Careers are for life, not just for National Careers Week by Ben Odams

National Careers Week is a celebration of what we should be doing every week - highlighting the choice and opportunity in the workplace. However, a career is not a moment in time, it is many moments over time – our first job is unlikely to be the job we have when we retire. So what does National Careers Week in 2030 look like? What is the shape of our economy now and how is this likely to change? I’d like to explore some issues that will affect our economy and the sorts of jobs we could see.

Economic change

National Careers Week in 2030 will take place in the shadow of major changes, from robots to a new kind of elderly population. The biggest change is likely to come from products and jobs we can’t even currently imagine. Think about the change in products since 2000; in 18 years we have moved from Nokia to Apple, from being shackled to desktop computers to having the digital world at our fingertips on mobile devices. 

At the same time, the global economy has changed massively as emerging economies, especially China, have increased the global workforce. By some estimates, the changes in the global economy since 1990 have seen an increase in the global working population of nearly 120%, this one-off impact has impacted the global economy, relocated mass production and increased both jobs and wages in response. As these new workers get older and retire, countries across the world are again likely to see huge developments to their environment and workforces by 2050.

In the UK, our experience of the global economy has been mixed. On one hand, it’s supported an expansion of services, but it’s also seen the nature of work change. We now talk about things like the ‘gig’ economy, zero hour contracts and the skill demands of companies. In response, the government is pushing apprenticeships, soon there will be T-Levels (similar to A-Levels) focused on technical learning and, moreover, the government’s industrial strategy has identified the main elements of change: Artificial Intelligence and Digital, Clean Growth, Future of Mobility and the Ageing Society.

From a Greater Manchester point of view, the numbers are also pretty compelling. Over the next two decades, GM needs to create an additional 220,000 jobs (and replace 170,000 workers each year who retire or otherwise leave the labour market). At the same time, GM needs to join the rest of the UK in increasing productivity, which will develop our shared prosperity through a stronger economy and higher wages.

Altogether we can expect massive change in the lives and the economy of the learners LTE group is supporting through this year’s National Careers Week – and there are likely to be two big areas of change and growth. 

Automation and robots

The idea that a machine would replace a human is hardly a new idea and there’s a sense that automation and robots will once again become a major driver in the labour market. They’ll save time and change the structure of companies. From 3D printing houses to robots that could help with social care – it’s easy to contemplate where possible job losses could arise. However, we lose sight of the need to have people skilled enough to fix and maintain a robot, program a 3D printer and ensure that the robot we have in 2030 is better than the one we have in 2018. 

Automation has been a constant factor in the economy since the industrial revolution. For people starting out in the jobs market today, the prospects remain amazing so long as the skills learned include those that will enable workers to be adaptable throughout their working lives. 

Ageing Society 

We are living longer as a society and this presents multiple problems. For one, the idea of a specific retirement age may not fit those who have worked in multiple jobs. The ageing society increases the need for lifelong learning and the need to be adaptable to changes in personal circumstance throughout our working lives. Put another way: if we live longer, should we work longer? Can technology help to keep us mobile and effective in the workplace, as well as looking after us when we need care? 

Our ageing society will require a better organised system of care and the upcoming Green Paper on Social Care should contain some detail about how the Government plans to ensure that the social care system has the workforce it needs. Regardless of the future, the economy and society needs a better way of looking after those in need, and its value is comparable to a nurse or a doctor. 

National Careers Week is an opportunity to step back and look at where things are going – there’s a lot of change on the horizon but, all of it will require a skilled and adaptive workforce. 

Ben Odams is Head of Group Policy at LTE group

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