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Re-training vs re-inventing

In discussions of the impact of technological advances on work, much gets said about the the need for re-training to align workers’ skills with said advances (albeit not so much about how this might actually be done). I’ve previously written a little about my own experiments in re-training—or perhaps I should say additional training since I’m not intending to forget or abandon the skills that I already have—but I realise that there’s quite a gulf between the kind of re-training imagined in the foregoing discussions and what I am doing.

In typical discussions of the impact of technology on jobs, workers with skills made obsolete by technology re-train so as to possess newer skills that protect their employability. But hardly anything I am doing is likely to improve my employability, if conventional analyses of the job market are to be believed: I’m trained and experienced in a field (software development) for which there is alleged to be a severe shortage of workers so that I can pursue interests in fields (writing and research) in which there is a notorious oversupply.

Of course I didn’t undertake this adventure for the purpose of making myself more employable, but for the purpose of developing some interests that I found appealling independently of what the job market finds appealling. And I can afford to do so having benefited from twenty years or so working in a profession that is financially rewarding.

There are any number of things that I could study if I wanted to improve my employability by conventional measures—machine learning and data science are pretty trendy and require similar skills to those that I already have, or I could study mobile programming or cloud technology or some of the programming frameworks that I see mentioned in job advertisements. Yet such things don’t hold much appeal to me precisely because they are so similar to what I already know. If I need to know more about them, I’m sure I can learn it, as I’ve learned numerous other technologies in the course of completing projects that required them. And trying to learn all of them just in case there might be a job in one of them is a fool’s errand.

In the meantime I’d rather challenge myself to develop some other skills, even if they don’t make me employable as such. According to conventional wisdom, I ought to be fairly employable already (and I do actually have a job), and the whole purpose of this adventure is to experiment with a future other than employment.

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