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Telecom Industry and the Future of On-Demand Workforce

The United States is obsessed with the concept of jobs. Every month, we are eagerly awaiting the Labor Department's job report, while the first question, when meeting a new acquaintance, is often "what do you do?" But this concept of focusing on jobs is wrong in our new economic reality - we should instead focus on work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have an official number exactly how many contract-based workers there, but over the past 20 years, the number of workers who act as independent contractors, often through apps, has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to  CNBC . Simply put, thinking about jobs alone - and training people for that reality - is a red heirloin.

This is beyond the " gig economy " moniker. We have entered the experience economy - a state of the labor market that values ​​skills and know-how and presents a new model of work that brings together capable individuals with companies that have work to do.

So why now? And how is this different than the gig economy? It starts with understanding how people are being trained today - and the fact that there is a skilled worker pool that is significantly underused.

Adapting for the experience economy

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey, The State of American Jobs , found that 87% of workers believe it is essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work lives in order to keep up with changes in the workplace. . But at the same time, a follow-up of the 2017 Pew Research Center survey ( The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training ) reported that people believe the traditional college degree will still be the primary measure of training and skills in 2026.

As we move towards a work-oriented or project-driven economy, the gap between what types of skills is in demand and the training programs for building these skills is increasingly shrinking. We are already seeing this happen as companies build partnerships with universities to influence their curriculum - IBM has a residence in many universities around the world, including at the University of South Carolina. ADP worked with the University of Texas at El Paso to develop a complete curriculum track on human capital management.

In parallel to the shrinking of this divide, the other gap we need to examine is how the existing skilled labor pool is being utilized. Labor data shows that there is a declining rate of labor force participation, especially in the United States, which is usually attributed to a population aging. Economists say the fix is ​​to expand the workforce.

I see this cause and effect differently. Declining labor force participation can also indicate that people are choosing to do something else because they do not have a better option. In other words, the declining labor force participation could also be a result of the fact that employers are not able to find the skilled workers who are out there and available to work.

Perhaps the best example of this is the telecom industry. The internet and mobile technologies have redefined what the telecommunications industry is capable of, but companies can not keep up with customer demand fast enough. This means that both business and consumer customers are growing impatient in their virtual queue, waiting for delivery of services. Service providers' reputations (and revenue) are at risk as they can not make good on their promises. And field engineers - people around the world who have the right skills and are available to work right now - can not find meaningful work, largely because service providers can not find them.

The common answer for telecom companies is to rescale their existing workforce. But considering the backlog of demand and the increasingly global telecom market, training is not scalable. At the same time, it's just not realistic to think that they can match their training with the pace of technology.

A growing chasm of available work and the talent who can do it

There's work to be done right now, and the talent is already there to fill these jobs. The experience economy requires a way to ensure that skilled workers are matched with opportunities when and where their specific skills are needed.

As CEO of  Field Engineer , I've seen this disconnect time and time again. Recently, a tier-1 telecom company wanted to work on a project in multiple global locations, which began in just a few weeks. But they only had field engineers on the ground in the US, and there was no way that they could find and onboard local engineers quickly enough. Again, the reality is that the expertise and talent we need may not be living and working where the work is happening.

In this new reality, this problem goes beyond telecom. Companies from Amazon to UPS and Macy's hire thousands of seasonal workers for the holidays. But these employees must have a specific set of skills -retail associates, drivers and even more skilled logistics and project managers. While there may be a perfect candidate for these positions in Boise, Idaho, looking for additional income and additional work, workers are required on the ground in Seattle, Washington, and across the country.

Connecting and embracing the experience economy

In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will begin to collect data on contingent workers, signaling a formal shift in how our governing systems think about work. The next step is to use that data to analyze the skills that these contingent employees have and understand how - if at all - they are being applied.

Then, it's time we drew the dots in the experience economy to redefine how the B-to-B work gets done. We have the technology able to connect workers with work, but options like TaskRabbit do not translate well into the B-to-B world, where companies have very specific skills requirements.

The "future" of work is no longer years or months away - it's here. In order to prepare for this era of the experience economy, we must take a new approach to how the work is quantified, classified and completed.

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