A flight to safety

Would you take less money in exchange for a guarantee you’ll have a job? How much?

Those are questions that many American workers are facing and answering “yes” and “plenty,” according to the New York Times.

America is on the hunt for a secure job.

Profiling workers in Wisconsin, the Times reports, for example, that people who’ve worked in a paper mill, are now training to be truckers and welders — two jobs thought to be relatively safe. In many cases, they’re not trying to replace lost wages. Behold, the declining standard of living!


“Two of my classmates just this week applied at a trucking company advertising for tractor-trailer drivers,” Mr. Geneen said. “They were hired on the spot and told to report for work on Feb. 1. They didn’t even meet with the personnel people.”

Mr. Geneen says he plans to drive a truck, preferably within Wisconsin. But with his wife, Kathy, earning $40,000 a year as a certified public accountant and with enough severance from his mill job to help care the family for a while, Mr. Geneen has enrolled in a yearlong course to qualify as a welder. It is another occupation chronically short of qualified people, even in a recession. At $40,000 a year or so, welders’ work would not match his old pay but would provide a backup plan for the future.

Which brings up another question. Can people afford to train for new jobs if they don’t have a working spouse making $40,000 a year and a fat severance package to help bankroll it?

  • michele

    Part of the problem facing “displaced workers” is that culturally/functionally we are in the beginning phases of major transition and no one has a clear idea where we are headed. There is a lot of talk about the new green/sustainable economy, but few clear plans and educational programs. Likewise for the banking industry, which will exist in some form after we address our problems. Health care is a growing field but we have some hard choices ahead that will reshape the business side as well as the actual practise of medicine. Education is another area where change is needed and likely.

    If you understand some of the internal factors in any of these fields you can start to discern better/worse areas to retrain in, but many people don’t have access to that kind of information and even people with better than average understanding of policy are not sure what advice to give.

    As for people retraining to be welders, truck drivers, and the like, you have to wonder what the half life of those types of jobs are in an increasingly technological/scientific world. Perhaps we face a future where people making less money decide they need/want fewer consumer goods which necessitates less trucking, less welding, less fabrication of all sorts etc.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info Mitch Berg

    I started in radio, and work in IT – so I know a little about transition and reinvention.

    I think it’s understandable that people are trying to find “more secure” careers, and it makes good short-term sense; in the longer term, people need to learn to think in terms of keeping themselves mobile,marketable and adaptable.

    Which is not something most lifelong union workers have needed to learn until the past few decades.

  • Anna

    As one of those “displaced workers” I can say that, yes, I would take a (reasonable) cut in pay for a job that fit my skill set or would help me develop new ones. I have done some preliminary math to figure out how much of a hit our household economy can take if need be – though I’d really rather not. But with all the news out there about how many folks are also looking for work right along with me – if I can find a place that is hiring and is willing and able to hire me, if the fit is good and the pay cut isn’t too drastic, I’d take the job.

    Thankfully I’m not someone who only has training or experience in one field, so I can be somewhat flexible in my job search – it opens the possibilities at the same time that it lowers my expectations for actually finding something where I might make *more* money than in my last job.