Published June 1982 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Jobs for Our Graduates In 1968, an Academy-award-winning movie called The Graduate appeared. In a memorable scene, the movie's young hero is drawn aside and given a word of advice: "plastics,” meaning that plastics was the field in which the graduate should look for work in 1968. Just as plastics may have been where jobs were in the 1960's, graduates today might get words of advice like "computers", "energy", or "telecommunications." Labor economists and Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics officials, who have been studying the future of the American job market, predict that technical training in these areas, and particularly in computers, might offer the most promising futures for the graduates of 1980's. With national unemployment at 9.5 percent, West Virginia's high school and college graduates are facing an uncertain, but not hopeless, employment picture. That is why it is so important for young West Virginians to take a close look at where the jobs will be in the future. This spring, I was honored to address two West Virginia high school graduations, Mullins High School in Wyoming County and Union High School in Grant County. I talked with the students about their plans for the future, and I related to them the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, "Make yourself necessary to somebody.'' What does ''necessary'' mean for the graduates of the 1980's? With our rapid technological advances, workers with technical skills, in electronics, computers, engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and so forth, will be needed in ever-increasing numbers. Take computers, for example. In 1978, there were an estimated 600,000 computers in the United States. That is expected to increase to nearly 1.6 million by 1983, as computers become more affordable and as smaller companies turn to computerization. This increase will open up hundreds of thousands of jobs for technicians to install and maintain the equipment and for operators to run it. Energy is another dynamic and promising field that will demand more and more people with technical skills as we continue developing our domestic coal, oil, and gas. And highly technical skills will be needed for our telecommunications and aerospace industries, both of which are rapidly expanding. In fact, technological developments, in this decade and beyond, could mean that in most fields of employment, medical services and health care, education, business, industry, law, government, and so on, some measure of technical or computer training will be helpful to the graduates of the 80's. I hope that West Virginia's leaders of tomorrow will take a close look at future job trends before making their all-important career decisions.