A recent article from Pew Research stated less than one-third of 16- to 17-year-olds worked a summer job last year due to the lack of entry-level, unskilled jobs available. Combine that statistic with all of the cities and states pushing to raise the minimum wage to US$15 an hour. I don’t want to debate the minimum-wage issue, but if the lack of entry-level jobs continues to dwindle, it will have a consequential impact on teenagers, young adults and those individuals who do not possess specific skills. That concerns me.
I travel extensively, observing everything. The more I thought about the Pew Research stats, the more they resonated with my travel experiences. Case in point — at the Toronto and JFK airports, there are iPads on the bars and tables so you can place your order, and then a food runner brings you your food or drink. A high-end burger restaurant in San Diego, Stacked, features iPads on each table where you virtually build your burger, swipe your credit card to pay and then a runner brings your food to the table. So in essence, they’re operating the restaurant with a much smaller team and less overhead because of the iPads. In France, I noted several McDonalds have iPads at the counter rather than a clerk to place your order. Even U.S. Customs now has kiosks at major entry points such as Miami and Houston, with two agents monitoring 30 machines. A California firm, Momentum Machines, is building robots that can make sandwiches and flip burgers faster than a human. Need I say more?
While the vast wave of technology has created new jobs, it’s also replacing those jobs that used to be entry-level positions — including those positions such as fast-food clerks and cooks. If this trend continues, as I believe it will across many sectors, where will the unskilled find employment, and where will teenagers learn hands-on job skills? What are your thoughts?