During a recent Association of Oregon Loggers panel discussion on the future of the workforce, I felt particularly concerned about the future of Oregon’s workforce in natural resources as partners commented on this generation’s “severe lack of work ethic.”
I thought – what can be done about that?
Then, a panel member shared this quote: “Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants…they no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, and tyrannize their teachers.”
This quote was written by Socrates, approximately 2,300 years ago.
In the context of trying to predict how our future workforce will look, this actually gave me hope, because this is not a “today” issue.
This is a human issue that every generation has faced in some way. When we lean into the knowledge that these concerns are cyclical in nature, we are more emotionally prepared to ride them out.
From an economic perspective, Oregon’s ag and natural resources industries are predicted to be facing another tough year. Global supply chains remain a challenge; public policy adds pressures on our businesses; and we continue to hear rumblings of an impending recession. But honestly, isn’t this just another cycle we have seen before?
In the face of uncertainty, I have also seen new companies and new product lines emerge to address the need for domestic supply and diversification of products such as fertilizer. At a higher number than ever before, I am seeing family-owned farms begin the process of transferring generational knowledge and engage in succession planning. I have also heard from many career technical education instructors that this next generation of youth (currently middle-high school) have a very different relationship with nature and a different outlook on working in the trades than the previous generation did.
I attended another event today where a reputable farm lending firm stated that the current state of Oregon’s ag economy is not only better than economic generalists might be predicting, it’s significantly better when compared to a 30 year trend model (ref: foreign market conditions, fuel costs, interest rates and land values). They also highlighted innovation and automation as the most significant tools in response to rising employment costs and lack of available talent.
So where does this leave us as we ponder this year’s economic forecast?
I am sure we all have a slightly different response to that question. Personally, I am feeling optimistic and eager to see how necessity will drive innovation in 2023. I am also eager to see how our next generation of leaders rises to the occasion and surprises us with their ingenuity and unique commitment to leaving this world a better place than they found it.