Which occupations will become more important?
Which skills should you develop?

Nesta has tackled these questions in its latest study, the Future of Skills, released in collaboration with the Oxford Martin School and the education company Pearson.

This study goes beyond considering the effects of automation, and accounts for all the major forces that will shape the UK's labour market, from climate change to population ageing.

Combining the judgments of experts with machine learning, the study predicts the outlook for each occupation and identifies the skills that will protect workers against these forces of change.

The big picture

The Nesta study finds that 8% of workers are in occupations that are very likely to grow over the next 10-15 years (as a percentage of the workforce), and 21% are in occupations that are very likely to shrink.

The majority of workers are in occupations with highly uncertain futures. This means that all is still to play for, and workers can improve their employment prospects by acquiring the right skills.

Hover over an occupation to find its chance of growing.

Which occupations are most likely to grow?

Contrary to other studies, many medium-skilled blue and white-collar jobs are expected to grow, such as in hospitality and leisure. Their products can be continually re-designed, which supports employment. One example is the recent emergence of artisanal versions of many food and drink products.

Several public sector occupations, such as educational and welfare professionals, also have a positive outlook. These are labour intensive occupations with less potential for automation.

Which occupations are most likely to shrink?

Many of these occupations are in sales, customer service and administration. They are threatened by technological advances, such as intelligent personal assistants.

The development of self-driving cars shows why drivers and other workers in routine-intensive occupations are at risk.

Several other occupations relate to finance, such as bookkeepers and clerks, whose tasks may be automated. Another group is shopkeepers and proprietors who supervise automation-vulnerable workers.

Prospects for each occupation group

Most occupations that are very likely to grow, as a share of the workforce, sit in a group called 'professional occupations'.

There is a more uncertain outlook for workers in associate professional & technical occupations, and in caring, leisure & other service occupations. This makes sense as both groups face major structural changes, in the form of technological advances and an ageing population.

Select any occupation group in the legend to take a closer look.

21st century skills

These skills, abilities and types of knowledge are used heavily in occupations that have the best chance of growing. They show that workers will need a mix of social and cognitive skills, sometimes called 21st century skills.

Top social skills include teaching (instructing), adjusting to others' actions (co-ordination), assessing others' performance (monitoring) and providing motivation (management of personnel resources). Top cognitive skills include coming up with multiple ideas (fluency of ideas), deriving novel solutions (originality) and understanding new information (active learning).

Skill suggestions for each occupation

This network shows the twenty skills, abilities and types of knowledge that would give the greatest boost to each occupation's chance of growing. Hover over an occupation's node to see its top twenty.

For example, workers in elementary occupations and skilled trades could benefit from refining their strength and dexterity. In contrast, professional workers and those in administration should focus on developing their resource and time management skills.

Two new occupations

The study identifies two new types of occupations (or combinations of skills) which are likely to emerge in the future.

The first is an immersive experience designer, who combines creative and tech-based skills. This new occupation is closest to an artist or photographer.

The second new occupation combines hospitality and management, and demands an effective sales person who can solve problems and act decisively. It is similar to a catering or retail manager.