Editorial: Official points to a future of niche employment

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The old days are gone for good – the days when most employees
could count on long, stable careers with the same rock-solid
companies. The days are gone, at least in the private sector, of
gold watches at retirement.
The old days are gone for good – the days when most employees could count on long, stable careers with the same rock-solid companies. The days are gone, at least in the private sector, of gold watches at retirement.

We are in a new age of niche expertise, of self-employment and self-marketing. For employers – of contracting and consulting over costly pensions and medical benefits. And the challenge stretches far beyond the business world. It starts in our state and nation’s schools, which are failing at a dauntingly increasing rate to produce innovative, job-ready students.

That was a central message last week from Russell Hancock, president of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network. He spoke to about 80 San Benito County business and nonprofit leaders at San Juan Oaks Golf Club, an event hosted by the Community Foundation for San Benito County, the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, the Hollister Downtown Association and the Economic Development Corp. of San Benito County.

It was a well-worthwhile speaking engagement and underscored a distinct unity among local business groups, which will be crucial going forward in our climb from this economic hole. There wasn’t a whole ton of information specific to San Benito County, but Hancock did outline a broad view of the regional economy as it stands now, with expectations for the years ahead as well.

The speaker noted how the economy’s improvement this past year has been incremental, and he expects it to remain that way moving forward. Hancock was astute in stressing how gradual improvement is an ideal outlook, how we would rather maintain an ability to predict future conditions, how the current economy is more realistic than the dot-com boom or housing bubble.

Hancock stressed how future generations, his own children, will face an economy that demands high levels of knowledge in specific areas, or niches – that employees must be ready to act independently in their lines of work, that employers are increasingly finding ways to trim full-time payroll in favor of more temporary employment relationships. It is a concerning prospect, simply because it points to fewer full-time jobs.

As an undertone to his speech, and what we believe is the key to long-term economic success, there is the reality about our schools and how our nation’s education system, the performance of our students, has slipped to unfathomable levels – particularly in math and science, the foundations for technological innovation.

How that trend in particular must be reversed if America’s future generations are going to compete in a global economy.

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