Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jobs of the future (and the past)

Bigger story than just Pittsburgh, but the Council of Economic Advisers has recently put out a report on: Jobs of the Future. Worth a read.

Models or not, predicting the occupations with the biggest growth in the future is tough to do.. and that is true for the nation as a whole, let alone for specific regions.

What occupation has seen the biggest percentage decline in Pittsburgh over the last 30 years or so. I don't have any precise numbers with me right now, but it's not a steel related occupation I bet. One of the largest loss of jobs has been in the number of local telephone operators*. I'm serious. Why? It's not just the demise of the flesh and blood telephone operator, but the very nature of the business. Pittsburgh was once home of one of AT&T's main International phone operations centers. That big building across from the Steel Building used to house a whole cluster of international telephone operators... People used to need a lot more assistance in placing international calls than they do now. I don't know if there are any such international operators around here any more, but there certainly are not the numbers there used to be.

I just remember using the USA direct service from overseas that AT&T had. It was always funny getting an operator who was in Pittsburgh. Made for fun, if brief, conversations on what was going on at home.

Which is just an excuse to link to this YouTube video I first mentioned long ago. If you think programming your digital converter box was hard, this was probably a stranger transition for those who had to learn how to use a rotary dial phone:

Anyone know of any news story from back then about the phone operators who saw their jobs being threatened by the introduction of the rotary dial?

* Actually I suspect the occupation with biggest percentage decline is something more like Lead Type Caster, although I suspect that is true almost everywhere. My father was actually once a letterpress printer and I know small printers could once get custom lead type from shops in town. I have to believe that whole business is gone completely, but would be curious to know if I am wrong.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you're talking about Linotype machines? They started to disappear 30 years ago when electronic typesetting took over. I've heard that a lot of the previously-ubiquitous machines were shipped off to 3rd-world countries and presumably may still be used in out-of-the-way places for newspapers etc. Wonderful machines, a joy to watch, thousands of moving parts.

Friday, July 24, 2009 2:46:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

That's it I think.. Though I am proud that I once was capable of actually manually setting type from a standard job case.

Other than places doing it for the novelty.. I remember a place at South Street Seaport in NYC that did it.. there was a place that was doing it on the South Side longer than most others. 15th st?

Friday, July 24, 2009 5:26:00 PM  

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