March 8, 2013

Berkenfeld to lecture on technology's impact on work

Steven Berkenfeld
Berkenfeld

Technology has forever changed the way we work.

Steven Berkenfeld '81 says that's not necessarily a good thing: "We can get the job done now with fewer people. This has created a labor surplus and resulted in an increasing class of working poor."

Berkenfeld, managing partner of financial services provider Barclays in New York City, will talk about these issues and the implications for today's students in a lecture, "What Is the Future of Work?" March 13 at 4:30 p.m. in 105 Ives Hall. The lecture is free and open to the Cornell community.

The presentation will cover: How will technology shape the workforce of the future? Will jobs be sustainable? Will new career trends emerge?

"Technology has replaced intellectual labor. I want the next generation of workers to understand what's happening. When they hear an automated message on their iPhones, I want them to stop and think, 'That used to be somebody's job," Berkenfeld said.

Berkenfeld adds that technology has significantly contributed to underemployment -- people taking part-time jobs who want full-time work that's no longer available, or working in positions below their skill levels.

"Business owners now have much more leverage over workers, since they can do more with less. More technology infiltrating into the workplace is contributing to greater inequality, as well," he said.

As students contemplate career paths, Berkenfeld said they need to think carefully about jobs that could be obsolete "10, 20 even 40 years from now. This impacts your career decisions."

Joe Zappala is assistant dean, communications and marketing, for the ILR School.