Which digital skills do you really need?

man sitting next to computer

Written by Jyldyz Djumalieva, Data Science Research Fellow at Nesta

Co-author: Cath Sleeman, Quantitative Research Fellow at Nesta

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?

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.

The future workforce:

Five promising digital skills

  1. Animation
  2. Multimedia production
  3. Design in engineering
  4. Building and maintaining IT systems and networks
  5. Research and quantitative data analysis

Five of the least promising digital skills

  1. Invoice processing and management of accounts using accounting software
  2. Data input and preparation of payroll and tax reports
  3. Clerical duties (e.g. typing, using a word processor, spreadsheets, email and calendar software)
  4. Sales support and processing of orders in sales management systems
  5. Stock and inventory management using inventory control systems

Conclusion

The digital skills most likely to be needed in the future are ones that are used in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and the creation of digital outputs. On the other hand, the digital skills that are linked to occupations least likely to grow tended to relate to the use of software for administrative purposes. The relationship between the digital intensity of an occupation and its prospects for growth is not straightforward: there are occupations that are currently not digitally intensive, but are expected to grow in the next 10-15 years. In summary, not all digital skills appear to be of equal importance. Decision-making on investment in digital skills development should take these differences into account. Otherwise, we may risk funding training in certain digital skills that then become redundant in the not too distant future.


Read the full report here

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