Interesting data from the Wall Street Journal. If this isn’t handled well, it’s fuel for a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor. The way to address it lies in how we view the gathering of personal treasure (ie: our daily bread).

The concern I have is that as we see jobs get more & more specialized, there’s an increasing number of “generalist” who will be find they can no longer swim in the hiring pool. They’ll be forced to pick up jobs at much lower wages, sell their homes or default on their mortgages, etc. Longer term, they won’t be able to put their children through college, provide for a decent retirement, health care, putting more money into the economy, etc etc.

It’s kind of a big deal.

So: couple ideas. One, we just let it ride and pray the free market sorts it out. I’m not inclined to blind faith in anything – and we’ve seen what an unfettered “free market” can do in places like Somalia. Or here (mortgage crisis, anyone?)

Other options? Sure. We convince employers to stop innovating, and return to standardized skill set needs. I don’t like that approach, either. Fact is – by using unique approaches to product development, companies can create amazing change, from social media (ie, distributed here via Posterous via Gmail), to life-saving medicines.

I’m thinking about a third approach: a truly mobilized workforce. It becomes less about a permanent (ie, 2 – 5 years) position at a company where your skills don’t develop much, and more about contracts where firms need your unique skills, and where in between gigs you spend a month or two training.

This is a pretty fundamental shift. It’s the norm for a percent of the population right now (IT contractors are a good example), but less so for, say marketers, sales reps, etc. In order for it to work, private industry and government would need to work out a system: training centers (community colleges, private schools, etc) set up for the rapid skill training; standardized skill-assessments and scoring (ie, HP has a project, decided it needs X amount of front end developers with a JavaScript rating of 8.5 or better, CSS of 7.7 or better, etc); an increase in agencies that place contractors; portable benefits; more and more, of course.

The fundamentals are in place. National health care, a work-force that has been forced to contract to survive during the Great Recession, the evolution of agile product development.

Recruiters have a huge part to play in this. We’re deep in the process, and probably more aware of the hiring issues that are coming than most people out there. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts….