Pearson commissioned research by the Oxford Martin School and global innovation think tank, Nesta, to determine the nature of employment in the future. In this article we unpack the findings from this research: the occupations and – critically – the skills predicted to experience increased demand by 2030.
Seven mega-trends that will influence the job market of 2030
Q: What happens when a team of data scientists use machine learning to trawl through massive US and UK jobs datasets?
A: They identify the occupations and skills predicted to be most sought-after by employers in 2030. This in itself isn’t novel - it seems like a new report about the future of jobs and the role of automation is published every second week. But the way our research differs is in the number of trends considered in the analysis. Too often the future of work is only viewed through a singular lens: automation. But we applied a few more lenses than that; six more, to be precise. Using what we believe to be the most comprehensive and methodologically ambitious approach to investigating this issue yet, our analysis considered not one, but seven global mega-trends that will influence employment and skills in 2030.
The ‘technological change’ trend encompasses automation of course, but we made sure to cast its net far further into factors like adoption and diffusion of innovation, as well as the potential for mass job creation provided by technological advancement.
What makes our research unique is that the complexities and inter-relatedness of these trends paint an extremely nuanced picture of what it will mean to be a worker in 2030.
An example: engineers of the future
Picture in your mind a civil or mechanical engineer. We've chosen this particular occupation because while we don't endorse stereotypes, we're aware that there are some pretty big, preconceived tropes about clever, unsociable nerds with poor communication skills.
Consider these two questions:
Now consider the list of skills and knowledge below:
Does ‘Engineer’ immediately spring to mind?
It may not – the list above outlines the skills and knowledge that will be essential for engineers in 2030.
At first it seems incongruous, but think about it: even if we consider just one trend - urbanisation - it becomes clear that engineers will not just be required to design structures that last, but also, structures that are alive and thriving with purpose.
Social structures that support high-density urban communities in a meaningful and design-oriented way will require engineers to be social architects just as much as experts in form and function. To do this; having knowledge of sociology and anthropology will be essential for human-centred design. But social perceptiveness, and the ability to actively listen and ideate to solve complex problems, such as gentrification for example, will also be critical.
This is the kind of thinking that excites us at Pearson, but it does not come without its challenges. A very central one for us is: how do education systems adapt rapidly enough to re-engineer courses to include these emergent skills and knowledge?
Will robots run the workplace?
Thankfully we can stop agonising about machines taking all our jobs, because, interestingly our research predicts that only one in five workers are in occupations that will shrink. This figure is far lower than those that have come out of previous single-lens studies on automation.
That said, we also forecast that only one in 10 workers are in occupations that are likely to grow, and seven in 10 workers are in jobs where there is greater uncertainty about the future.
The most likely scenario here is that while high-level occupation or role types may remain, the skill mix required within these roles will broaden or, in some cases, change entirely.
So no, you probably won't be forced to take your lunch break with R2-D2 or Optimus Prime.
Occupations most likely to be in-demand by 2030
This image lists the jobs predicted to be most in demand in the UK and US in 2030.
These lists don’t convey anything that is especially surprising. In fact, our data supports other studies that have predicted a boom in care, service, and education related sectors. If you’d like to interrogate our data, and hone in on which roles and occupation types will grow or shrink, Go to futureskills.pearson.com
This is where most research to date ends - at the occupation level. But this is precisely where ours starts to warm up.
Skills most likely to be in-demand by 2030
It gets really interesting when we zoom in a level and ask: what kinds of skills and abilities will be most in-demand in 2030?
This image shows the predicted top skills associated with rising occupations in 2030.
There are two main points to consider here:
At the risk of being too simplistic, you could summarise the past few hundred years of human endeavour as ‘training humans to be more machine-like’. The 2030 set of trending skills however, requires a very different approach: ‘training humans to be more human.’
Currently, our education systems is very good at teaching students information, facts, and processes. Occasionally ‘soft-skills’ are taught in an ancillary way, but all too often they are neglected. Needless to say, there’s a real education challenge ahead.
There’ll be some new jobs in 2030, too: let us introduce you to Kevin
Our research doesn’t just identify a differing skill mix in existing occupation types. It also predicts emergent or entirely new occupations, based on likely clusters identified in the analysis.
Here is one example of a hypothetical occupation that is ‘almost certain’ to exist in 2030.
Meet Kevin. He’s a ‘100-year life counsellor’ with a background in journalism and community college teaching. Unprecedented numbers of people are living to (and past) the age of 100. For these people, navigating the mental, physical, and emotional challenges that come with old age is deeply complex. And this is exactly where people like Kevin will become incredibly valuable.
After losing his job as a newspaper journalist at the Herald Sun, Kevin switched careers and retrained as a community college teacher. He was struck by the growing number of mature students who wanted and needed to re-skill in response to transitions in their lives. He found that skills he had honed over the years as a journalist and then teacher such as social perceptiveness and the ability to convey complex ideas in an understandable way were very useful in advising mature students.
Kevin recognised that this was only the tip of the iceberg. There were many challenges for not just mature aged students but the ageing population in general. Some adjusted, and others needed help.
So Kevin took self-directed training courses in applied philosophy and ethics as well as reflective practices to enrich the advice that he is able to give to clients.
This support has extended to end of life issues which remain among the most traumatic events that individuals and loved ones face. The old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes may be an exaggeration but Kevin has discovered that the search for meaning or purpose or value, remains central to many individuals. This is especially true as the increasingly complex and technical aspects of healthcare have narrowed what services are available. Kevin is proud that his work has gone some way to filling this gap.
Why have we introduced you to Kevin? Because it’s critical that conversations about future jobs are given a human face. The future of employment is increasingly human and that poses great challenges for educators and employers alike as they strive to keep ahead of the rapid pace of change.
Read the full report and find out more at Pearson Future Skills