Where Did They Go?

By Kathleen Federici, MEd

Recently, I have had several experiences that will not be new to most everyone reading this. Restaurants in my area are now closed certain days of the week, children’s activities and amusements closed on certain days, even our local gardens and zoos are now closed one day a week, when they hadn’t been closed before. My car broke down and they were not sure when the part could be delivered due to a production shortage. With my car not working, I decided I wanted to test drive a Tesla. When I got to the drop-down menu to schedule a contactless Tesla test drive, I hit roadblock (pun intended). That drop down was blank. I quickly received an email explaining that no test drives are available until November. The reasoning is all the same: there are not enough workers or the supply chain for materials has been devastated, or we don’t have any cars. Where did they all go?

Is it a labor shortage or a career or job re-assessment? People are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination. Members of my own family have re-assessed their careers and two of them have changed jobs. One got out of healthcare, and one got into a more conducive and enjoyable department within their current organization. Neither received a pay raise for the job changes, but both wanted to be happier at work.

A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 66 percent of the unemployed had previously “seriously considered” changing their field of work. Where did they all go?

Maybe the pandemic gave some people the courage to go out and get what they want. Economists describe this phenomenon as reallocation friction, the idea that the types of jobs in the economy are changing and workers are taking a while to figure out what new jobs they want—or what skills they need for different roles. This is why continuing education is critical regardless of who you are or what status you have at your current position. The job market is changing. We don’t know what it is changing into. As we found out, new skills are going to be required and jobs will evolve into something different than what we are expecting. We must be ready with the skills that can meet evolving demands. We must continue learning to find out where they all went.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPMI’s director of professional development.