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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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Today's Daily Quote

Lee Iacocca Quote on Listening

“Listening can make the difference between a mediocre organization and a great one.” ~Lee Iacocca

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quote about Dreaming and Taking Action

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Howard Hughes Quote on the Concessions

“Once you consent to some concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they are.” ~Howard Hughes

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