Personal Musings

The Factory Model Economy Is Dead

Will we have the courage to make big changes in the aftermath of COVID-19?

Our economy is based on a factory model which is dead. We aren’t a factory economy any longer, particularly the United States. We haven’t been a factory economy since the early 1990’s. Yet, we still act as if we are, and we do so in one especially strong way which is detrimental to our families and the health and economy of the country: our daily schedules.

That’s how our school system is modeled as well. It was intentionally created this way to mimic the Prussian “factory school” model.

The current pandemic provides us an opportunity to move away from the factory-based model — in industry and in school. Will we do it? Or, will we allow mass unemployment and sinking service industries to create ten years of instability?

Factory-like schedules create burned out workers in a knowledge economy. And, by and large, that’s what we are: a knowledge economy. It also produces skill shortages. Instead of learning a trade or skillset under a mentor (as is done in health care and certain skilled trades), we have all but abandoned lengthy paid apprenticeship opportunities for low-wage, often unpaid and time-limited internships in knowledge-based industries. In knowledge-based industries, being an intern nowadays usually means you fit two criteria:

  1. You’re a college student
  2. And, you’re on summer break

We can change this immediately if we have the courage. We can fill the unemployment gap bubbling up with paid apprenticeships — not just for college kids, but for laid-off workers in service industries. We can implement cascading schedules which allow current workers more time off to spend with their families while providing apprentices with on-the-job training, pay, and full benefits. As a country, we can and should implement a basic monthly income and institute fair rent and mortgage practices.

And, since knowledge-based big business may think this would mean less revenue. Wrong. This will allow industries to run their businesses through the weekend as opposed to the typical Monday through Friday. That’s where cascading schedules come into place. It’s the one thing from the industrialist factory model we should keep.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash