I’ve been observing for some time an emerging phenomenon regarding temporary work. For some, temporary jobs actually may become their preferred career. If adopted broadly, this trend can have a huge uplifting effect on employment and our economy.
As any CEO will tell you, “uncertainty” is a powerful determinant of when to invest, and, given a choice, many companies will choose to recruit temporary 1099 contractors rather than hire permanent employees. Academic economists tend to downplay the importance of uncertainty and, consequently, will be missing an important cultural shift involving a very flexible skilled workforce that’s comfortable being employed virtually by the project.
People with vocational credentials (for example, healthcare case workers, nurses, accountants, dental technicians, engineers, software programmers, or database administrators) have a distinct advantage when it comes to getting project work in this uncertain economy.
A vocational institute credential, previously looked down upon as inferior to a college degree, gives some job seekers the flexibility and choice to find temporary assignments via bidding services for project work or through more traditional temporary job recruiting services. Conversely, recent college graduates with Liberal Arts degrees are struggling to find jobs.
I’m part owner of a temporary staffing vendor management service called NextSource, and we have experienced tremendous growth over the past two years: Our revenues have more than doubled from $60 million to $140 million. NextSource uses its real-time software platform, called People Ticker, to track differences in hourly pay around the country. We can do this for every job type in all US cities, generating an amazing database of real-time information that gives us a unique view into temporary worker trends.
Just as Angie’s List rates services, I believe that, in the future, we’ll see skilled contractors ranked on a five-point scale by their temporary employers. Combine employer satisfaction ranking with services like NextSource’s People Ticker and we have the beginnings of a project worker exchange.
So how will even skilled workers get their early work experience if there aren’t enough paying jobs to go around?
Germany has proved the power of a dual track education system, where some high school students choose vocational training rather than a university track, then move on to apprenticeships in their field of interest. Look for apprenticeships and internships to become a more accepted way for young people to enter the workforce. With some creativity, I expect entrepreneurs will figure out how to institutionalize internships and apprenticeships into a virtual project work exchange.
The overwhelming consumer acceptance of smart phones, iPads, virtual meetings, video conferencing, and other collaboration services will help move temporary project work into the mainstream of our economy. A decade from now, I predict that this will be a very well-accepted way for workers to get jobs, that we will measure employment differently, and that we’ll see a return of economic growth.