Any job that does not require face-to-face contact with a customer can be outsourced

CaughtinthemiddleRichard Longworth says…

Most of [the] earlier outsourcing dealt with manufacturing and factory workers. . . . The newest wave is different. It’s white-collar outsourcing . . . and it can hit anyone whose job isn’t absolutely nailed down. . . . Basically, any job that does not require face-to-face contact with a customer can be outsourced. Defense attorneys who must appear in a Wisconsin court cannot be in India, but real estate lawyers searching titles can. An Indiana X-ray technician has to be in the same room with the patient; the doctors who read the X-rays can be anywhere. Barbers in Columbus, taxi drivers in Chicago, and kindergarten teachers in Des Moines are outsource-proof. Stockbrokers and tax accountants aren’t. All this is happening now. . . . ‘Anything that can be sent over a wire can be outsourced, anything fungible is up for grabs, any tradable service anywhere in the world. Fifty percent of global GDP is services, and a lot of that is tradable.' (pp. 11–12)

[Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism]

6 Responses to “Any job that does not require face-to-face contact with a customer can be outsourced”

  1. Grading homework is fungible already. Quality face to face classroom time is not. Yet.

    Some folks I know live next to a one-room school house that closed in 1917. We’ve discussed renovating it, setting it up with a modest reference library, some desks, and a powerful server and a wifi network. The twenty children in their neighborhood would have a place to learn languages online, socialize with friends in neighboring towns and around the world, access the web to do history and literature assignments, and generally do “school without school.”

    Why do they need the local public school? WHy do they need 2 hours of bus riding every day?

  2. Hi Scott,

    This makes online teaching sound like a dangerous career path for educators.


  3. Might this be an argument in favor of some skilled trades–plumbing, electrical, building, etc–that don’t get much respect in education policy discussions?

  4. Dear Doug Johnson,

    In the short run, it may very well be terrifying to be an educator who uses online tools in the classroom. The full power of the school board, federal law, and parental anger can be leveled against you at just about any moment. Aieee!

    In the medium run, it may continue to be terrifying to be an educator using online tools. Your homework evaluation can be done by visitors to your student weblog. Parents may feel that the weblogs show how bad their child is doing relative to everyone else. The forum comments may show up one family or another as backward, racist, deviant or otherwise socially disadvantaged. All of these are potential sources of ruin and grief for all sorts of people.

    In the medium-to-long run, you have to worry about the reality that parts of your work may be outsourced to India. Grading homework? Outsource-able. Planning lessons? outsourceable. Creating cloze tests, multiple choice tests, matching answers? outsourceable.

    But in the long run, medium run, and short run, teachers can provide hands-on, face to face support for things like essay writing, discussion facilitation in class, moderator service in debate, local community interaction with a range of people in a learning community.

    But all of that means a change in the job that teachers do. That job of standing at the front delivering content? It doesn’t exist any more or shouldn’t. Haphazard grading? Gone.

    This new reality will be here before you reach retirement age. Start thinking about who you will be when the online tools provide content and instruction just-as-good as what you deliver face-to-face now.

    To quote William Gibson, “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.”

  5. Just another argument for emphasizing in education those skills that cannot be measured on standardized tests. Until state and federal mandates are changed (and those who continue to push for them do some waking up), our schools, parents, and community are going to continue valuing, reporting, and reinforcing the factory/industrial method of education… and our kids will find themselves irrelevant.

  6. Out-sourcing jobs overseas is just another way to shoot yourself in the foot. And america seems to be doing that everyday with all the jobs going to India, China, etc.

    If we want the economy to rebound we have to have people with jobs to buy things. It’s all one big circle but I am afraid that corporate America has traded long term stability for the next quarter’s profit bottomline. Not very smart.

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