunderstood, segment of American workers. Once defined by assembly-line jobs, today's so-called "low skilled" workers are filling positions in health care, customer service, and food handling. And as manufacturing jobs continue to disappear, health care aid jobs like Winton's are expected to experience the largest growth in the coming years due to an aging population. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, the list of occupations projected to see the most job gains from 2008 to 2018 are dominated by the service industry, which is expected to grow by 14 percent. While in the past a high school education might have landed you a well paying job in a factory, the trend from "goods-producing" in favor of "service-producing" in the U.S. economy, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports will continue, means low-skill workers will be more likely than ever to find jobs in one of the growing service occupations, such as health care aids.
A cursory glance at job growth might give the impression of a market dominated by positions that lack educational requirements. Of the top twenty-five occupations expected to grow the most, fifteen do not require any post-secondary education.
But Dr. Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, notes that, as opposed to the past, "today, [mid-level] jobs require a post secondary certificate. In other words, job requirements have gone up," something he refers to as "upscaling."
Aside from educational requirements, "a manufacturing worker in the past looks like a modern health care worker," Carnevale says.
"The new non-college jobs in health care are the modern version of those manufacturing jobs that did not require BAs, the difference is that now these require a post secondary certificate," he said.
Occupations that require an associates, masters, first professionals, bachelors, or doctoral degree are all projected by the BLS to increase by between 17 and 19 percent from 2008 to 2018.
Although economists expected this trend, some remain worried that low-skill service jobs will not provide the same pay and benefits once seen in manufacturing.
"This forecast is nothing new…but it worries me, " says Dr. Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at Berkeley.
Carnevale notes that after the recession in the 80's, the economy changed. Further advances in automation killed manufacturing jobs and the share of jobs that were in the service sector increased relative to manufacturing.
"Something might be similar after this recession," Carnevale says.
Goods-producing companies have been especially enticed to invest in capital — like machines that can do a worker's job — rather than labor because of historically low interest rates as well as 2011 temporary tax breaks that allowed write offs for capital investments.
Though you might not see workers complaining. "The good things about deep recessions, when you're in a deep enough hole, everything looks likes up," Carnevale says.
"We don't make anything anymore"
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