The conversation about the future of jobs and skills is one of the most important in education. A student entering formal education today will be making decisions about a career that will not be taking shape until the year 2030. As Pearson CEO John Fallon recently noted, some alarmists think they already know about the future of jobs – the robots are going to take them, right? However, as Fallon explains, the latest research from Pearson, Nesta, and the Oxford Martin School would suggest otherwise.
Any student of history can tell you that anxiety about workers being replaced by new technology is nothing new. Fears of technologically-driven unemployment have arisen throughout the centuries, usually caused by a big advance in technology like the Industrial Revolution. What is often overlooked, however, is the fact that technology usually creates more jobs than it destroys.
Of course, we don’t know for sure if it will be different during our own time of technology-driven change, but we do know that automation is only one part of the story. Equally important are other interacting trends, such as changing demographics, urbanization, globalization, inequality, political uncertainty, and climate change.
Understanding how these trends interact is clearly complex, but it is also critical to understanding the jobs and skills needed in the future. That’s why Pearson teamed up with researchers from Nesta and the Oxford Martin school to move the conversation surrounding future skills past the fear of automation.
Our forward-looking research report The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 combines the best of human expertise with the power of machine learning to understand the trends and make more nuanced forecasts than previously possible.
What did we find? Read on to find out. The future of work is brighter than you might think.
The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 – some key findings
Around one-tenth of the workforce are in occupations that are likely to grow as a percentage of the workforce, and around one-fifth are in occupations that will probably shrink. This means that roughly seven in ten people are currently in jobs where we can’t know for certain what will happen. However, our findings suggest that occupation redesign combined with workforce retraining could promote growth in these occupations.
Education, healthcare, and wider public-sector occupations are likely to grow. These findings make sense with population ageing and a greater appetite for lifelong learning. And while some lower-skilled jobs, for example in manufacturing production, are expected to become less important, other low or middle-skilled occupations in fields like construction and agriculture are less likely to suffer than has been assumed in the past.
We expect to see buoyant demand for some (but not all) professional occupations. Creative, digital, design and engineering jobs, all of which increasingly rely on digital technology, all have bright prospects. Architectural and “green” occupations are expected to benefit from greater urbanization and a greater interest in environmental sustainability. However, automation is expected to impact less positively on some other “white collar” occupations, with a projected drop in demand for financial specialists and people in traditional sales jobs.
The report also highlights the skills that are likely to be in greater demand in the future in countries like the UK and the US. Perhaps surprisingly, we think there will be a strong emphasis on interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills, and systems skills. In the US, interpersonal skills are expected to become increasingly important as organizations deal with the demands of an increasingly globalized labor market, while in the UK the results of the report point to a very strong relationship between higher-order cognitive skills and future occupational demand.
Occupations and their skills requirements are not set in stone. They are also capable of adjusting to changes in the economic environment. Our research identifies how the skills make up of different occupations can be altered to improve the chances that they will be in higher demand in the future. Skills that are most frequently associated with higher demand are customer and personal service, judgement and decision making, technology design, fluency of ideas, and science and operations analysis.
The future workforce will need broad-based knowledge in addition to the more specialized skills that will be needed for specific occupations. Traditional knowledge areas such as English language, history, philosophy, and administration & management, are all associated strongly with occupations projected to see a rise in demand.
The Future of Skills and the GSE
What do these findings mean for teachers and their students? One thing that emerges clearly from the report is that the different skills required by different jobs are likely to change. The interaction of the various trends mentioned above (demographics, urbanization, globalization, etc.), will have an impact on the kind of tasks that the workers in any given occupation will need to be able do.
These factors are important for teachers because the kind of tasks that someone needs to perform in the workplace will influence the language skills they must acquire as students to effectively complete those tasks. As noted in a previous post, whether someone is a nurse, lawyer, financial analyst, pilot, plumber or cook, there are communicative tasks that they will need to perform to do that job effectively. And if these jobs are changing, so teachers will need to be aware of this and adapt their teaching to their students’ new requirements accordingly.
This is where the Global Scale of English can be a great tool. The GSE Job Profiles enable teachers to find the learning objectives that support the development of specific skills for a given job or set of roles. The Learning Objectives themselves are all aligned to the GSE – a granular proficiency scale aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The resulting database can be used by teachers to identify skills and activities that may be missing from an existing course or to build a new bespoke course.
In this way, the GSE can help you to keep pace with the ever-changing language needs of your students as they prepare themselves to succeed in the workplace of 2030.