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The Future of Skills: Trends impacting on US and UK employment in 2030

The drivers of change shaping the future of US and UK employment and the need for different skills

To prepare our children and those already in employment for the world of work in decades to come, we need to better understand what that future is going to look like, what skills, knowledge and attributes will be important for success.

We know that many of the jobs around today will likely be changed beyond recognition by global trends.This makes it all the more important that we set learning priorities for young people today based on a rigorous assessment of what will be required of them when they enter the workforce, rather than relying on what we know about the current labour market.

These are the goals of an ambitious research project predicting the skills mix required of the workforce in 2030 that Nesta is undertaking in collaboration with the education provider Pearson, and in partnership with with Associate Professor Michael Osborne at the Oxford Martin School and independent researcher, Philippe Schneider. We will shortly be publishing the full results of this study as well as policy recommendations later this year.

As part of this project, we have looked at a number of major global trends, or drivers of change, that have important implications for the future of work and skills, presented here as a trends slide deck. This slide deck was used to inform a key part of the research, two foresight exercises in the UK and USA, where it helped enable a discussion of the workforce implications for occupations of these trends and their interactions, and ground it in hard evidence.

While much of the recent debate around the future of work has focused on the impact of automation and technologies like machine learning, the picture is considerably more complex and uncertain. Automation is just one of a number of technology trends - such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and the Internet of Things - that will have profound implications for the composition of the workforce.

Technological change in turn is just one of multiple global trends that will impact on employment. Consider the ageing population, climate change, urbanisation and rising income inequality - each of which will have important sectoral implications.

This slide deck sets out seven major trends that will shape the future of the UK labour market and skills needs by 2030.

1. Technological Change

  • Automation
  • Technological progress and job creation
  • Adoption and diffusion
  • Digital technologies
  • Sharing economy
  • Internet of things
  • Hardware and materials
  • Biotechnology

2. Globalisation

  • Unwinding trade imbalances
  • Peak globalisation?
  • The importance of place
  • Specific trade opportunities
  • Growing global middle class

3. Demographic Change

  • Ageing population
    • Macroeconomic impacts
    • Sector impacts
  • Millennials

4. Environmental sustainability

  • Impact of climate change
  • Transition to low carbon economy

5. Urbanisation

  • Latest wave of urbanisation
  • Growing demand for infrastructure

6. Increasing inequality

  • Inequality and its drivers
  • Macro and microeconomic impacts

7. Political uncertainty

  • Economic impacts of uncertainty
  • Rising political uncertainty?
  • Drivers of policy uncertainty

What’s next?

Shortly we will be publishing the full results from the research project, exploring which skills, knowledge and attributes are going to be important to the UK and US workforces in 2030.

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Future skills


Harry Armstrong

Harry Armstrong

Harry Armstrong

Head of Technology Futures

Harry led Nesta’s futures and emerging technology work.

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Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Hasan Bakhshi

Director, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Hasan oversaw Nesta's creative economy policy, research and practical work.

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Philippe Schneider