Shifting Economic Landscape Is Reshaping Work

deskThe shifting demand for skills in the modern workplace may be working to the benefit of women. Women, who represent 47% of the overall workforce, make up the majority of workers in jobs where social or analytical skills are relatively more important, 55% and 52%, respectively. For their part, men are relatively more engaged in jobs calling for more intensive physical and manual skills, making up 70% of workers in those occupations. This is likely to have contributed to the shrinking of the gender pay gap from 1980 to 2015 given that wages are rising much faster in jobs requiring social and analytical skills.

These changes highlight the rise of a service-oriented and knowledge-based economy. From 1990 to 2015, employment growth in the U.S. was led by the educational services and health care and social assistance sectors. Employment has doubled in each of these sectors since 1990 (105% and 99%, respectively). By comparison, overall employment (non-farm) increased 30% during this period.

Most workers say they will need continuous training, and many say they don’t have the skills they need now to get ahead in their job

Fully 54% of adults who are currently in the labor force say that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with changes in the workplace. An additional 33% say this will be important, but not essential. Only 12% of workers say ongoing training will not be important for them.

It’s the most highly educated workers who feel this most acutely. Some 63% of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education say they will need to keep advancing their skills throughout their career, compared with 45% of those with no college experience who feel the same sense of urgency. Government data reinforce this finding as workers with higher levels of education are more likely to engage in job training or acquire job certificates or licenses.

Young adults are more likely than their older counterparts to see skills and training as essential (61% among those ages 18 to 29), perhaps because of the longer trajectory they have ahead of them. Even so, 56% of those ages 30 to 49 say ongoing training will be essential for them, as do roughly four-in-ten workers ages 50 and older.

Adults who are working in certain STEM-related industries of science, technology, engineering and math are among the most likely to say ongoing training and skills development will be essential for them. Two-thirds of employed adults who work in computer programming and information technology say this will be essential for them. And roughly six-in-ten workers who are in the health care industry (62%) say the same. By contrast, about half of adults working in hospitality (47%), manufacturing or farming (46%) or retail or wholesale trade (46%) see training and skills development as an essential part of their future work life.3

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