Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum and the lead author of Brain Gain. At the Intelligent Community Forum he heads up research and content development activities, including directing the analysis of entries in the annual Intelligent Community Awards program. Robert developed and delivers Intelligent Community Master Classes, Community Accelerator and Advisory Services. He is also the author of the Intelligent Community Forum’s founding study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community and compiled key data in the multi-year study, Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities Program. Robert has contributed articles to and been interviewed by leading media outlets around the world.
Louis Zacharilla is a co-founder of the Intelligent Community movement and has been contributing author on three books with his fellow co-founders. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Annual Awards Program including Intelligent Community of the Year. He communicates the importance of developing Intelligent Communities at speaking events ranging from the Nobel Prize in Norway to Harvard University lectures and major conferences around the world. Louis also oversees the global research Institutes of the Intelligent Community Forum. He appears is regularly sought out by global media outlets to discuss the impact of broadband and communications technologies on the renaissance of the world’s most Intelligent Communities.
John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept 20 years ago and as a co-founder continues to serve as the leading visionary. He has enjoyed a long and successful career as a leading executive with economic development agencies in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Calgary and most recently, Waterloo Region. He is a registered professional urban planner and urban designer and regularly leads international business missions to the US, Europe, Asia, India and Australia. John is a sought-after speaker at events focused on Intelligent Communities and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development, encouraging them to build vibrant, economically successful cities.
Why It Matters
Middle-skilled jobs are the foundation on which local, regional and national economies rest. In the European Union, medium-skilled jobs made up about 50% of the total in 2010, comparable to 48% of total American jobs in 2006.
These middle-skilled jobs generally require some education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree. It may be an associate’s degree from a community college or certificate from a technical school. It may be on-the-job training, previous work experience or just some years at university that did not result in a diploma. Middle-skilled workers are construction supervisors, electricians and plumbers, office administrators, technical salespeople, medical technicians and dental hygienists, telecom equipment installers, welders and first responders.
If middle-skilled jobs are indeed being “wiped off the table” by innovation in information and communications technology, it poses a terrible threat to the economic and social well-being of communities around the world. If rising incomes are highly concentrated in 1-2% of the population while the rest of us get poorer, the developed nations of the world will come to bear a startling resemblance to those chaotic countries at the bottom of the income ladder, where despots or oligarchies control most assets and everyone else lives off their table scraps.
When Menial Labor Isn’t Menial
If you make a forecast and want to make certain it is dead wrong, there is one guaranteed method: take a trend from today and draw it out for five or ten years in a straight line. Societies, cultures and communities adapt. The high rate of technology change today may be challenging that adaptability, but the story is far from over. Job polarization is clearly happening – but is it a crisis? The slow decline in middle-skilled knowledge-based jobs – those that do not require a physical presence in a particular location – is inevitable. It was inevitable in manufacturing as soon as the first automated machinery was put into place, which is why those Luddites in 19th Century England who destroyed automated looms knew just what they were doing, though they did not do themselves any good. As the Industrial Revolution continues in digital form, we are increasingly capable of automating jobs that require not just a strong back but a bit of knowledge and judgment as well. So we are doing it. We may well want government to have a policy response, but the best that laws and regulations can do is to cushion change while job markets adapt.
There is another change, however, that has gone little noticed until recently but which is every bit as profound:
We have come to expect more from our businesses without noticing the ramifications it has on the skill sets needed to perform these jobs. We want goods and services faster, at cost-effective prices, and with improved customer service. Today’s delivery person confirms orders and shipments of goods using a tablet; the shelf stocker no longer places stickers on products, but rather uses a complex personal digital assistant device to control stock supplies; and your local coffee shop barista not only serves your coffee, but is also expected to troubleshoot the WiFi. These new responsibilities are no longer the exceptions, but rather the rule. The direct result of companies keeping pace with technological advancements has meant that positions previously requiring low skills now demand solid digital skills: the ability to access, use and interpret digital information in the workplace.
In this view, the really big change is not our increasing ability to automate away routine middle-skill jobs. The really big change is in those non-routine, manual, menial occupations that are traditionally considered low-skilled. The authors of a report called Menial is Menial No More put it this way: in the past, for entry level jobs in the hospitality industry, “workers only needed to show up at a hotel seeking work, and as long as they were responsible and reliable, they were fit for the job. Today workers must independently complete an online application process before they are even considered for an interview. At one hotel chain all staff must pass an online customer service course, while another chain requires all cleaning staff to operate a PDA.”
Today’s job polarization studies forecast that high-skilled positions will see most of the growth. In the European Union, demand for high-skilled employees will rise by more than 3.5 million as the share of high-skilled jobs increases from 29% in 2010 to about 35% in 2020. The share of middle-skilled jobs will remain steady at about 50%. But the share of jobs for the low-skilled will drop from 20% in 2010 to less than 15% in 2020.
The US Bureau of Labor estimates that the number of total jobs for middle-skilled people will grow 11% from 2006 to 2016, while those for high-skilled individuals will grow 15% and those for low-skilled will grow only 8%. The availability of jobs for the truly unskilled is likely to see an even more severe decline than the forecasters say.
Innovation is the core of the economy you live in, and is being fueled by ICT as a fire is transformed into an inferno by a rush of oxygen. Innovation is becoming almost exclusively a game for the skilled, who can add value to everything they touch during the workday. If you accept those ideas, then you can appreciate the need to ensure that your community experiences “brain gain” rather than “brain drain.” In this complex century, we face so many challenges, from the economic and financial to the social and environmental, that we are all tempted to stand stunned, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, while doom rushes down upon us. Life forces us to choose which challenges we will give our attention to. For the future of the local community, no issue is of greater importance than making sure you are on the right side of the gain/drain divide.
Digitalization has destroyed jobs. When we pick up a book – especially one with an optimistic title – we so often question the authors’ motivations. But, in truth, the honest reality that pervades this work is a sign of confidence. The authors are not mere reporters of some fashionable development trends. The level of detail betrays a depth of knowledge garnered through years of research. They have not only been there, collected the tee shirt and worn it, but have probed in depth how some communities around the world have risen above their challenges and transformed their economic and societal prospects.
– David Brunnen, Groupe Intellex, England
Brain Gain has placed effects of community investments in technology and broadband connectivity in the larger and proper context of innovation and economic development. Every community interested in Gigabit fiber should make this book required reading to understand how to ensure that broadband investments actually have the anticipated impact they hope for.
– Andrew Cohill, Design Nine, USA
Brain Gain explores the most important issue facing cities today, whether they are technology centers like Issy-les-Moulineaux or in the middle of agricultural lands. The issue is how to attract and retain the talented people who provide the energy of the modern economy. The lessons it offers, based on the experience of leading cities around the world, are of great value.
– Mayor André Santini, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France
There’s a new book out that could serve you personally, and might save your community at the same time. It’s Brain Gain: How Innovative Cities Create Job Growth in an Age of Disruption. The book reveals in its title the secret to prosperity in the 21st Century. For individuals and communities, the key is to use your brainpower to design, develop, and deploy solutions for human needs and desires.
- Jay Gillette, Network World
How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption
Selected by American City & County for the 2014 Leadership Book Club
By the authors of Broadband Economies and Seizing Our Destiny
In their third book, ICF’s co-founders take on a central issue of our time: how to balance two essential demands of the Digital Age economy – innovation and employment – to create communities that thrive.
Brain Gain: How Innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption is a survival manual for cities and regions on how to build economic prosperity and meet social challenges in an age of technological change.
Why has the global economy created a projected jobs gap of 75 million persons? Why are jobless recoveries now commonplace and why are middle-skilled jobs being erased? Brain Gain explains how innovation combined with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is driving global economic change and has created a new force to be dealt with – the global connectivity of the broadband Internet.
Brain Gain probes the big issues of work and well-being, the innovation economy, offshoring, immigration and the future of big cities and small towns as they deal with the broadband economy. Innovation and advances in communications technology destroy jobs but also create new ones, cities must decide if they want to take actions that will provide a brain gain or a brain drain.
The book explores these crucial issues through the experiences of cities and regions that have faced challenging problems and found imaginative solutions. With the guidance of the Intelligent Community Forum, citizens in aspiring communities have applied leadership, vision, and ambition to create celebrated success stories in cities as diverse as Taichung, Taiwan, home to 2.6 million people, and Mitchell, South Dakota USA, home to only 15,000. In all, Brain Gain profiles 18 communities with the authors’ latest insights from more than 10 years of research into what makes the most Intelligent Communities on the planet.
Made Possible by the Generous Support of...
- Chunghwa Telecom
- Greater Columbus Arts Council
- The Columbus Region
- IDIPC (Taichung)
- Oulu & Business Oulu
- The Stratford Group
- Taoyuan Aerotropolis
- Vee TIME
- Waterfront Toronto
Do you know anyone who is never-ending fountain of new ideas? I have known, enjoyed and been worn out by a few of them. The same is true of US President Franklin Roosevelt. He delivered one of the greatest backhand compliments in history when we said of British Prime Minster Churchill, his friend and fellow wartime leader, “Winston has fifty ideas a day, and one or two of them are rather good.”
We need these people to stretch the boundaries of what is possible. We also need to respect the many ways in which those boundaries can come snapping back on us. In our book, Brain Gain: How Innovative Cities Create Jobs in an Age of Disruption, my colleagues and I wrote about the disruptive educational innovation known as the massively open online course or MOOC. The vision is truly revolutionary: instead of attending a high-priced university, you take courses online from all of the great universities at a fraction of the cost. Three privately-funded MOOC companies were launched in the US in 2012, and universities around the world quickly followed with their own course offerings.Read more
As the UN forecasts a 75-million-person global job gap, Intelligent Community Forum cites “Brain Gain” approach in new book
New York, NY – June 23, 2014 - With the UN International Labour Organization recognizing a massive global jobs gap that opened at the height of the financial crisis and could widen from 62 million to 75 million by 2018, the Intelligent Community Forum has announced publication of a new book called Brain Gain: How Innovative Cities Create Job Growth in an Age of Disruption.Read more