TRACY, CA - JANUARY 20: Kiva robots move racks of merchandise at an Amazon fulfillment center on January 20, 2015 in Tracy, California. Amazon officially opened its new 1.2 million square foot fulfillment center in Tracy, California that employs more than 1,500 full time workers as well as 3,000 Kiva robots that can fetch merchandise for workers and are capable of lifting up to 750 pounds. Amazon is currently using 15,000 of the robots spread over 10 fulfillment centers across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan 2015 Getty Images
By Lucinda Shen
March 24, 2016

After the mass layoffs that plagued the financial recession, Americans have entered an era that seems even more threatening to their job stability: the creation of robots, outsourcing to other nations, a potential recession—all could lead to a layoff or even make their jobs obsolete.

That’s according to a Pew Research Center study, which surveyed workers about why they decided to up their job training. Many pointed to the mounting pressures of an increasingly competitive atmosphere for workers in the U.S.

“(In 2008) I saw everything going on around me with co-workers, neighbors, friends and asked myself, ‘Who’s coming after me and my job? How long are my skills going to last?'” Pew reported one of their anonymous participants saying during one of a series of focus group interviews regarding their feelings about increased job training. Participants came from St. Louis, Atlanta, and Baltimore metro regions.

Another participant noted that with the rapid pace of technology—some jobs having been replaced by robot workers in just the past decade—he or she already assumed that their work would be “obsolete in the next decade.”

“That’s our reality,” a millennial in a starter job from St. Louis region said.

That’s led to workers to constantly upgrade their skills and knowledge in a seemingly unending game of catch up to stay at the top of or in their jobs. About 63% of workers polled by Pew said they got job-related training in the past year.

But according to the same study conducted from Oct. 13 to Nov. 15, many Americans are finding the “catch up” part of this high-pressure atmosphere “delightful,” “dreamy,” even “euphoric.”

That’s because people like the learning, according to Pew’s research released Tuesday.

When asked to provide a single word to describe their feelings about learning new things, most participants gave words that were overwhelmingly positive. People said accomplished, energized, dreamy, even heavenly. Just a few participants gave negative one-word answers, such as overwhelming, exhausted, and twisted.

And that also helped them feel better at work.

People also told Pew in a focus group that aside from staying employable, they also took the courses because it was “satisfying” and “good”: it made them feel valuable to their colleagues. It also made them feel self-reliant, well-rounded, and challenged. Others said it satisfied their curiosity, and in other cases helped “prove others wrong.”

55% of workers polled said they took classes to learn, maintain, or improve job skills, 36% said it was for a license or certification required at the job, and 24% said it was for a raise or promotion at work.


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