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Which Digital Skills Count – Measuring only overall demand can be misleading

Nesta’s study of 41 million job adverts reveals not all digital skills will be equally valuable in the future and creativity is key.

By 2030 the job market will look dramatically different. Previous Nesta research has predicted that about 10 per cent of workers are in occupations that are likely to grow as a share of the workforce and 20 per cent will shrink. As for the remaining jobs, their outlook is more uncertain. Although unsettling, this disruption needn’t be disastrous for the workforce. There is an opportunity for employees in uncertain or shrinking occupations to improve their prospects by investing in the right skills.

Policymakers consider digital skills to be a top priority for investment. They are seen as offering people greater employability and job resiliency. But are all digital skills created equal?

Measuring only overall demand for digital skills can be misleading

The overall demand for digital skills does not tell us much about an occupation’s growth prospects. As shown in Figure 1, the occupations that are least likely to grow have a higher digital intensity. Digital intensity can be measured in different ways using the information contained in online job adverts: here, it is measured as the proportion of job adverts for that occupation that mention at least one digital skill. If anything, it appears that occupations that are most likely to decline have a higher level of demand for digital skills.

Certain digital skills are much more prominent in occupations with a low probability of growth
The analysis shows that skills related to using software for administrative purposes (e.g. payroll, accounting, supply chain, sales, etc.) are more prevalent in occupations that are predicted to decline. Examples of these software tools include ADP Payroll, Navision and SAP Warehouse Management.

In contrast, digital skills used in animation, engineering, education and computing are more prevalent in occupations that are predicted to grow (Figure 2). Examples of these software include Autodesk MotionBuilder, Ansys and Blackboard LMS.

The relationship between digital intensity and probability of growth is not straightforward

Some occupations are likely to grow, but are not currently digitally intensive (bottom right hand quadrant of Figure 3). These occupations include Primary and secondary teaching professionals, Chefs, Catering and bar managers. Other occupations, including Artists, Mechanical engineers and Telecommunications engineers, both require digital skills and are likely to grow (top right hand quadrant of Figure 3).

The analysis shows that:

Occupations which we are more certain will have poor prospects are more likely to require a digital skill than the occupations that are most likely to grow by 2030.
There are occupations that are currently not digitally intensive, but are expected to grow in the next 10-15 years, as varied as teachers and chefs.
The type of digital skills needed in a job can also make a difference: the digital skills most likely to be needed in growing job sectors are ones that are used in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and the creation of digital outputs.
This is exploratory analysis that takes a novel approach. At Nesta we will continue to study the demand for skills and the future of work, which is in itself a shifting landscape.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Which digital skills do you really need? | Nesta

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