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Effect of Automation on Clerical Demand

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In these days of great scientific and technological advances, probably no word can cause more excitement than automation. This word is of interest to business people, educators, youngsters still in school, and all those in the labor force-the employed and unemployed.

Those not informed about automation envision themselves as being replaced by a mechanical monster which will take away their jobs. They forget, or are unaware of the fact, that the computer must be told what to do and how to do it. The brain of the human being is behind every piece of mechanical genius; human beings are responsible for the development of systems and procedures that will utilize the capabilities of the machines for maximum efficiency.

Automation is not something new. Technological changes have been occurring in human civilization ever since the invention of the wheel. Despite the increased efficiency from these technological improvements that make it possible to increase production with fewer workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 1990 there will be 19 million more persons gainfully employed than at present. This increase in employment will be caused by the growth in population and the growing need for services. Most of the technological changes have created new opportunities, new comforts, and new possibilities for better, safer, and more enjoyable living.



It is true, however, that automation is bringing, and will continue to bring, great changes which will demand adjustment on the part of both the employer and the worker. The federal government, business, and schools are cooperating to make this transition as easy as possible for those presently employed and for the workers of tomorrow.

Automated machines, including the computer, have increased employment opportunities in the office occupations and have created such white-collar jobs as programmer, systems analyst, auxiliary equipment operator, console operator, tape librarian, word processing proofreader, word processing center coordinator, manager of word processing and administrative secretarial services, proofreader-trainer, scheduler or logger, word processing specialist, professional secretarial supervisor, correspondence secretary, administrative support secretary, information processor, document processing specialist, photocomposition specialist, typesetting operator, telecommunications specialist, teletype operator, records manager, and communications supervisor.

Business organization now requires a flow of information on an almost instantaneous basis. To cope with this need, business has invested in automated data processing equipment. Recognizing the power of this equipment to give fast, accurate, and detailed data on which to base decisions, management continues to add new applications. Thus, clerical staffs continue to grow to handle the data that is fed into the systems and that is retrieved. Increasingly, a greater premium will be placed on the speed and accuracy of the workers who handle the information.

Business is also investing in word processing centers to reduce costs and to increase office efficiency and productivity. This reorganization of the traditional secretarial job requires a more specialized clerical worker, a word processor whose output is subjected to work standards and work measurements.

The more boring and tedious types of paperwork will be taken care of by machines, freeing office personnel for more interesting and creative work. The office jobs of the future will be more challenging, require greater skill, be more varied, and undoubtedly provide increased opportunities for promotion.

Skills such as typewriting, shorthand, and filing will still be in great demand, and general abilities such as a good command of English and an understanding of the principles of economics will also be of great importance. Upgraded jobs will require higher degrees of skill and accuracy on the part of the employees.

A good foundation in the skill subjects will enable the office worker to be flexible, since it is expected that in the coming years, the average worker will change jobs several times in a lifetime. Flexibility is the key to success in an automated world. Not all the necessary training will be given in the schools, but knowledge of basic principles will make on-the-job training relatively simple. More and more schools are today beginning to acquire automated equipment for training students.

It must be remembered, too, that not all offices have purchased automated equipment. Data processing today is a huge industry in itself. Smaller users have access to computers which are used on a time-sharing basis. (A company may own or rent its own computers; it may buy the use of time on somebody else's computer; or it may take its data processing work to a service center for processing.) Generally, these firms hire their own programmers who enter the data in leased computers. Still other companies have a smaller volume of work and find it more economical to continue to work by hand. There are still many opportunities for employment in such places. In other organizations, although word processing centers are developing rapidly, not more than 20 percent of the offices have word processing installations, and the traditional secretary will continue to be in demand in the foreseeable future.
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