My science-fantasy world has been devastated by monster attacks coming from various enormous pits in planet . The first lead to a total collapse of civilization and the next one, some 300 years later, lead to a more moderate collapse. Following these attacks, humanity has united in a global empire where service to the government and your community is a key value. Once people graduate high school, they are drafted into one of several programs. There's the military (which venture into these pits to decrease the number of monsters that could potentially erupt into the surface), national guard, police, and a public works department. The last one involves building/repairing infrastructure throughout the empire. People have a choice of which department they can join (unless there is a critical need for new members in one, necessitating a draft to that specific department), and most people choose the public works department because it has less inherent dangers (the police department from other people, and the national guard and military from monsters) and it has the potential to take you to different parts of the world. My question is: what kind of work could recent high school graduates do for the infrastructure of this empire when they have very little skills?

More information:

This fictional world is not Earth and is not connected in any way to Earth (it's not a future colony or anything of the sort) though the planet's size, geography and climate is Earth-like.

This world is futuristic, about 70 years ahead of our world in terms of technology.

Following the second collapse some 600 years ago there has not been another worldwide apocalypse, though there have been many attacks on individual cities/region within the empire by monsters (which is why the army and national guard are still so critically needed) which have at times completely destroyed cities or small regions. The reoccurring nature of these monster attacks is why the public works department exists.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you have a united world government, what is the difference between a national guard and a military in terms of coverage? Is this world government a federation of nation-states? Also, have you considered non-combat emergency service sectors (Like EMS or Fire Departments for conscientious objectors?) $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Dec 7, 2022 at 17:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Very probably, people will seek public works jobs which relate to their preferred future careers. (Would-be architects wanting to be involved in construction projects, those nursing wounded monster-hunters prepping for medical careers, etc...) $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Dec 7, 2022 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @hszmv My idea is that the military goes into the pits to eradicate any monsters they find while the national guard is concerned solely with protecting the cities/towns that are threatened when a mass of monsters manages to emerge from these pits. This world government is very centralized; it has managed to, overtime, assimilate the various nation-states that previously comprised this world either by negotiation, absorbed nation-states that were left weakened after a monster attack, or just outright conquered stronger nation-states (though this is much rarer than the first two options). $\endgroup$
    – forgotenm
    Dec 7, 2022 at 17:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Until well after the First World War only very few people got to go to high school. Until the 1970s very few people went to university or college or whatever is the name of tertiary education schools in your country. So the answer to the question what would high school graduates do is everything. Because until fifty years ago, high school graduates actually did everything, from digging ditches to driving wagons to smelting steel to boring tunnels to building cars and airplanes. As for their initial lack of skills, that is what on-the-job training programs are for. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 7, 2022 at 18:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah yes high-school the well known universal right of passage that even a civilization that has no connection to earth has converged on this way to torture it's teens. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2022 at 0:15

4 Answers 4


Don't ignore on-the-job vocational training

Inside the U.S., we have an almost reverent attitude about people attending college or university. While it's certainly true that a government needs university-trained people, a government also needs vocationally trained people. I think an argument could be made that your average government could use more vocationally trained people than university trained people.

What's the difference?

In its simplest form, vocational trades include carpentry, heavy machinery, machine/engine maintenance and repair, concrete work, technicians and a whomping lot more. Almost all construction trades are vocational. Almost all maintenance trades are vocational. But for the purposes of your question, "vocational trades" can be simplified to this:

People who are vocationally trained are people who have been trained to use tools.

High school graduates are ideal for vocational trades. Vocational trades can generally be taught efficiently on-the-job. This is a lot more than "ditch digging." I've trained high school students to use forklifts, skid steers, and bobcats. I've trained them to use electrical multimeters, oscilloscopes, and state machine monitors.

It's all a long way from an (e.g.) engineering degree, but that's not the point, right? Because there's a LOT of work to be done in your world, and most of it doesn't need the skills of an engineer.

The vocational trades, my friend. Perfect for high school students serving their mandatory post-high-school service and they come away from it possessing marketable skills.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This also allows students to see their future area of expertise from the practical side. Future architecture students can get training at construction sites, future chemistry students in refineries, future electric engineers in repair shops... oh, I wish we had such system in place today! $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2022 at 18:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In this case "tools" also includes diggers, loaders, cranes, trucks, bulldozers, tarmac-layers, cherry pickers, and the hundreds of other machines that build and maintain a technologivcal society. The person up a crane attaching a power/internet line is just as important as the person going down a pit with a heavy weapon. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2022 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ @GreenstoneWalker That is absolutely correct. I did not mean to imply only simple tools like hammers, but also powerful tools like earth movers and complex tools like computers. Vocational training is all about leveraging with practical application what scientists invent. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 9, 2022 at 4:21

What mostly untrained humans can do with technology 70 years in the future is a good question. Digging ditches? Robots do it better. Watching for forest fires? There are sats amd drones. It needs to be something only humans can do right.

  • Assistant staff in retirement homes.
    They will not be qualified to act as 'proper' staff, but they can provide human contact for retirees who cannot go out any more.

  • Assisting people who cannot cope with modern tech.
    Say something much like the internet exists, and with futuristic tech much of public administration is online. But there are some people around who grew up with the equivalent of learning to touch-type, and cannot wrap their head around the equivalent of swipe gestures. So each city hall has an office, staffed by a clerk and a bunch of assistants, to help these doddering anachronisms.

  • Bossing a 'gang' of gardening robots.
    There might be some aversion to having AI sculpt public parks, etc. Too sterile, some say. Too perfect, others complain. So your kids direct the flower-planting and tree-trimming robots, under the rough direction of professionals.

  • $\begingroup$ I do not disagree with this answer, but there are some unsaid critical assumptions here. The most important one is the degree to which mechanization occurs: it is no guarantee that robots will be the ones doing these things! $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Dec 8, 2022 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @PipperChip, if not robots, then machines needing skilled operators. Even today, one would not use people with shovels to dig a ditch under normal circumstances. One would use fewer people with excavators and trucks if that is at all possible. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Dec 8, 2022 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ but in a post apocalyptic setting, getting the gas for the machines might be tough. Under such circumstances, shovels may be more practical. This being said, Mad Max seems to do just fine... 🤣 $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @PipperChip, the OP talked about a post-post apocalyptic setting. It went through a post-apocalyptic phase, which is now over. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Dec 8, 2022 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ @PipperChip Indeed robots are not common in my world. My world is retro-futuristic with very bulky and large technology and robots have to be attached to a power source in order to work. Getting gas/fuel for machines is no longer a problem though as the worst of the apocalypse has already run its course $\endgroup$
    – forgotenm
    Dec 9, 2022 at 3:18

A Note About Manual Labor

Most manual labor have aspects that can be done without a lot of skill, and the parts that do require skill can be done by their masters. Hauling dirt, moving rocks, digging ditches, transporting goods, and so on require more muscle than skill.

I am not saying there is no skill in these jobs! There are plenty of finer points that any DIYer or novice can stumble upon, taking their work from passable to horrible.

This can also setup a good apprenticeship system: masters can choose from those that serve in the public work departments. These young folk can then be trained up and become skilled workers!

This is also in line with historical apprenticeships: apprentices were frequently assigned the low skill, frequently repetitive tasks. Masters can give them give opportunities to acquire skills through observation and instruction. These "career funnels" are invaluable for sustaining a workforce needed to have a complete society.

Some Jobs

This can be an infinite list, but I am going to suggest some tasks that public works could frequently have at varying tech levels:

  • Digging, especially for sewers, aqueducts, and irrigation.
  • Road building, which frequently includes a lot of digging and hauling stones of varying sizes. It is perfect for late teens!
  • Wall Building, which involves yet more digging and stone collection/assembling. The teen agers are providing the muscle here, the masters directing them where to go.
  • General Building Labor, including carpentry and masonry. This would be a big one for apprenticeships, as you would really want a master directing them and handling the more tricky items.
  • Electrical Pole Worker, especially to be the ones erecting the poles and performing routine maintenance. Electricians would love to have them as apprentices!

Reclaim abandoned farms.

Good farmland reverted to wild lands with the apocalypse. Some lands turned back into the forests that were there hundreds of years before. Some lands have become different things. This is human work because issues with reclaiming farmland will differ from place to place.

It is putatively safe work: just farms that turned back to forests or swamps or whatever. The areas of interest were selected by adults. The teens are armed, in a desultory fashion - monster crews have swept the area first and these places are supposedly safe. Your teenagers have machines (with onboard AI) and bots they can use.

It is great work for a fiction because the Farm Rescuers will find things on these abandoned lands. Relics of the lost world. The world that was coming back. Maybe other things. Also they will interact with each other in an environment that was once tame but no longer and I bet that interaction is what drives your story.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .