It probably goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most existential threat our society has faced seen since the Second World War. I’ve lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the War Measures Act in 1970, the Stock Market Meltdown in 1987, the 2000 Recession, SARS and the 2008 Stock Market/Banking collapse. All of these events pale in comparison.
After the pandemic has waned and life returns to normal (assuming, of course, there will ever be a “normal” again) where will the jobs be post COVID-19?
People Need More than Sympathy
I am no fan of sentimentality. I swear if I have to listen to one more commercial, news commentator or politician telling me “We are all in this together” I will just die! Of course we are in this together! Like we have choice.
Sympathy is fine, but it is short-lived. What people really need is a road-map on where to look and what to train for and where to apply. So, here is my best guess on where the jobs will be in a post COVID-19 world.
Where the Jobs Are
- IT Online Security: During the pandemic many of us have shifted to buying online. Folks like me who barely knew what a smartphone app was have now figured it out. All that being said, online purchasers need assurance that their transactions are safe, secure, and that their privacy is protected. Online security specialists will likely be in high demand.
- Medical Supplies & Diagnostics: The pandemic exposed some serious flaws in the supply chain for medical supplies and equipment. Too much of it has been outsourced to countries like China and India. North American companies have stepped into the breach and have figured out how to make things like ventilators, personal protective equipment, surgical masks and gowns, etc. Fear of being left “high and dry” again will push the demand to make these products here rather than import them.
- Family Restaurants: Yes, you read this right. Restaurants. When social isolation ends there will be a massive, pent-up demand to dine out. Unfortunately, a number of eating establishments, particularly family-owned businesses, will disappear. But not everyone wants to dine at a chain restaurant. Some prefer more homestyle offerings. With the right location, advertising and menu offerings there will be a potential for new, unique dining establishments with the right mix of ambience and family oriented branding.
- Logistics and Warehousing: The shift to home deliveries and transportation of goods will present enhanced opportunities for persons working in the logistics industry. From the point at which a consumer purchases goods to the point at which they take delivery employment opportunities will arise in warehousing, transportation and delivery of products.
- Personal Support Workers: Retirement homes and long-term care facilities have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic. Some serious flaws in the business model and structure of seniors’ homes have been exposed. The criticality of Personal Support Workers has been highlighted, and there will be a demand for better pay, improved training and greater benefits. Similarly, the demand over the next ten years for better homes and better care will create ancillary opportunities for everything from Property Managers to Recreational Assistants.
- Janitorial Cleaning Services: If there is one thing the pandemic reinforced it was the importance of sanitation and good hygienic practices. Too many enterprises for too long have gotten away with sub-standard levels of cleanliness. Customers will be demanding higher levels of cleanliness, and any retailer or business that fails to recognize this will be in for a rude shock. Government inspections will likely increase, and this too will give rise to improved standards of cleanliness.
- In Home Personal Care services: Get ready for a huge surge in service providers who will come to your house to provide services where previously, you went to their offices. I have a person who comes to my house to service my bicycle as it is too cumbersome to transport in my car. I expect over the next ten years to see an expansion in services such as in home hairdressing, pet grooming, manicures, massages, chiropractic, physiotherapy, fitness training, etc. If a provider can do away with a storefront location that will dramatically reduce their overhead costs while providing more personalized customer convenience.
- Pharmaceuticals: The push to make more medical and diagnostic equipment in North America will extend to the pharmaceutical industry. Offshoring the production of key medical and pharmaceutical products has created a huge gap in our health care system, and a key step in rectifying this will be to ensure a steady and reliable supply of health products and supplements that are locally produced.
- Customer Contact Centres: I can’t go through a week without someone complaining to me about their experience with an overseas customer contact centre. Invariably, their calls are routed to another country outside North America staffed by contract staff who know nothing about the products and even less about customer service. The jobs held by these individuals were likely outsourced for cost savings. However, as millions of citizens lose their jobs governments in Canada and the United States will be under increasing pressure to repatriate these jobs.
- Manufacturing: One lasting effect of the pandemic is that it will likely pose the death knell for globalization and outsourcing. The excuses offered up by multi-national corporations for decades to justify the transfer of jobs to China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, and other low wage countries won’t wash anymore either with politicians or the public who elected them. Manufacturing, in particular, will experience a renewed focus and attention as engineers, technologists and production managers will be in high demand.
Who are the Losers
Sadly, COVID-19 will seriously impact certain sectors of our economy. Here is my guess as to which ones are most at risk:
- Real Estate: That long talked about market correction will dramatically impact the real estate sector. Everyone from salespeople to developers will get hit, and hit hard. Most at risk will be anyone connected to commercial real estate. More and more employers have seen the benefits of having employees work from home, and if they can translate that into reduced office space and less overhead they will take advantage of the pandemic to re-configure their workforce and business models.
- Banks and Financial Institutions: As quit claims and loan defaults increase lenders will have to staunch the flood of red ink. While some of the bigger players will weather the storm look for some strategic corporate mergers over the next 18 – 24 months. As well, diminished prices for natural resources, particularly oil, doesn’t bode well for large corporate lenders heavily leveraged in this market sector.
- Hospitality and Travel: A number of hotel chains, airlines and tourist attractions will likely disappear or merge within the year. This sector won’t rebound for at least five years.
- Not for Profit Sector: With more people unemployed and people looking to save where they can the not for profit sector is at risk. Those charities that directly provide services to the public (e.g. Food Banks; The Salvation Army; etc.) will survive. Those most at risk will be organizations that cater to market niches, special groups, or whose service model lacks clear delineation. Advocacy groups in particular will be threatened, as will those championing political causes.
A Final Thought….
Growing up I can remember my grandmother who was born in 1890 telling me stories of the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza. She was living in London, England at the time, and she recalled horse drawn carts being driven along the streets of her neighbourhood with men going from house to house picking up cadavers and loading them into the back. This stark reality was a hard visual for me to accept as a kid. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would witness a pandemic of this magnitude in my lifetime.
As hard as the pandemic is upon those who have suffered from it, or for those who have lost family and friends, those workers who have lost jobs deserve support and consideration too. Sympathy only goes so far, and bromides like “We’re all in this together” sound trite after a time. They also don’t do much to re-establish esteem and self-worth. Resilience is the path for recovery and success. Knowing where opportunities lie will play a huge part in the recovery of individuals and our country.