The Department of Labor projects that people will hold on average 10.2 jobs between the ages of 18 and 38... Fletcher, An Eye on the Future, T.H.E. Journal, July 2007.
Fletcher is only the latest in a long line of futurists, change advocates, school reformers, journalists, and other individuals of shady character to quote the statistic above.
Personally, I don't find it shocking or all that meaningful. While flying here to Portland, I reflected on how many jobs I had the first 20 years of my non-farm working life. I think my first job was gathering eggs at about age four - a terrifying experience which made me work-shy to this day but which gives me a sense of revenge each time I eat a chicken nugget. They are made out of chicken, aren't they? Anyway, here's my list:
- Seed corn plant laborer (Mostly stacking 60 lb bags of chemically treated field corn seed.)
- Dishwasher at the university food services (All you could eat, too!)
- Silage truck driver (Only four days before I crashed a truck and was fired.)
- Hod carrier (The guy who mixes mortar and humps bricks and block for masons. Lost 20 pounds first two weeks on the job and made college immediately more important.)
- Furniture deliverer (Almost fired for starting a fire in the packing blankets in the back of a moving truck with an errant cigarette.)
- Laundry worker (More familiar with dirty diapers from nursing homes than anyone ought to be.)
- Surveyor's assistant (Light, outdoor work. Great summer job.)
- High school English teacher. (World's worst. I still owe those kids an apology.)
- Gas station attendant. (Supplemented my big $7,600 a year first year teaching salary.)
- Hospital worker (Central sterilizing from 3-11PM working through grad school. Autoclaves and endless 3-gown surgical packs.)
- Junior high librarian and English teacher. (First job I really, really enjoyed.)
- Motel clerk. (11PM to 7AM - teaching income still needed a boost. Pretty interesting people who inhabit the wee hours of the morning. Learned to sleep sitting up.)
- Library media specialist, K-9. (Working for the Aramco Oil Company in Saudi Arabia. Sweet income!)
- High school media specialist. (Good job.)
- Writer. (I started getting paid for my work when I was in my late 30s so I'll count this one.)
Summer jobs, part-time jobs while in school. Really only two professional jobs in four different schools.
Were transferable skills important? I suppose. But they were "soft" skills - reliability, cooperation, communication, strong back, high tolerance for boredom, etc. - not really job-specific.
How many jobs did you have from 18-38? Is this a statistic that has any meaning? How should it be used when we talk about school reform?