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Paige: You are listening to “Coffee with Gringos.” I’m Paige Sutherland.

Ian: And I'm Ian Kennedy.

Paige:  Today we're going to talk about career paths and kind of how the job market is heading. Don't worry, everyone will still have jobs, it just might not be the job that it is today. So, Ian, talking about careers, when you were a kid, what kind of jobs did you envision? I guess, what were available at that time growing up?

Ian:  Yeah, I think when we were kids, the titles and the career paths seemed a little bit less specific, or there weren't as many varieties as you see today. You had your typical doctor, lawyer, teacher, businessman, and maybe a couple others sprinkled in there. But today, you're seeing so many specific job titles and different industries are opening up. So, you just see a lot more specific and more customized sort of roles. More than we saw, I think, when we were younger. Would you agree?

Paige: There are jobs out there because of technology that never existed when we were younger. And now it's, like, endless—the different kind of jobs that you can do. I think what's really interesting is when you're in high school, you're taught English, history, science—all the core curriculum. And then you go to college, and it's, like, what do you want to do for a career? “Uh, I want to do English.” You learn these core things, but you never learn career options in high school. And yet, you go to college, and it's, like, decide.

Ian: Exactly. So, then you're told to check this box and decide this path. And hope that's what you want to do, right? And then you invest, you know, X amount of years—typically, in the US, it's usually four years of undergraduate. And for a lot of people, you pick a path and, honestly, cross your fingers, hoping you'll have a job once you get out into the market. And so nowadays, again, you're seeing like we talked about. You're seeing more options open up as technology is developing. So again, it's going to be interesting to see in the next five or ten years, what careers exist that we have no idea are even around today.

Paige:  Exactly. And I think on the negative side of that is what jobs will be replaced by this new technology. You see it today when you go to the grocery store and its self-checkout. You know, that's a job that isn't needed anymore, because the computer does it. Or, you know, all these apps on your phones—people used to provide those services. And now, it's just technology.

Ian:  It's a real catch 22 when you think about it, because it's amazing this technology that we have, it makes our lives easier, things more efficient. But at the same time, you know, it's taking away a lot of the responsibility and the fulfillment that a lot of people have in their lives by having a certain trade or a certain skill. I think a big problem we're going to see in the next upcoming years is people being replaced by these machines. And I'm personally a little worried thinking about how people are going to react, how people are going to feel about this whenever they get displaced. It's a big problem that I hope we as a society can figure out as it progresses.

Paige: I have mixed feelings. I think with high school, right, you go to college, and you pick a career path or a major. We both went to liberal arts schools, so, your major usually is pretty broad. It's not a one track or, like, you're studying to be a nurse. And that's all you know, and you have to be a nurse. And I think, the beauty of that kind of education is you will see people in all types of jobs with all different majors. Because it's not career oriented. You're learning a lot about how to think and how to articulate yourself and all these skills that you need for all types of jobs. So, it worries me when sometimes people go to a major or have the skill and then, say, a computer takes it over. All you know is that skill, you can't really do anything else. So, then you're stuck. Where the beauty of having this major that's a little more broad is you can apply it for a lot of different things.

Ian: Exactly. And another problem back to automation is there's a lot of people saying, “Okay, well, if you get your job displaced, why don't you just learn a new skill?” There's a saying in the United States right now that's “learn to code” … computer coding. But I think it's a little ignorant to think that, you know, a 55-year-old truck driver who loses his job to automation is going to be able to learn how to computer code. It's not realistic. And it's a little troubling to think that these people won't have a place in the workplace with these kinds of ridiculous expectations that come along with this rise of technology.

Paige: I think it's tough, because obviously, when you think of the economics as a business person, a computer is cheaper than a person. A person comes with healthcare, it comes with a retirement fund, that comes with vacation time. There's all these things that are so expensive for business.  It's tough to tell a business “Oh, feel bad for Henry, whose job you're going to be taking because of a computer.” Because you look at the numbers and it's just simple math.

Ian: Sure, it's better for the bottom line.

Paige: So, it's tough. I don't know, I guess it’ll have to come through government regulation requiring that there's a, you know, a minimum amount of these jobs are held by humans. I don't know where it's going to come because right now, like we're seeing it, and we're living it and there are a lot less jobs because of automation. But I don't know if there's going to be a cap, or if it's just going to continue rising. A big issue that's also trying to be tackled is college debt. I think that's a big issue in Chile is the schools are so expensive. And you know, access just isn't there. And the US, we kind of have a different problem where we have too many schools that overcharge. And college is a necessity—it's been told for at least our generation and onward, if you don't want to college, you're going to be poor. So, everyone goes, whether you can afford it or not, or whether you're suited for college or not. I mean, some people should be practicing trade. That's, you know, building things and using their hands. And that's perfectly fine. Like, you don't have to go to college. But that was the culture.

Ian: I think for a long time in the US, there's been this idea, like you said, if you don't go to college, you're going to be poor—you're not going to be able to support your family. And kind of putting like an almost like a gold label to these jobs that you get with a college degree, right? There's so many trades, so many jobs that are very important and very respectable that kind of get put in the shadow because they're not considered one of these “academic careers.” But the world needs construction workers, plumbers, mechanics, as much as they need any other trade that you get with a with a college degree. So I think changing that stigma of you know, deciding to maybe have a vocational career instead of an academic career, I think that's something that needs to be changed to allow people to have more opportunities as, as we see the college sphere, starting to shrink and becoming more constricting with these opportunities.

Paige: I think also this kind of this promise that our generation grew up with—try really hard, get into a good college, don’t worry about the cost, and you're guaranteed a job and you're seeing that's not true. I mean, what you're seeing more often is, it's really hard for people with college degrees to get jobs. What happens is they have, you know, tens, twenty, thirty thousands of dollars of student debt. So, you know, they're stuck living at home for longer than they used to in the past. Because you know, that money, that they're now in debt, they can't put a mortgage down, they can't buy a car, they can't really invest in the economy, like our parents’ generation did, because now we have all this college debt where we were be guaranteed a good job, and you're not seeing that.

Ian: Exactly. Something that's always considered an investment is starting to see more like a liability for a lot of people nowadays. Yeah, I mean, I have lots of friends who are going to be paying their college debt for the next fifteen to twenty years. And that's a real shame. Just to have the opportunity to try to get a job, you have to get yourself in that position if you're not lucky to have the economic situation, in the first place. So, it's a real problem that needs to get solved.

Paige: You definitely hear it with this presidential election coming up, because I think student debt in the US has surpassed the past couple years, the country's credit card debt.

Ian: It's outrageous.

Paige: It’s outrageous how big it is. I think what's also interesting is because of this kind of culture of, like, go to college, everyone goes college—it's not even an option, you just go to college—that our generation is terrible with our hands. I mean, if my toilet breaks, or my car breaks, or something breaks, I've no idea what to do. Where, like, my dad and all of his buddies and be like, “Oh, you just do this and use the wrench and the hammer” ….and I'm like, “What??” Do you feel like your generation of guys knows their way around an engine or no?

Ian: No, not as well as we should? Yeah, it's always when these kinds of things happen, I always feel, I feel stupid. I feel like I didn't study enough practical things. Maybe I know about something specific that I learned in school, but maybe a lot of people know how to change a tire on a car, or how to change the oil, or how to fix an appliance in their house. These really, I don't want to say basic because they're, you know, you need to know how to how to do them. But these are things that that we should know more than other things, maybe we've been taught in our quote-unquote, “education”.

Paige: It is kind of scary, because it's like our culture was so “hit the books” or “go in the classroom.” And it's like we forgot to teach our children all these practical, real-life things that are important, you know. I mean, if you know how to fix your car, you’re going to save a ton of money. And you won't have to go to the car shop where you're going to get ripped off, because you don't know what you're talking about. Or if something breaks in your house, you can just fix it instead of having to pay triple to have some guy come and fix it.

Ian: Exactly. In school, you learn things like photosynthesis of plants, and calculus and things that most people aren't going to use on a daily basis. But then you don't learn how to balance a checkbook. You don't learn how to have personal finance responsibility. Like you said, don't know how to fix a sink, fix an appliance in the house. And so, a lot of times you ask yourself, what are we really teaching our youth? Are we really preparing them for the future, we teaching them things that are just going to come in one ear and come out the other. So, think we have a lot of questions to ask about what's important to be teaching, also.

Paige: So, things are definitely changing. As we've seen, Technology has changed every aspect of our life, as well as the labor market and will continue to do so.

Ian: It'll be interesting to see how things change.

Paige: But luckily, podcasts will probably still stay alive.

Ian: I like to think this is a rising industry, a rising medium. So, hopefully we will be good for a while.

Paige: So, as you all know if you can go online and check out that transcript and vocabulary. Thanks again for listening.

Ian: See you next time.


Key Vocabulary, Phrases and Slang:


1.     envision (verb): imagine, visualize

a.     The company envisions great things for the next quarter.

2.     sprinkled (adjective): a small amount of something added to something else.

a.     The pizza is sprinkled with herbs and cheese.

3.     customized (adjective): made or modified for a particular individual or task.

a.     The race car is customized with special features to go faster.

4.     core curriculum (noun): the main subjects of study in a school or college.  

a.     The school’s core curriculum is important for the students to learn.

5.     check the box (phrase): to make a decision, usually with little or no thought.

a.     Many people just check the box on deciding a career path.

6.     undergraduate (noun): college or university studies for a Bachelor’s degree.

a.     I studied undergraduate at the University of Nevada.

7.     replaced (adjective): changed or substituted for something else.  

a.     The professor was replaced with another faculty member.

8.     catch 22 (noun): a difficult situation with no escape. Often with both positive and negative effects.

a.     The advancement of technology is a catch 22 for today’s society.

9.     efficient (adjective): achieving maximum productivity with little expense or waste.

a.     The city’s new recycling system is very efficient.

10.  fulfillment (noun): achievement of something desired or promised.

a.     Winning the World Cup gave the players a sense of fulfillment.

11.  trade (noun): a skilled job, usually requiring manual or mechanical skills.

a.     Some students should consider a trade instead of a professional career.

12.  react (verb): to respond or behave in a particular way to something that happens

a.     The stock market reacted to the industry trades negatively. 

13.  displaced (adjective): removed from a job or position involuntarily.

a.     The displaced workers were angry with their former employers.

14.  mixed feelings (noun): a partly positive and partly negative reaction to something.

a.     I have mixed feelings about the trip. I want to go but I don’t want to ride in that small boat.

15.  broad (adjective): general, not specific.  

a.     The program includes many broad subjects to study.

16.  articulate (verb): express clearly and intelligently.

a.     The presidential candidate always articulates himself so well during speeches.

17.  stuck (adjective): unable to move or change.

a.     Many people feel stuck in their current life situations.

18.  automation (noun): the use of automatic equipment instead of human labor.

a.     Technology is causing a rise in automation in several industries.

19.  ignorant (adjective): lacking knowledge, uneducated.

a.     They always told him that he was ignorant and stupid.

20.  troubling (adjective): causing anxiety or discomfort.

a.     The woman became nervous when she received the troubling news.

21.  retirement fund (noun): fund or account used to save money for retirement.  

a.     It is difficult for many workers to grow a retirement fund due to low wages.

22.  bottom line (noun): the final total of financial profit.  

a.     Most big corporations are mostly concerned with the bottom line.

23.  cap (noun): the maximum limit of something.

a.     The company executives were given a salary cap this quarter.

24.  tackle (verb): to figure out, to solve.

a.     We need to tackle the problem we just found in accounting.

25.  debt (noun): something that is owed or due, typically money.  

a.     The company has a large debt due to the bank for their investment.

26.  necessity (noun): something necessary, absolutely important.

a.     Having enough food to eat is one of life’s necessities.

27.  afford (verb): to have enough money to pay for something.

a.     We can afford to go on a vacation this year!

28.  gold label (noun): something of superior quality.

a.     Professional careers are given a gold label of importance in today’s society.

29.  put in the shadow (phrasal verb): take away importance from something.

a.     The man’s accomplishments were put in the shadow of the new worker.

30.  stigma (noun): something with a negative societal view.  

a.     The stigma of having gone to prison makes it difficult for him to be hired.

31.  vocational (adjective): relating to a particular skill or trade.  

a.     Some young people should pursue a vocational career instead of a professional one.

32.  shrink (verb): to reduce in size, decrease, make smaller.

a.     My clothes always shrink in the washer!

33.  constricting (adjective): limiting, reducing in options.  

a.     Some careers can be constricting and can be difficult to change positions.

34.  liability (noun): a responsibility that usually causes negative effects.

a.     The new employee was seen as a liability and therefore was fired.

35.  surpass (verb): exceed, become greater than.

a.     She recently surpassed her English level from intermediate to advanced.

36.  outrageous (adjective): shockingly bad or ridiculous.  

a.     The number of students with college debt is outrageous.  

37.  wrench (noun): a tool used to tighten appliances and supplies. 

a.      The mechanic has a very expensive and powerful wrench.

38.  quote-unquote (phrase): describe something that is defined but not exactly true, something disagreeable.

a.     She says we can trust her because she is a quote-unquote “expert”.

39.  youth (noun): young people, the time period between childhood and adulthood.

a.     We need to teach our youth the most valuable lessons for life in order to succeed.