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Nature of the Work
(List of D.O.T. codes available upon request.)
* Slower than average growth is expected as additional automation increases worker
* Many of the occupations in this group are entry level and do not require more than a high school degree.
Workers in this group are responsible for a variety of communications, recordkeeping, and scheduling operations in business and government. Typically, they coordinate, expedite, and track orders for personnel, materials, and equipment.
Dispatchers receive requests for service and initiate action to provide that service. Duties vary, depending on the needs of the employer. Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers, also called public safety dispatchers, handle calls from people reporting crimes, fires, and medical emergencies; truck, bus, and train dispatchers schedule and coordinate the movement of these vehicles to ensure they arrive on schedule; taxicab dispatchers relay requests for cabs to individual drivers; tow truck dispatchers take calls for emergency road service; and utility company dispatchers handle calls related to utility and telephone service.
Stock clerks receive, unpack, and store materials and equipment, and issue and maintain inventories. Inventories may be merchandise in wholesale and retail establishments, or equipment, supplies, or materials in other kinds of organizations. In small firms, they may perform all of the above tasks, as well as those usually handled by shipping and receiving clerks. In large establishments, they may be responsible only for one task.
Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks track all incoming and outgoing shipments of goods transferred between businesses, suppliers, and customers. Traffic clerks record destination, weight, and charge of all incoming and outgoing shipments. Shipping clerks assemble, address, stamp, and ship merchandise or materials. Receiving clerks unpack, verify, and record incoming merchandise. In a small company, one clerk may perform all of these tasks. More detail on these occupations is available in the following statements.
Other administrative support occupations in this group include production, planning, and expediting clerkswho coordinate and expedite the flow of work and material according to production schedules; procurement clerkswho draw up purchase orders to obtain merchandise or material; weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplerswho weigh, measure, and check materials; and utility meter readerswho read electric, gas, water, or steam meters and record the quantity used.
Working conditions vary considerably by occupation and employment setting. Meter readers, for example, spend a good portion of their workday traveling around communities and neighborhoods taking readings, either directly or with remote reading equipment. The work of dispatchers can be very hectic when a large number of calls come in at the same time. The job of public safety dispatcher is particularly stressful, because slow or improper response to a call can result in serious injury or further harm. Also, callers who are anxious or afraid may become excited and be unable to provide needed information; some may become abusive. Despite provocations, dispatchers must remain calm, objective, and in control of the situation.
Dispatchers work in surroundings that are typical of office jobs. They sit for long periods, using telephones, computers, and two-way radios. Much of their time is spent at video display terminals, viewing monitors and observing traffic patterns. As a result of working for long stretches with computers and other electronic equipment, dispatchers can experience significant eyestrain and back discomfort. Generally, dispatchers work a 40-hour week; however, rotating shifts and compressed work schedules are common. Alternative work schedules are necessary to accommodate evening, weekend, and holiday work, as well as 24-hours-per-day, seven-days-per-week operations.
Traffic, shipping, receiving, and stock clerks work in a wide variety of businesses, institutions, and industries. Some work in warehouses, stock rooms, or in shipping and receiving rooms that may not be temperature controlled. Others may spend time in cold storage rooms or outside on loading platforms, where they are exposed to the weather. Most jobs involve frequent standing, bending, walking, and stretching. Some lifting and carrying of smaller items may be involved. Although automation, robotics, and pneumatic devices have lessened the physical demands in this occupation, their use remains somewhat limited. Work still can be strenuous, even though mechanical material-handling equipment is employed to move heavy items. The typical workweek is Monday through Friday; however, evening and weekend hours are standard for some jobs, such as stock clerks who work in retail trade, and may be required in others when large shipments are involved or when inventory is taken.
In 1996, material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers held about 3,633,000 jobs. Employment was distributed among the occupations in this group as follows:
Total 3,633,000 Stock clerks 1,844,000 Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks 759,000 Production, planning, and expediting clerks 239,000 Dispatchers 234,000 Order fillers, wholesale and retail sales 227,000 Procurement clerks 56,000 Meter readers, utilities 55,000 Weighers, measurers, checkers, and samplers 47,000 All other 170,000
Almost 3 out of 4 material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing jobs were in manufacturing or wholesale and retail trade. Although these workers are found throughout the country, most work near population centers where retail stores, warehouses, factories, and large communications centers are concentrated.
Many of the occupations in this group are entry-level, and do not require more than a high school degree. Employers, however, increasingly prefer to hire those with some familiarity with computers and other high technology office and business equipment. Those who have taken business courses or have previous business, dispatching, or specific job-related experience may be preferred. Also, good oral and written communications skills are becoming essential. This is true, in part, because the nature of the work is to communicate effectively with other people. Typing, filing, recordkeeping, and other clerical skills are important functions of these occupations. In larger, more automated facilities, these tasks may be accomplished electronically.
Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks and stock clerks who handle jewelry, liquor, or drugs may be bonded. Police, fire, and ambulance dispatching jobs generally are governed by State or local government civil service regulations. Candidates for these positions may have to pass written, oral, and performance tests. Also, they may be asked to attend certification training classes and attain the proper certification in order to qualify for advancement.
Trainees usually develop the necessary skills on the job. This informal training lasts from several days to a few months, depending on the complexity of the job. Dispatchers usually require the most extensive training. Working with an experienced dispatcher, they monitor calls and learn how to operate a variety of communications equipment, including telephones, radios, and wireless appliances. As trainees gain confidence, they begin to handle calls themselves. Many public safety dispatchers also participate in structured training programs sponsored by their employer. Some employers offer a course designed by the Associated Public Safety Communications Officers (APCO). This course covers topics such as interpersonal communications; overview of the police, fire, and rescue functions; modern public safety telecommunications systems; basic radio broadcasting; local, State, and national crime information computer systems; and telephone complaint/report processing procedures. Other employers develop in-house programs based on their own needs. Emergency medical dispatchers often receive special training or have special skills. Increasingly, public safety dispatchers receive training in stress and crisis management, as well as family counseling. Employers are recognizing the toll this work has on daily living and the potential impact stress has on the job, on the work environment, and in the home.
Although there are no mandatory licensing or certification requirements, some States require that public safety dispatchers possess a certificate to work on a State network, such as the Police Information Network. Certification programs are offered by both APCO and the International Municipal Signal Association. Many dispatchers participate in these programs in order to improve their prospects for career advancement.
Stock clerks and traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks usually learn the job by doing simple tasks under close supervision. They learn how to count and mark stock, and then start keeping records and taking inventory. Stock clerks whose sole responsibility is to bring merchandise to the sales floor and stock shelves and racks need little or no training. Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks start out by checking items to be shipped and then attaching labels and making sure the addresses are correct. Training in the use of automated equipment is usually done informally, on the job. As these occupations become more automated, however, workers in these jobs may need longer training in order to master the use of the equipment.
Communications skills and the ability to work under pressure are important personal qualities for dispatchers. Residency in the city or county of employment frequently is required for public safety dispatchers. Dispatchers in transportation industries must be able to deal with sudden influxes of shipments and disruptions of shipping schedules caused by bad weather, road construction, or accidents. Strength, stamina, good eyesight, and an ability to work at repetitive tasks, sometimes under pressure, are important characteristics for stock clerks and traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks.
Advancement opportunities vary with the place of employment. Dispatchers who work for private firms, which are usually small, will find few opportunities for advancement. Public safety dispatchers, on the other hand, may become a shift or divisional supervisor or chief of communications, or move to higher paying administrative jobs. Some go on to become police officers or firefighters. In large firms, stock clerks can advance to invoice clerk, stock control clerk, or procurement clerk. Traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks are promoted to head clerk, and those with a broad understanding of shipping and receiving may enter a related field such as industrial traffic management. With additional training, some stock clerks and traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks advance to jobs as warehouse manager or purchasing agent.
Overall employment of material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing workers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. However, employment growth among the individual occupations in this group is expected to vary. Employment of stock clerks, for example, will be affected by increased automation. New technologies will enable clerks to handle more stock, thus holding down employment growth. The effect of automation also will tend to restrict potential employment growth of employment of traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks. Automation in warehouses and stockrooms plus other productivity improvements will enable these clerks to handle materials more efficiently and more accurately than before. Employment of public safety dispatchers is expected to grow more slowly than the average as governments endeavor to combine dispatching services across governmental units and across governmental jurisdictions.
Because employment in material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing occupations is substantial, workers who leave the labor force or transfer to other occupations are expected to create many job openings each year.
Median weekly earnings of workers in all material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing occupations were $412 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $303 and $567. The lowest 10 percent earned $241or less; the top 10 percent earned over $746.
Earnings vary somewhat by occupation and industry. Dispatchers earn slightly more than the average for these occupations, and stock clerks and traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks generally earn less. Median weekly earnings of dispatchers were $471in 1996, whereas the median weekly earnings of traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks and stock clerks were $367 and $429, respectively, in 1996.
Workers in material recording, scheduling, dispatching, and distributing occupations usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers usually either provide the uniforms, or an allowance to purchase them.
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