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November, 1987, Vol. 110, No. 11
Successful worker training programs
help ease impact of technology
The impact of technological change beginning with the large-scale introduction of factory automation in the 1950s and 1960s has sparked major interest in worker training and retraining. Many Bureau of Labor Statistics studies have explored job displacement, job changes, and the impact of technology upon the work force.1 In the 1960s, substantial growth in public sector and service sector employment made some of the factory dislocation effects appear less serious at the national level. However, extensive application of microelectronics since the late 1970s has increased interest in upgrading workers' skills and retraining employees for job shifts.
The dislocation phenomenon has been of substantial magnitude, particularly in traditional manufacturing, but in non-manufacturing as well. Studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Office of Technology Assessment have documented the seriousness of the problem and the great need for retraining efforts.2 As the issue of worker retraining gains more attention, it is critical to explore successful efforts at technology planning and worker retraining in order to assist in policy formation and program developments. This is especially important since the growth of high tech jobs is modest and the evidence suggests a preponderance of new job creation is in low-paid employment.3 The impact of technological change upon employment, skills training, and the work environment will continue to be a major theme in the coming years.4 This article highlights some innovative and important approaches to employee training and retraining in anticipation of and in response to technological change. These include both collectively bargained arrangements and new State initiatives that are suggestive for future developments.
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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics reports include Jerome A. Mark, "Technological change and employment: some results from BLS research," Monthly Labor Review, April 1987, pp. 26-29; and Ronald E. Kutscher and Valerie A. Personick, "Deindustrialization and the shift to services," Monthly Labor Review, June 1986, pp. 3-13.
2 See Paul O. Flaim and Ellen Sehgal, "Displaced workers of 1979-83; how have they fared?" Monthly Labor Review, June 1985, pp. 3-16; and Technology and Structural Unemployment: Reemployment of Adults, OTA-ITE 250 (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, February 1986).
3 Richard W. Riche, Daniel E. Hecker, and John U. Burgan, "High technology today and tomorrow: a small piece of the employment pie," Monthly Labor Review, November 1983, pp. 50-58; and Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison, The Great American Job Machine: The Proliferation of Low Wage Employment in the U.S. Economy (U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, December 1986).
4 Richard M. Cyert and David C. Mowery, eds,. Technology and employment: Innovation and Growth in the U.S. Economy (Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1987).
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