Wednesday, September 02, 2009
This is a bit high-level to be a post here, but far too long for 140 characters. So here goes.
The past couple of years in the economy has been a period of extremes not seen in many decades. To anyone familiar with historical financial indicators it will be no surprise that there is far-reaching fallout.
Standing beside the more obvious indicators, there's extreme cyclicality happening in a variety of aspects of the labor market.
During the bubble - for some people - we saw an excess of compensation, title inflation, reward for appearances as opposed to demonstrated expertise, etc. When the economy was hit hard, a lot of highly paid, widely-lauded, highly-positioned people landed in the job market. It takes time for those folks to find similar challenges in new positions. And for the undeserving, it takes time for them to adjust to more ordinary pay scales and harder work.
But that can swing the other way, as it now seems to be doing. For the most recent graduates, if this recession persists, a number of outstanding candidates won't be getting the opportunities they need to progress into responsible, upwardly mobile roles in 3-5 years time. Languishing too long in underemployment and unemployment skews the distribution of opportunity to make one's mark and "learn one's way" up the ladder.
Of course, I'm optimistic and I see plenty of jobs for the right people. But rationing out great opportunities to only a select few won't cut it. Every generation deserves a fighting chance at relevant entry-level opportunities, and the economy functions better if they get it.
That's why I tend to be an advocate of the "hold your nose and bias towards stimulus" approach, and we can't declare victory just yet. I'm no fan of the way the bubbles got created nor of the horrendous decisions to reward automakers and Wall Street for the troubles they got themselves, and us, into. But the alternative to a continued search for creative ways to jolt the economy out of freefall is no good: one of the best-educated, flexible-minded crops of recent graduates in history, sitting around gathering dust.
Sorry, Starbucks, but I'd rather see fewer baristas, and more skilled knowledge workers entering Creative Class occupations. I can get my own coffee for awhile.
Labels: creative class
Sunday, July 08, 2007
It appears that Richard Florida, author of the well-known book Rise of the Creative Class, is heading for Toronto. Word has it he'll be teaching at the Rotman School of Management and potentially involved with the MaRS Centre, an innovative research facility near the University of Toronto.
This is thrilling news especially to anyone like myself who believes this great city is on the edge of an explosion of progress, but not quite there yet. And I find it pretty telling that Florida is quoted as having said just this - that the city is "very close" to achieving great things - and that a spokesperson for a local cultural promotion outfit is quoted as implying that we're pretty much already there (note the difference in tone and attitude).
Apparent non sequitur: I couldn't help but notice, during a short stay in the Glasgow area (Busby by day, Glasgow by night), the impressive focus on the arts and the creative communities in that great city. Glasgow's one of those places that pretty much lives up to the stereotypes you may have of it: a long history of surprising prosperity and tremendous hardship; a gritty place, a place that lost its economic role to an extent in the process of deindustrialization, a place that doesn't have cachet (perhaps never did) but is doing wonderful things to attempt rejuvenation, starting with culture. (Heroic baggage handlers tackling terrorists might be only so-so PR in the short run, but probably good for long-term visibility, but I digress once again.) What immediately struck me, though, was the over-literal take on the concept of culture and the arts. The most vibrant "creative" community was creative in the literal sense of poetry, painting, and performance. The broader knowledge industries seemed conspicuously absent save for the usual satellite operations of large telecommunications companies and the like.
At the risk of sounding like a complete arts illiterate, I'd suggest that places like Glasgow, and to some extent Toronto, have more than their share of "creative" as literally defined. But as I'm sure an economic geographer type in the Florida vein would argue, a vibrant arts community is a necessary but not sufficient condition to attract the type of full-fledged creative cluster that drives economic, not just cultural, growth; one that leads to fuller and better employment, higher productivity, and the kind of tax base and philanthropic growth that can actually finance further public works (though, if we are to believe Florida, not sports stadiums or the opera) that will attract more of the valuable knowledge workers that drive economies.
The Glasgow example leads me to believe that Florida's 2002 book was a little too enamored of the concept of "nightlife" (cough, Glasgow's got plenty of that) as something that attracts the right people, who apply their talents to making economies modern and productive. The whole "piercings and weird hours stereotype" is, largely, just that... of course people who are *part* of the creative cluster will be diverse, but it isn't piercings, weird hours, or music festivals that just got Research in Motion a deal in China.
In any case, Toronto has attracted a major asset in Prof. Florida, and we should count ourselves lucky for the spark he is sure to provide. His more recent book, of course, is titled Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, in some parts warning U.S. decisionmakers that many of the smartest young grads, and some old dogs to boot, are thinking of leaving the country to work in places their values will be respected. Moreover, he doesn't feel the educational system has its priorities in place. Somewhat autobiographical?
Labels: creative class, richard florida, toronto
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