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31st July 2018 - While digital skills are considered to be a top priority by both businesses and policy makers, as they offer people greater employability and job security, a new analysis from innovation foundation Nesta uncovers that not all digital skills will guarantee a ‘future proof’ occupation.

Nesta examined employer demand for digital skills by looking at 41 million job adverts(1), and found that digital skills used in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and the production of digital outputs are commonly required in future-proof jobs. An example of a digital skill that requires these factors is animation, which involves creativity.

The most promising digital skills for the future workforce include:

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

The least promising digital skills for the future workforce include:

  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

Occupations which require the most promising digital skills and have a high probability of growth include artists, mechanical engineers and telecommunications engineers. Those with less digitally intensive skills and a low probability of growth include HR administrative clerks.

The research is significant for employers, workers and policymakers, because it suggests that investment in training should take the differences between digital skills into account. Otherwise, we risk funding training in certain digital skills that then become redundant in the not too distant future.

It is also significant for this year’s school leavers, who are due to receive their GCSE and A-level results next month, because the research indicates that students should be more discerning when making career choices in order to seek out opportunities where they can combine creativity with digital skills.

Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics at Nesta said:

“While changes to the UK workforce are inevitable, there is an opportunity for employees in uncertain or shrinking occupations to improve their prospects by investing in the right skills.

“Our analysis uncovered that the jobs of the future require creative digital skills - those used in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and the production of digital outputs. In order to set the current workforce and school leavers up for future proof jobs, we need to invest in the right digital skills development and training.”

“Encouraging this year’s school leavers to engage with technology and digital skills more deeply will help the future workforce become ‘digital makers’ rather than just digital users, and will allow them to be more creative and productive.”

The analysis builds on Nesta’s previous research(2) with Pearson and The Oxford Martin School which predicted that around 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.

The full analysis, ‘Which digital skills do you really need?’, can be viewed and downloaded here: www.nesta.org.uk/report/which-digital-skills-do-you-really-need

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For media enquiries and interview requests please contact Anna Zabow in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2697 or [email protected]

Notes to Editors

  1. Nesta examined employer demand for digital skills by using 41 million job adverts and studying the skills mentioned within these. This data was combined with predictions from Nesta’s ‘The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030’ study which maps out how employment is likely to change in the future.
  2. Nesta, Pearson and The Oxford Martin School (2017), ‘The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030
  3. Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics at Nesta, and various case studies are available for interview.

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

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