President Donald Trump has promised to create 25 million new jobs over the next decade. The tax plan his administration revealed last week is ostensibly part of this job creation mission, as it looks to radically reduce tax rates for corporations and small businesses in an attempt to stimulate economic growth.
If the tax plan does work (there’s plenty of doubt that it can), and it triggers a hiring frenzy, could we see a status change in the types of jobs that are considered great versus awful?
For the past three years, WalletHub has published a study on the best and worst entry-level jobs in the U.S. Aimed at recent or soon-to-be college grads, the study considers a number of factors including immediate opportunity, growth potential, and job hazards. 2017’s Best & Worst-Entry Level Jobs shows tech jobs, primarily in engineering, top the list, whereas more blue-collar occupations like carpenter and plumber dwell at the bottom, making for the “worst” entry-level jobs.
Blue Collar Blues
“There have been no huge shifts since last year’s study,” said Jill Gonzalez, analyst at WalletHub. “Engineering jobs typically do very well, while more dangerous jobs like welding are typically in or near the bottom.”
Unless Trump magically makes welding completely risk-free, that job will likely remain a bottom-dweller. But what about an automotive mechanic, which sits at a dismal 104 of 109? If Trump can revitalize the auto industry could that create a higher demand for auto mechanics, which could in turn beget more job opportunity? Or, if Trump makes big investments in infrastructure, could we see other low-ranking jobs like carpenter (number 102) and building inspector (number 99) become more promising careers for recent graduates?
The answer is complicated, but here’s the gist: No. While an increase in the need for these jobs could make a slight impact (in specific regions, mind you), the jobs themselves won’t become inherently better.
“No policies I can think of would make the job outlook of a welder look better,” said Scott Dressler, associate professor of economics at Villanova School of Business. “You could probably guess that [job creation] for these low-level manufacturing would be in certain geographical areas that did vote for Trump; however, when you think about the government putting in resources to prop up one sector that would otherwise have died out on its own, it's really hard to predict that they would have success.”
Dressler highlights a frequent criticism the Trump administration has received: No matter how much you say you can bring some jobs back, it’s simply not feasible or healthy for an economy to do so.
“If this was in say, the 1940s or 50s, you wouldn't expect the administration to come and say, ‘We will outlaw automobiles because we want to keep horse and buggy alive.' It’s more beneficial to boost a growing economy.”
Tech Is Where the Money Is
The larger takeaway is that tech is just too good to beat, and the demand for tech talent is just too high.
“Engineers make a good salary, have high job opportunity, and potential growth,” noted Dressler. “What that says to an economist is that there is excess demand for those types of jobs. If you want to adhere to a free market society and bring [those jobs] to more people, then what you would do is subsidize education and allow more people to be qualified for those jobs.”
So now the question becomes, could the government make it more possible for people in these low-ranking entry-level jobs to pursue paths in tech?
“Therein lies the delicate issue,” said Dressler. “Would you get more bang for your buck propping up a dying industry, or would you [benefit more] from training these people for another career? From an economic standpoint, the latter would be a more efficient use of fund, but that’s a lot harder of a request to make to people during a campaign speech. It’s much easier to say ‘We’ll save your industry,’ which isn’t feasible to me.”
More Tech Jobs Staying in America Means More Demand
As Trump doubles down on immigration policy, including suspending expedited applications for the H-1B Visa, we could start to see more tech companies hire domestically simply because they have no choice.
“The whole tech industry and anyone who hires in tech — as much as they disdain the cost and time associated with hiring visas — it is a necessary evil,” said David Lewis, president and CEO at Operations Inc., an HR outsourcing and consulting firm. “If you take it away it will become even more competitive to fill those positions.”
This sounds like it could be a good thing for American graduates, as it will give them a better shot at getting that entry-level job, right? Well, yes, but here’s the catch: There’s a ton of entry-level jobs in tech on the market, and in a sense, the demand already exceeds the supply.
"Companies are targeting people straight out of college. These jobs are in demand. Glassdoor estimated billions of dollars worth of unfilled tech jobs,” said Joe Vacca, CMO of Revature, a technology talent development company. “The impact for the tech sector [if the H-1B visas is eliminated] is a bigger increase in demand.”
Lisen Stromberg, author of Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood without Killing Your Career, adds: “I’ve seen reports that indicate there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs by 2020 and [Americans] only fill 29 percent of them — so limiting immigration will hurt this part of our economy.”
The good news is that even if Trump doesn’t subsidize technology education, a lot of these top-ranking entry-level tech jobs don’t require a four-year degree. So even if your background is in say, welding, you have a good shot at transitioning to a better-paying career in tech if you’re willing to learn and invest in a coding bootcamp, for instance.
"Anyone can have a career in technology. Anyone can learn to code, and actually it helps to have different types of people and not just those who majored in computer science,” said Vacca.
More Women in Tech?
Fewer tech jobs going to foreigners could also mean more jobs going to American women, who are notoriously under-represented in higher-ranking tech jobs. Last year MIT released findings that showed only 13 percent of the engineering workforce is female.
“Right now, the tech sector is claiming to have a pipeline problem, saying that they don’t have enough women applying or qualified, and then the jobs go to foreign men,” said Stromberg. “Could tech jobs become more inclusive for women because they’re forced to find talent? I think so, given that I am confident and clear that this is a hiring issue, and one that is rooted in sexism, rather than this being an issue of too few applicants.”