I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to interview Richard Florida in conjunction with the release of his new book The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited. In talking to Richard, I had a chance to gain insight into how the current economic crisis has impacted the Creative Class, what fuels cities, and how we can transition into a more robust economy. The interview below will give you an idea of not only what to expect in the book, but of what we should expect from our future economic and labor situations.
Josh: How has the “Creative Class” been impacted by the current economic climate? Do you think the current recession had any real effect on efforts to integrate them into economic development efforts?
RF: We had rates of unemployment among blue collar workers that were well above 10% and in some aspects of blue collar employment such as construction work, well over 20%. Rates were well over 15% for those people who actually made things and of course lower skilled service workers, the people who prepare our food and take care of us in restaurants or supervise our children or aging parents, they were also devastated by double digit unemployment. The overall rate of unemployment for the Creative Class over the course of the crisis never topped 5% and of course you have that same statistic as when you look at double digit rates of unemployment for non-high school graduates and compare it to 5% for college graduates. That’s not to say that elements of the creative class haven’t been as hard hit but it is to say that the Creative Class possessed the skills and ability to do better over the course of the crisis.
One of the things that is clear to me is that we just have to expand the number of people who are included in the Creative Class.
One of the things that is clear to me is that we just have to expand the number of people who are included in the Creative Class. I’ve been able to look inside the Creative Class a lot more over the last 10 years. I talk about that it in the new book, with the help of great researchers and this new data that’s been available from the O*NET project and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics we could look at the skills… I couldn’t do that 10 years ago. When you look at the skills that workers have there are three key kinds. One is physical skill – blue collar skill or working skill. The other two kinds are cognitive skill – the ability to process knowledge, create knowledge and social intelligence skill – the ability to manage teams, lead people, perform business, build capacity. What we are finding is that are those skills drive Creative Class. When you add the social and cognitive skills to blue collar work, what we find is that in the best factories they are involving the workers… they’re involved in continuous improvement, quality and teaming, but we’re also finding in the service jobs that we think of as low-value added service jobs, when you add cognitive and social to those jobs, the wages go up faster. One of the big messages of the original edition of The Rise of the Creative Class that I think I’m even more forceful on in the new edition is that we have to make as many jobs and employment opportunities in this society creative jobs. We have to really harness that creative ability and creative line of work… upgrading work, upgrading blue collar and service work. We have to expand boundaries. Every single human being is creative and we have to tap that creative reservoir within each of us. That’s the message that I’m trying to really focus on in the newly revised edition of the book.