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For centuries the leather industry never changed. Then, in the nineteenth century a few things happened. Having trashed some top forests, we learned how to ship extracts and build big factories using water power and, then, steam to drive machines. Just as the century ended, we started to use chromium.
The 20th century was just as dramatic. The biggest change has probably been a cultural transformation regarding the environment. From an obnoxious industry, tanning has transformed into an environmental leader creating versatile beauty out of a natural fossil fuel free material. New tanning materials, modern fat liquors and dyestuffs, computer control everywhere, new types of vessels have all seen a shift into a truly engineered product coming from a science based process.
In the 21st century, we have not tried to look far beyond 2025. This is quite logical, but such a short horizon tends to lead to no more than an extrapolation of current trends.
We are now in a purely digital world
So urbanisation, demographics, and millennial changeovers are already fast moving mega trends that we understand. Add the role of technology and accept that we are now in a purely digital world, increasingly driven by smart phones or wearables, and all the amazing things they can do. The reverberations of the “at once” society are already moving through our supply chains, which are being redesigned as we speak throughout the world.
Yet, one item worthy of consideration is the high number of the children being born today who will live to a hundred, and who will both need and expect to work far beyond the normal age of retirement. What will jobs in the tannery look like for them, and how will tanneries help their careers evolve?
We have quite a number of older people in the industry still working at a high level, but that speaks for itself. Given the current industry structure with a lot of family businesses owners, and very senior staff can stay on indefinitely if they want. It will be different when a much larger proportion of the workforce at many levels are looking for the same.
With it, we need to consider how the start of work will look. It is hard to expect young people to join a business from school or college and realistically to work, not 30 or 40 years with the same firm, but 50 or 60. We already know that current younger employees move jobs more often than in the past, and future will likely see no one settling down before thirty. After that, expect career moves every ten or fifteen years unless managerial interventions can spice things up.
Certainly recruitment, training and staff development is going to be an area of major 21st century change.
22nd June 2016
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