Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Skills Needed for the Fastest-Growing Occupations

In December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the latest update of its employment projections, covering the changes in workforce size that the BLS economists anticipate will occur between 2012 and 2022. I thought it would be interesting to see what skills dominate the occupations that will be growing fastest.

Here’s how I analyzed the data. First, using ratings from the O*NET database, I determined the level of skill required for each occupation covered by the employment projections. Then I multiplied the skill ratings of each occupation by the number of jobs that will be added for that occupation between 2012 and 2022. So, if an occupation is rated high on a skill and is a fast-growing occupation, the product of the skill rating and the growth figure (the “skill-job-growth product”) will be quite high. Finally, I summed the skill-job-growth products for each skill and sorted these sums into descending order. This produced a listing that showed which skills dominate the highest-growth occupations.

Here’s my list:

Rank
Skill
Skill-Job-Growth Product
1
Active Listening
52,729,916
2
Reading Comprehension
52,477,840
3
Critical Thinking
52,070,493
4
Speaking
51,481,774
5
Monitoring
49,815,058
6
Coordination
48,419,005
7
Social Perceptiveness
48,027,434
8
Writing
47,574,077
9
Service Orientation
47,178,353
10
Judgment and Decision Making
45,943,172
11
Active Learning
45,815,111
12
Time Management
44,982,511
13
Complex Problem Solving
44,624,404
14
Instructing
43,671,844
15
Persuasion
42,696,089
16
Learning Strategies
42,436,634
17
Negotiation
39,703,938
18
Management of Personnel Resources
39,210,957
19
Systems Evaluation
36,952,808
20
Systems Analysis
36,259,478
21
Mathematics
35,148,591
22
Operation Monitoring
30,301,912
23
Quality Control Analysis
27,595,984
24
Operations Analysis
22,708,414
25
Operation and Control
21,719,737
26
Management of Material Resources
21,601,778
27
Management of Financial Resources
19,478,547
28
Troubleshooting
19,330,105
29
Science
17,922,486
30
Technology Design
12,142,746
31
Equipment Selection
10,927,713
32
Equipment Maintenance
9,387,298
33
Repairing
8,946,558
34
Programming
8,935,518
35
Installation
4,495,964

Why is Active Listening in first place? My guess is that this happens because of the rapid growth that is projected for health-care occupations and service occupations. Also note the high rankings of Monitoring, Social Perceptiveness, and Service Orientation, and think in terms of the fastest-growing health-care occupations, such as Registered Nurses, which is projected to add 526,800 workers, and Home Health Aides, 424,200 workers.

The workforce of the future will need excellent communications skills. In addition to Active Listening, note the high rankings of Reading Comprehension, Speaking, and Writing. We may be doing more video communication than ever before, but verbal skills will remain crucial.

It’s also intriguing to note the high ranking of Critical Thinking. Nowadays information is easier than ever to obtain but varies wildly in quality. To do our jobs well, we must be capable of separating good ideas from rumor, ideological bias, and “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Given the third-place showing of Critical Thinking, it’s ironic that the teaching of this skill in our schools is receiving some political push-back in one of our most populous states.

A related idea is that we will need to be learning constantly to keep abreast of changes in technology and business practices. This explains the fairly high ranking of Active Learning and Learning Strategies, not to mention the reading and communications skills that are usually involved in learning. In addition, many workers will be involved in teaching others, so it’s no surprise to find Instructing in 14th place.

Although many of the high-ranked skills are needed by managers, it’s interesting to observe that the three resource-management skills come in much lower. Even the self-management skill Time Management does not make the top 10. Managerial occupations are projected to grow by only 7 percent, less than the average of 11 percent.

You may be especially surprised to see Programming second from the bottom. Isn’t there going to be a lot of growth in high-tech occupations? To be sure, the computer occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent and add 651,300 jobs. However, in most of these occupations, Programming is less important than other skills. For example, for Computer Systems Analysts, O*NET gives higher skill ratings to Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking, and Quality Control Analysis. For Software Developers, Applications, O*NET gives higher ratings to Troubleshooting. And let’s not forget that one of the computer occupations with the most growth, Computer User Support Specialists (adding 110,800 jobs), has very low demands for Programming skill (it ranks 30th).

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