The role of apprenticeships in redesigning the jobs of tomorrow

How we define occupations is no longer fixed and new jobs are emerging at a quicker rate than ever before - largely due to the impact of technology.

Now more than ever, employers are addressing the impact of technology on the jobs that make up their workforce. This need to ‘redesign occupations’ is one of the key implications that came out of Pearson’s Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 research study.

The Future of Skills research study

Much of the current conversation about the future of work revolves around fears of technology making workers obsolete. We wanted to take a step back and take a deeper look at what’s happening with jobs and work. That’s why Pearson decided to work with Nesta and the Oxford Martin School, to build a research project that moves the conversation about the future of work past simplified scaremongering about automation.

Through our research we’ve found that the future of work is brighter than conventional wisdom suggests. The upshot is that many jobs we recognise today will still be in demand by 2030 and beyond. However, the job you have today may require different skills for success tomorrow.

The study identified two key implications for employers to consider in addressing future uncertainty for their workforce:

  • Redesigning roles to balance technology and human resources. This is about technology supplementing uniquely human skills, rather than taking occupations away from  people, and it makes identifying the occupations that require redesigning to integrate supplementary technology a vital step for employers.
  • Moving beyond a degree as the primary signal of employability. As education systems begin to offer more flexible and adaptive pathways for learners, employers will also need to learn to be able to identify and develop talent without relying on degrees as a guarantee of work readiness.

The role of apprenticeships

The research’s key implications for employers have significant resonance with the opportunities provided by apprenticeships. Flexible and adaptive pathways that deliver skills will be ever more important in an increasingly uncertain future, where major political, economic and technological forces mean we don’t know what the long-term outlook is for jobs and business in the UK.

Apprenticeships provide ‘adaptive pathways’ that allow employers to lead on designing occupations and determining the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of productive employees. They allow employers to address the evolution of specific occupations, as major socioeconomic forces impact on industries, ensuring that the shifting balance between uniquely human skills and the productivity gains provided by technology are reflected in how they are defined.

For example: the research identifies Food Preparation and Hospitality Trades as the occupational group most likely to experience increased demand through 2030; but the Hospitality Managers of 2030 are going to be undertaking a markedly different role to that of today, with the long-term influence of Brexit and developments in industry technology. The Hospitality Manager apprenticeship standard gives employers an enduring mechanism with which to periodically review this occupation and redesign it, to ensure it reflects the realities of the latest industry demands and trends - hopefully for years to come.

Embracing the new standards

The government’s so-called ‘2020 vision’ for apprenticeships should continue to pay dividends in 2030 if the employer-led standards development opportunity is embraced by industry and continues to be a cornerstone of the new era of this vital skills pathway for delivering what employers need.

The Institute for Apprenticeships approved its 300th standard for delivery in July and has implemented a new, streamlined approach that has seen an improvement in approval rates. It is encouraging, in turbulent times, that the UK has the potential to grow an apprenticeship system that can drive key imperatives for flexible and adaptive pathways and ongoing redesign of occupations, as identified in Pearson’s research.

If you want to find out more about what leading employers think about the future of skills join us on 7 November at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition for a panel discussion: The Future of Skills and Employment – Identifying the Needs of your Workforce.