Humans required

In our “Dying Professions” article, published 30 August 2018, we commented on the impact of automation on a variety of employment roles. In this complementary article we share the outcomes of Royal Bank of Canada research undertaken in 2017/18 and highlight some really useful conclusions RBC came to. Rather typically, for an advanced developed economy, RBC found that:

  • More than 25% of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade. Fully half will go through a significant overhaul of the skills required.
  • Despite projected heavy job displacement in many sectors and occupations, the Canadian economy is expected to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, all of which will require this new mix of skills.
  • Canada’s education system, training programmes and labour market initiatives are inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.
  • Canadian employers are generally not prepared, through hiring, training or retraining, to recruit and develop the skills needed to make their organisations more competitive in a digital economy.
  • RBC’s researchers identified a new way of grouping jobs into six “clusters,” based on essential skills by occupation rather than by industry. By focusing on the foundational skills required within each of these clusters, a high degree of mobility is possible between jobs.
  • Digital fluency will be essential to all new jobs. This does not mean we all need to become coders, but we do all need to be digitally literate.
  • Global competencies like cultural awareness, language, and adaptability will be in demand.
  • Virtually all job openings will place significant importance on judgment and decision-making and more than two thirds will value an ability to manage people and resources.

These findings are likely be repeated across many economies of similar size and complexity, but we wish to highlight just one finding: the clustering of occupations, not by industry, but by skills clusters.

This approach has real, practical value for those making career development decisions … wherever they are.

RBC’s comprehensive data project looked past the standard economic data to dig into the work Canadians actually do. It shows that these occupations are increasingly connected by the skills required to do them. Skills that range from reading and critical thinking to systems analysis and technology design, each bearing its own importance in any given line of work.

The occupations can be grouped into six broad “clusters,” which RBC called Solvers, Providers, Facilitators, Technicians, Crafters and Doers.

The clusters aren’t grouped by industry, educational attainment, collar colour or income; they’re grouped by the skills required to do the work. This allows us to see how skills apply across a wide range of jobs, and how young people might be able to move from one profession or role to another by upgrading just a small number of skills. Out of 35 foundational workplace skills, it takes upgrading just four skills, for example, for someone in the Facilitator cluster to transition from dental assistant to graphic designer.

These findings are not likely to be relevant only in Canada. They point to career development strategies with much wider application.

Of course some transitions between professions will require time, money and a personal commitment to bridging certain knowledge gaps — and it’s no small thing to be constantly upgrading skills.

Career changers will have to find the transitions that work for them. Not every dental assistant has the aptitude or desire to become a graphic designer.

RBC’s report shows the six clusters and their skills emphasis, their susceptibility to automation, and examples of career transitions that can occur within each. This paves the way to a new understanding of how job changers can discover career paths, acquire skills and upgrade them. RBC also used market forecasting to show which clusters stack up well against labour demand, and automation projections to show which clusters face the most risk of disruption. This part of the report may be of less value outside Canada though the general labour market themes are almost certainly applicable way beyond the land of the maple leaf.

Download the full report here.

Author: Vitas Consult