Adjunct-Nation; Contract-Worker Nation – This New World of Pieced-Together Work (reflecting on the “Where Will the Jobs Be?” Issue)

adjunct facultyThis month, a report by the American Association of University Professors showed that adjuncts now constitute 76.4 percent of U.S. faculty across all institutional types, from liberal-arts colleges to research universities to community colleges. A study released by the U.S. House of Representatives in January reveals that the majority of these adjuncts live below the poverty line.
Elizabeth Segran, The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back: Can a budding labor movement improve the lives of non-tenured faculty—and, in the process, fix higher education?, April 28, 2014


A lot of people working in the United States (and in other countries) do not have a “job.” They piece together pieces of jobs, working with zero job security (because… they don’t have a “job”), and all of their work can disappear in an instant.

In the United Kingdom, this is a problem. (Read Britain’s zero-hours army: How 1.4 million jobs now come with no promise of work from The Daily Mail). In the United States, this is a problem.

And, in my own life, it is a problem.

coming_jobs_war_200Jim Clifton, the head of Gallup, described the number one problem on planet earth is this: we need more good jobs. We do not have anywhere near enough good jobs. He defines a good job as:

A good job is a job with a paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30+ hours per week.
 (Informal jobs are jobs with no paycheck, no steady work).

Here’s what Mr. Clifton says about the need:

If countries fail at creating jobs, their societies will fall apart. Countries, and more specifically cities, will experience suffering, instability, chaos, and eventually revolution. This is the new world that leaders will confront.
What would fix the world — what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global wellbeing, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development, I would say the immediate appearance of 1.8 billion jobs — formal jobs. Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.

I do not have a job.

Oh, I work – hard. Probably as hard as I have ever worked — maybe harder. And, I am fortunate. I have speeches and presentations to give, training to conduct — a little writing here, a little speaking there… And, I am a multi-year adjunct professor at a community college. I feel pretty fortunate that I have been been to piece together this living. In fact, I am pretty happy.

But nothing I do is guaranteed for next month, or next year. And, not a single piece of my pieced-together work is “secure.” Not one piece.

And, because I know others who do the kinds of piecing together that I do, I know some live in pretty stark fear of their circumstances.

And, I know from my interactions with other adjunct professors, that educaiton is one arena where this is an especially difficult challenge. (Read the article quoted above, from The Atlantic. It is sobering).

So many themes that I write about on this blog; leadership development; employee engagement; coaching and mentoring within an organization — assume something close to a full-time employee. Someone with a good job.

Think about it. How high do you think employee engagement can be when the person working does not work for the organization, but for some contract-worker placement firm? How high do you think employee engagement is for an adjunct faculty professor, who teaches at multiple campuses, and also works at other “jobs” at other times?

Or, think about it this way:  the “company picnic” is always designed for the “company employees,” not for the on-the-fringe contract workers at the company.

And, in this Adjunct-Nation, I think it is literally creating two tiers of students. It’s pretty tough for an adjunct professor to even know what is going on on campus – you know, extra-curricular activities to praise, campus activeites to encourage participation in… the list is endless.

I think my students receive good teaching. I know speech – and I know a lot about speech. I studied it; I study it; I practice it.

But I don’t know as much about the campus life on our campus as a full-time professor.

And, more and more students have teachers like me – pulled in multiple directions, piecing together a living in as many ways as possible.   (Again, note the number: 76.4% of faculty members are now adjunct faculty members. 76+ out of 100! This is breathtaking).

From a  recent gathering at SUNY (Sttae University of New York system)
From a recent gathering at SUNY (Sttae University of New York system)

I don’t know any solution to this. In fact, maybe what I am saying is this – this is the new state of “employment.” Nothing certain, nothing secure, companies trimming expenses in every way they can, creating fewer and fewer “jobs,” hiring more and more “contract workers.”… This is the Adjunct-Nation, Contract-Worker Nation era.

I have asked so many times on this blog, “where will the jobs be?” I think I know the answer – the growth in “jobs” is in Adjunct-Nation; Contract-Worker Nation. That’s where the jobs will be.

It really is a new world of pieced together work, isn’t it?



Here’s a snapshot from Adjunct-Nation — from this article from January, 2013 from The Chronicle of Higher Education, regarding average pay and working conditions for adjunct faculty:

The overall average pay reported by adjuncts is $2,987 per three-credit course.

It is significantly less than that in the Dallas County Community College District.



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