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Research: To Close the Jobs Gap, Lessen the Burden of Changing Careers

If you knew that robots would replace you in your current job in, say, five or 10 years, would you start retraining today—or would you hold on, hoping that you could find another opening in your (possibly dying) field?
jobs gap
Image Credit: Joshua Earle/Unsplash

If you’re like many workers, you’d choose the latter option, but not necessarily because you’re afraid of change or unwilling to learn. As a recent report from Goldman Sach’s Global Markets Institute highlights, the burden of changing careers now rests almost entirely on the worker, despite the fact that the “broader economy benefits if more people who are at risk of job displacement retrain and shift to new industries where their competitive advantages over machines offer better long-term economic prospects.” For individual workers, however, the financial cost and risk of retraining might make the benefits of changing careers less certain, especially in the short-term.

“This dynamic has helped create a ‘jobs gap’ – the gap that often exists between the types of jobs that people want and the types of jobs that are available,” the researchers write.

The Shift to a Service-Providing Economy

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While manufacturing and other goods-producing jobs decline, service-providing jobs in sectors like healthcare and business/professional services have continued to climb.

The increase in these service-providing jobs “reflects a shift in people’s economic roles—from ‘doing’ the work to ‘organizing, coordinating and supervising’ the complex tasks behind it, the paper explains,” writes Kate Davidson at The Wall Street Journal. “This has led to a rise in what Goldman researchers call ‘adaptive occupations,’ which require workers to interact more frequently with other people and exercise their own judgment.”

In other words, your job is more likely to be safe from automation if it requires things that a robot just can’t do—the ability to read social cues, for instance, or to engage in creative problem-solving.

Filling the Jobs Gap, With or Without Help From Employers

This research suggests that appreciating what humans can do (as well as providing more support to said humans) could make it easier for workers to switch careers.

“Closing the jobs gap requires a new approach to risk-sharing, one that spreads the burden of investing in human capital more broadly,” the researchers write. “This risk-sharing approach should include a greater educational focus on social skills, creativity and judgment, not only STEM subjects; expanded incentives for corporate job training; standardized labor contracts; innovative financing structures to support investments in human capital and career transitions; lower barriers to entry into certain professions; increased support for small-business creation; and regulation that supports the growth of the ‘freelance economy.’”

In the meantime, workers who are contemplating a change before any shift to a risk-sharing approach might take place should consider upskilling themselves in a targeted way—and emphasizing the hard and soft skills they already have, during job interviews.

Data collected for PayScale’s recent report, Leveling Up: How to Win in the Skills Economy, showed that hiring managers find writing proficiency, critical thinking, and attention to detail among the hard and soft skills most lacking in recent grads. If you can already boast these, you could move your resume to the top of the pile. Beyond that, it’s smart to focus your self-funded educational efforts on skills and certifications that employers are looking for right now.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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