Recent debates on the future of jobs have mainly focused on whether or not they are at risk of automation. Studies have generally minimised the potential effects of automation on job creation, and have tended to ignore other relevant trends, including globalisation, population aging, urbanisation, and the rise of the green economy.
On that note, we summarised Future Skills Pearson report to give you general pictures how employment is likely to change in the future, including implications for skills and a number of new expected occupations. Pearson’s study identifies the bundles of skills, abilities, and knowledge that are most likely to be important in the future. It also summarized the skills investments that will have the greatest impact on occupational demand.
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Around one-tenth of the workforce are in occupations that are likely to grow as a percentage of the workforce. Around one-fifth are in occupations that will likely shrink. This means that roughly seven in ten people are currently in jobs where we simply cannot know for certain what will happen. However, Pearson’s findings about skills suggest that occupation redesign coupled with workforce retraining could promote growth in these occupations.
These uncertainties reflect the challenging task of balancing all the macro trends that might influence the future of work. Further uncertainties stem from the distinction between occupations that are expected to grow in demand (reflecting wider occupation growth) from those that will grow relative to other occupations.
In addition, technological change and globalisation might account for why many low- or middle-skilled occupations (e.g., manufacturing production) are expected to become less important in the workforce. The predicted decline in administrative, secretarial and some sales occupations is also consistent with these trends. Agriculture, skilled trades and construction occupations, however, exhibit more heterogeneous patterns, suggesting that there might be pockets of opportunity throughout the skills ladder.
Pearson’s study results provide broad support for policy and practitioner interest in so-called 21st century skills. It is mentioned that a strong emphasis on interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills and systems skills is needed. In the US, there is particularly strong emphasis on interpersonal skills. These skills include teaching, social perceptiveness and coordination, as well as related knowledge, such as psychology and anthropology.
Further, skills related to system thinking, the ability to recognise, understand and act on interconnections and feedback loops in sociotechnical systems, such as judgement and decision making, systems analysis and systems evaluation also feature prominently. The future workforce will need broad based knowledge in addition to the more specialised features that will be needed for specific occupations. Broad-based knowledge areas such as English language, history, philosophy and administration and management are all associated strongly with occupations projected to see a rise in workforce share. Other knowledge features like foreign languages are especially valuable as complements.
Complementary skills that are most frequently associated with higher demand are customer and personal service, judgement and decision making, technology design, fluency of ideas, science and operations analysis. In the US, customer and personal service, technology design and science skills are the job performance requirements seen as most likely to boost an occupation’s demand beyond what is currently predicted, notwithstanding notable differences across occupation groups. Production occupations, for example, are very likely to see a fall in the workforce.
How skills mix of the workforce can be upgraded to target new opportunities requires individuals, educators, businesses and policymakers to respond appropriately. History is a reminder that investments in skills must be at the centre of any long-term strategy for adjusting to structural change. A precondition for this is access to good information on skills needs – without which policymakers risk flying blind.
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