So many of today’s job roles have been thrown into confusion because of COVID19. Many other roles are being questioned as a result of the progress of AI and automation. But a timely new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) might just be the blueprint we are looking for in a post-pandemic world. Eric Shepherd reviews its finding.
The new forces shaping jobs in the new world of work will affect millions worldwide. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is giving rise to unprecedented prospects for economic prosperity and communal progress. But Coronavirus threatens to undermine this progress in a big way. On the other hand, it may also lead to the acceleration of acceptance of new ways and opportunities. In this rush to embrace ‘the new’ however, timely measures must be taken to ensure that unequal opportunity and income inequality do not arise and lead to unrest in an already shaken up world. Governments, industries, and workers may need to align their efforts to rethink market policies, employment arrangements, and skills development. Bringing about a positive outcome to the pandemic is contingent on all parties being able to espouse a strategic mindset and spirit of lifelong learning.
In a post pandemic world, existing jobs will continue to be augmented by new technologies. New professions will certainly appear. But these changes will entail a challenging transition. It will demand proactive investments in workers and a suitable framework to manage these changes. These endeavors need to be based on reliable data derived from thorough research into these emerging roles. This can then feed into solid action to prevent talent shortages on one side and unemployment on the other.
Mapping Opportunity Post Pandemic
Prior to the current pandemic, leading thinkers at the WEF put together a report titled ‘Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy’ that serves as a roadmap for this process. Although this does not include an appraisal of today’s situation, the plans are still hugely, if not more, relevant than ever. It includes plans for spearheading a “reskilling revolution” to create new possibilities for almost a billion people over the coming decade. It looks at the way employment is drifting towards emerging professions, the underlying reasons, and the skills needed to thrive under such circumstances. In that sense, this report is a supremely timely call to action for governments and organizational leaders to deal with the challenges of a post-pandemic economic environment.
The WEF report uses innovative metrics together with researchers from three associate firms. The collaboration paints a realistic picture of up-and-coming occupations and the mindsets and skillsets needed for individuals to grasp these opportunities. Amongst the key findings, perhaps the most crucial is that both human talents and technology will drive growth in the future. The adoption of new technologies is imminent, even accelerated because of Covid 19. They will raise the profile of green economy jobs as well as creating new roles in engineering, cloud computing, and AI. But the human element needed for leadership, management, innovation, healthcare, marketing, content production, and cultural undertakings will remain indispensable.
Jobs of Tomorrow
The report names seven professional clusters and 96 jobs of tomorrow most likely to gain prominence. Statistics can gauge the relative significance of the clusters in the broader labor market. It claims that they will feature in 611 out of every 10,000 career opportunities by 2022. We guess that this figure may have increased still further since the start of March 2020. The WEF forecasts that this will translate into over 6 million new jobs worldwide over the course of the next two years. The roles expected to display the highest growth rates within high-volume jobs are artificial intelligence specialists, data scientists, and full-stack engineers. Where lower-volume jobs are concerned, we should expect growth for green marketers, social media assistants, and growth hackers.
The new world of work displays vibrant demand for an assortment of skills that will underpin these professions. This includes both cross-functional and technical skill sets, divided into five distinct categories. They are:
General and soft skills
Specialized industry skills
Tech disruptive skills
The ability needed for a role depends on the exact requirements and nature of the job. The kind of job opportunities that will arise largely depends on the demographic, economic, business model, and technological evolutions. A sizeable chunk of new jobs maybe created in new occupations or current ones that are undergoing an overhaul in terms of mindset and skills. The potential impact of these developments on future economic activity is considerable. Out of the total job churn precipitated by these events, new roles will account for 27% of all jobs by 2022. As 4IR accelerates change, the new tasks and types of work could chart pathways to upward social mobility.
Consequences of Transformations
The consequences of these transformations will affect all sectors of the workforce. The WEF has been tracking these variations for the past five years to assess the scale of labor displacement. The work was performed to enable workers to shift from declining to abundant roles. The Forum also examined ways of mapping outmoded jobs onto emerging ones to ensure a smooth transition for workers. The WEF agreed that prosperity in the changing marketplace would depend on transitioning to a skill-based hiring system focused on continuous improvement.
The approach adopted by this report of ‘real-casting’ employment trends was done in collaboration with two organizations that hold authoritative data on job opportunities: Burning Glass Technologies and LinkedIn. The former organization traces the number of job openings posted online, and the latter keeps track of how many professionals are being hired for new opportunities. They classified emergent professions as those that experienced record growth over recent years. Applying these methods produced seven characteristic occupational clusters: data and AI, cloud computing and engineering, care economy, green economy, product development, people and culture, as well as sales, marketing, and content. It is notable that individual growth rates and extent of employment prospects vary across all seven clusters.
The clusters in which the absolute number of job projections have the highest probability of changing in line with shifting business practices are the care and green economy. The green economy is susceptible to fluctuating government regulations due to upgrading of the services infrastructure to accommodate renewable energy. It has also fared less well during the pandemic outbreak as people’s attentions have turned to more immediate concerns. As far as the care economy goes, we have seen world events focus attention on to these challenges. But influences also include other demographic and society trends such as increasing numbers of women entering the workforce, aging populations.
Occupations registering high growth often require diverse competencies. The skills taxonomies used to delineate these competencies have been standardized by the WEF’s partners but only up to an introductory level. International cooperation is necessary to formulate a common language for the labor market to transcend geographic boundaries. Data scientists at online learning provider Coursera have drawn on users’ insights to devise a taxonomy of skills as a pre-requisite for online assessments. Keeping up with the learning preferences of people working in emerging professions helps to find patterns for upskilling in those fields. Coursera has also created a global skills index to appraise learners across a set of crucial future-oriented skills ordered into the three clusters of computer science, data science, and business skills.
Much of the past decade is defined by the rapid technological disruption that raised the threat of massive job losses and unsustainable skills inflation. Coronavirus has magnified this disruption ten-fold. This has naturally caused real concern and livelihoods are no longer guaranteed. Analysts that have previously tried to solve this puzzle concluded with a call for prudence but they also offered hope. A few analysts surmise that technological advancements will anyway shrink the size of the corporate playing field. But, encouragingly, most propose that many new opportunities will materialize. This stipulates that efficient training mechanisms must be in place to ease the transition of workers to the new world of work.
Report Embraces Quantitative and data-driven Methodology
The World Economic Forum’s 2020 report embraces a quantitative, data-driven method to arrive at professional classifications for the future job market. AI is used to augment human estimations in this regard and offer unparalleled insights into the labor market. The development of standard metrics shared by public and private firms will be a powerful tool to help employers position themselves for a successful upskilling agenda. Exactly the kind of agenda we will need to help us all get back on our feet again once the current disruptions are over. The methodology adopted for matching skills to new jobs can be piloted to create sustainable systems that can supply information on the labor market in real-time. We need more attention to conceive skills taxonomies that reflect the demand for baseline and new disruptive technical skills. Although disruptive technological skills like data science are vital, so is the ability to give personalized care and supply bespoke learning and development. The diverse opportunities set to appear in the market will open multiple avenues for both low- and high-skilled careers.
The progression of these careers will be directly influenced by the decisions that governments make. This report shows that the means to inspire positive change in the labor market is within reach. More than ever, this will be in the best interests of everyone to create new opportunities and efficiencies for tomorrow’s post pandemic environment.