The rise of new technologies was already bringing remarkable changes to the world of work when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our reliance on technology. Even without the pandemic, people's jobs were bound to change dramatically due to technological advances and changing business models.
Based on data from 15 industries and 26 countries, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that by 2025, a shift in the human/machine division of labor could mean the end of 85 million jobs. However, the report also notes that 97 million roles that fit in with a new human/machine/ algorithms division of labor could emerge in the same period.
What job roles are on the rise?
The WEF's Future of Jobs Report 2020 notes: "Over the coming decade, a non-negligible share of newly created jobs will be in wholly new occupations, or existing occupations undergoing significant transformations in terms of their content and skills requirements."
The report, which reflects data the WEF gathered together with LinkedIn and Coursera, indicates that:
Demand for data analysts and scientists, as well as robotics engineers and AI and machine learning specialists, are already growing. Other promising fields include software and application development, digital transformation, big data, business development, and digital marketing.
Although technical roles seem most on the rise, jobs that require a lot of human interaction -- in marketing, sales, and content production, for instance – will be, too.
The need for workers is receding in fields such as data entry, administration, accounting, bookkeeping, and machinery repair.
Generally, new jobs will reflect the changing division of labor among humans, machines, and algorithms.
The share of core skills for workers who keep their current roles will change in the next five years by 40%, and one out of two employees will need reskilling.
For some burgeoning professions, such as data and AI, individuals may be able to enter jobs without knowing all the skills required. For instance, those who have not yet mastered statistical programming or other essential data science skills can learn them within months after landing a job. Product development and cloud computing are other fields that offer some flexibility in hiring.
However, emerging Engineering and HR jobs will demand closer matches between a person's position and the one they want.
What skills will employers seek?
No doubt technical skills will be in high demand, but so will the personal attributes that make for effective collaboration and communication.
Eric Shepherd and Joan Phaup point out in Talent Transformation: Develop Today's Team for Tomorrow's World of Work that "working successfully in a complex environment involving complicated process and multiple technologies will require effective teamwork and collaboration. Employers will look for adaptability, creativity, and emotional intelligence: the ability to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions; empathize with other people, and sensitively handle interpersonal relationships."
The WEF lists of the top 10 skills of 2025 reflect the need for personal as well as technical skills:
How will workers gain the skills they need?
The new world of work calls for adaptable learning systems that enable workers to keep pace with the changing demands of their current jobs or prepare for new opportunities.
As the half-life of skills reduces and individuals and teams take on more creative roles to achieve organizational goals, learning experiences should become more flexible and individualized. When linked to job roles and competency models, online learning systems can provide pathways that help individuals develop the competencies they need to qualify for new jobs. Documentation of customized learning experiences will follow this pattern, offering portable credentials that reflect each person's unique learning and achievement path.
Data analysis, machine learning, and AI will enable online learning systems to provide meaningful and insightful recommendations to help someone manage their education and career.
Education providers are using new technology tools to monitor learning progress—rather than seat time—toward credentials. They are customizing learning experiences to place individuals in those environments where they learn best and can focus more easily on content. These adjustments include even the time of day when an individual best absorbs information. As educational institutions become more intricately connected with industry, they will increasingly alter their programming to serve the industry growing need for competencies and micro-credentials.
How will people stay ahead of changing job requirements?
The need for lifelong learning in an ever-shifting employment landscape has brought competencies to the fore. An academic degree reflects someone's interest in a subject and possibly their preparation for a particular career. However, their skills and knowledge need to keep pace with dramatic changes in job roles and careers. To do so, they must pursue competencies in essential skills for their current or desired job.
With technology accelerating at breakneck rates and technical skills becoming more specialized, some university coursework might be outdated before the student graduates. All job seekers, including graduates, will need to develop new skills and submit proof of their achievements. Micro-credentials, supported by blockchain technology and digital badging, register competencies acquired through formal or informal learning experiences in the workplace or academic institutions.
Digital badges for each credential offer a verifiable way to document an individual's competencies, making it easy for job seekers to prove that their learning is up to date. Blockchain has made it possible to create digital ledgers of learning and qualifications that generate trustworthy, transparent credentials as an alternative to traditional transcripts and certificates.
The loss of some jobs and the advent of new ones present daunting challenges to employers and workers alike. For individuals who want to move with the times, whether they are employed or out of work, ongoing education will be essential to their progress.