Oh, that we had a crystal ball to foresee the future of the American jobs market.
Luckily, the good folks over at the Pew Research Center have surveyed and collated the ideas and trends of the past several decades, into a recently released report, “The State Of American Jobs.” Pew has also released an analysis of government jobs data, and together, they present the likely directions of the American workforce.
Here’s what stood out to us:
Skills, Training and Development Are The New Paradigm
More than half (54%) of adults in the workforce say that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with job changes. Some 45% of employed adults report they have pursued extra training to maintain or improve their job skills in the past year.
As a recruiter, or a company trying to garner the best candidates, further training opportunities are an attractive way to sweeten the deal. The majority of American workers say they will need continuous training to keep up with changes in the workplace, and recognize that retraining and upgrading their skills needs to be a lifetime commitment. Soon, skill acquisition could be more akin to up-levelling in a video game, or gaining scout badges: achievement unlocked.
The truth is, the number of jobs requiring a higher level of education or training has been steadily on the rise. In 2015, around 83 million Americans worked in jobs requiring an average or above average level of preparation (including education, experience, and job training). That’s a 68% increase from 49 million in 1980. To give you a comparison, for positions requiring a below average level of job preparation in the same time period, the increase was (just a third) 31%, with just 65 million people in lower preparation positions last year.
So Where Is The Growth?
“When people think about what it takes for workers to be successful these days, large majorities rank a mixture of technical and “soft skills” as critical…”
-Pew Research Center “The State of American Jobs”
Both employment and wages have increased most in occupations that require higher social or analytical skills. Between 1980 and 2015, employment grew by 50% across all occupations, however, for jobs that require average or above average social skills like interpersonal, management and communication skills, the growth was a huge 83%. For positions that require higher levels of analytical skills like critical thinking and computer skills, the growth was 77%. As a stark contrast, employment depending more on physical skills like manual labor or machinery operation grew by just 18%.
These changes highlight the rise of a service-oriented and knowledge-based economy: employment growth in the educational services, health care and social assistance sectors led the way, growing 105% and 99% respectively between 1990 and 2015.
The Looming Threats
Interestingly, while most people (80%) say that increased outsourcing of jobs to other countries hurts American workers, people were less concerned about the threat of automation. In fact, the majority surveyed see that the increased use of the internet and other technology in the workplace are helpful to American workers.
Coupled with the high growth areas of social skills, analytics, critical thinking and computer skills and a new picture of the future of work in America emerges. A highly trained, rapidly developing job market that focusses on innovation is the general trend – and American workers know it.
“The vast majority of U.S. workers say that new skills and training may hold the key to their future job success.”
-Pew Research Center “The State of American Jobs.”
Is More College The Answer?
While college enrollments are at an all-time high, 57% of Americans say the higher education system in the US fails to provide students with good value for money. 75% say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. An overwhelming majority of college graduates—86%—say that college has been a good investment for them personally.
But knowing that retraining and upskilling constantly is paramount to staying employed and relevant in your industry, is college the guarantee it used to be?
Millennials complain about needing a masters degree and a hefty college debt to get an entry level position. Would on the job training provide a more targeted approach – and potentially a better fit?
David K Williams is the CEO of data analytics company, Fishbowl. In his book, The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning: Tying Soft Traits to Hard Results he outlines why personality traits matter far more than college degrees, or even previous employment experience.
“I get excited when I meet someone with drive and a lot of raw talent. They’re usually not excellent at just one thing and don’t have a lot of experience at first, but it’s always fun to see all the ways they influence the entire organization for good over the years.,” he writes. “They have a contagious work ethic, “you betcha” attitude, and commitment to a greater cause than their own gratification.”
As the gateway to finding and hiring that raw talent, our opportunity can be in recognizing the skills in a candidate, rather than the way they achieved them. If a self-taught programmer had the ambition to conquer an array of new software through the love of coding, are they any less qualified than an Ivy League educated software engineer? If anything, do they have better skills and motivation than a candidate that didn’t have to hustle as hard?
As we recruit for company growth, hiring for potential, flexibility and fast learning are very clearly the future. Let’s keep those figures in mind lest we are left behind with the old guard.