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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Down in Denver: Some Architecturally Interesting Smoking Holes

John sends these on the spot observations of the 'jobless recovery' down in Denver. What was it: busted flat in Denver, waitin for a train.

I am a veteran of the telecomms war, having worked at AT&T, Lucent (what is left of Bell Labs), and MCI. I saw that train-wreck coming, bailed out early ('94) and got a 'secure' job in state government, where I spent the spring laying-off people I had recruited from private industry. Good people, well educated, hard workers, Bachelors/Masters in Computer Science or Business. I managed to get them all called back, at least until September, but I am told there is an easy 15,000 - 20,000 just like them along the Colorado front range. The state hitched it's wagon to services, and information technology, especially cable and telecoms companies. We have have some very architecturally interesting smoking holes where those companies were. I know a lot of people that are out of work that are well educated, and mid-40s -> 50s.

My children (17 & 20) on the other hand, have had no difficulty finding jobs for the summer. Both of them have turned down a couple of job offers as either not paying enough, or not in line with their work interests. And seemingly bizarrely to me, they both got jobs doing what they wanted (public health internship, and recreational facility management) for more pay. My 17 year old, a high school student, is a head life guard and swim instructor for the summer for $15 US per hour. My 20 year old, a university student in environmental studies, is wandering suburban Denver collecting the data for a GIS database on the West Nile Virus for $10 US per hour. Both think their old man is a weird for having lectured them all winter on how hard it was going to be to find a summer job.

I spent the weekend finishing Charles Handy's the Elephant and the Flea (if you read his Age of Unreason or Age of Paradox you've got the drift - the synopis is he thinks we will all be independent contractors sooner or later). We're breeding lots of fleas here in Colorado, willing or not. I do see some of the older fleas beginning to get their act together. I've always believed that I needed to join with professional organizations to build a network so I could find another job if I needed it. That has always been difficult to do in Denver, because the organizations just didn't exist, up until about 4 - 5 years ago. Now they are breeding in the night.

The better ones do a monthly meeting where at least part of the agenda is nothing but information on jobs. Mostly it's people looking, but at one group on project management where I estimate the unemployment rate is around 20%, every month I have heard job offers; temporary, with work conditions like lots of travel, very high qualification thresholds, limited health benefits, etc; but, none-the-less, the fruit of the networking tree is [somewhat] available. We've also organized volunteer activities that keep job skills current, like our monthly training sessions, where one Saturday a month, you can deliver a lecture on some aspect of project management. You develop the lecture, we provide the forum, we pay for material costs, and whatever's left of the $10 US registration fee, gets applied to the person's member dues or added to an internal training account available to anyone that needs training and can produce some proof of under/unemployment. We get some very high quality lectures.

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