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Tomorrow’s world of work

We look at some of the key trends shaping future job opportunities

The nature of employment is undergoing fundamental change. Photograph: iStock

The nature of employment is undergoing fundamental change. Photograph: iStock


The pace of technological change is so rapid that whole sectors are in danger of being swept away, while the nature of employment is undergoing fundamental change. “It’s a challenge to figure out the dynamics of the current careers market and even more of a challenge to forecast the future,” says Aidan McLaughlin, communications director with job site Indeed. com. “The pace of change is faster than ever. The internet and technology are changing how we work, where we work, and why we work.”

He says people need to understand why some sectors may grow in future and why others might change. “Automation is a challenge,” he explains. “Some jobs may not exist in future. On the other hand, there is a section of market significantly less open to automation. Roles which involve managing people, strategic planning and creative work, they will continue to be required. It is very hard to predict for the long term though.”

Gerard McDonough, director, PwC People and Organisation, agrees. “It’s hard to plan for a career in a job which may not be there in 10 years’ time,” he says. “People may think of going into a STEM area because that’s very popular. And it is. But our research shows that CEOs are looking for more than the STEM qualifications now. They are also looking for creative and emotional intelligence skills that can add value to it.”

That is a marked change to how things used to be. “In the past, people would get a qualification, join an organisation, work there for four or five years and then get promoted to a management position,” McDonough points out. “After that, the organisation would help them layer on more skills. This has accelerated now, and people are expected to come in with those softer life skills at the very beginning. It’s no longer about the job you do, it’s about the bundle of skills you acquire.”

Technology will have a profound impact. “Algorithms and AI will be able to audit accounts quicker and better than humans,” McDonough adds. “We will still need to have the basic accountancy skills and then layer on others. It’s not a question of protecting the jobs – we will have to protect the people. We will have to help them gain the digital skills, transformation skills, commercial, marketing and internationalisation skills they will need in future. It’s about helping people move up the value chain.”

He notes that India is debating banning driverless cars to protect the jobs of drivers but believes this is the wrong approach. “AI and robotic process automation (RPA) will become digital assistants and will learn tasks and abilities. Your smartphone will remind you that your wedding anniversary is coming up next month. It will tell you it’s your 20th, suggest gifts to buy and a trip to go on based on what it knows about your preferences. It will then negotiate and book all these things for you once you approve its recommendations. But it won’t replace everything. Robots will do the boring stuff. It will free up humans to be more creative, more persuasive, more collaborative, and more value-enhancing.”

The need for a wider skillset is also noted by KPMG head of resourcing Paul Vance. “Technology has become a big focal point for recruiters,” he says. “In many cases, it’s a lot more than being just tech savvy – increasingly candidates need to have experience of how technology is impacting on the board agenda and how it’s impacting on business overall. We see this in our own hiring requirements and naturally we see it in our clients’ business. The critical point is that it’s impacting every area and not just the tech sector. Despite the talk of technology impacting negatively on jobs, our own CEO research indicates that many business leaders see areas such as artificial intelligence creating more jobs than it destroys.”

Looking to the future, Aidan McLaughlin sees four key growth areas – global business services, financial services, STEM, and healthcare. “Global business services roles are needed by companies as they grow and scale,” he says. “Increasingly these roles are being created here in Ireland. They are typically cross-departmental strategic roles and it is an exciting area to work in. Postings for these roles are up about 50 per cent year on year. Postings are growing at a faster rate than there are people searching for them.”

Brexit is having a noticeable impact on financial services. “This is bringing opportunities for Ireland,” says McLaughlin. “Finance roles have increased by 15 per cent this year. Lot of that is due to relocation from London. Bank of America recently announced 250 new jobs here while Thompson Reuters is moving some of its exchange and derivatives operations to Dublin. STEM continues to be an area where there is huge demand outstripping supply”

Cybersecurity is a particular growth area. “Job posts are up 18 per cent this year. Coding is the language of commerce and the language of the internet. It needs to be taught in schools the same way as French, German and other languages are taught. In healthcare, nursing, homecare services continue to grow at incredibly rapid pace. We need people to take care of our aging population. Nurses are very much in demand in most western countries and that’s not going to change any time soon.”

Source of opportunities

The wider healthcare sector is also a source of opportunities. “The medtech industry has always provided excellent career opportunities and right now, there has never been a more exciting time to be working in the sector,” says Brendan O’Dwyer, head of talent acquisition with Abbott.

“Working in science and particularly in a company like Abbott gives you the opportunity to build a career while knowing that you are doing life-changing work, making a real difference in people’s lives. This is attracting millennials and experienced professionals to work in our sector. Last year, we launched 20 new life-changing technologies around the globe and knowing they are helping to make the difference is really important to our team.

“They also want to build a career and Abbott has over many years developed structured programmes in technical and leadership development to allow our employees to progress within the company,” he continues. “We want to keep our best people and many senior managers have upskilled and built their careers in Abbott having joined at entry-level roles. We currently employ over 3,000 people across 10 sites in Ireland and we are continuing to build out our team here. We see continued demand for science graduates and are actively supporting STEM education to ensure that young people can access the career opportunities in our sector.”

What constitutes a rewarding career is also changing, according to PwC’s McDonough. “A lot of the time it has been about profit up until now,” he notes. “It’s now more about purpose. People want to be bought in to their job. Where there were hierarchies, there are now networks. Where organisations were controlling, they are now empowering. Where there was planning, there is now experimentation. Future organisations are going to be very open, upfront and have strong values. That’s what’s going to attract people to them.”