What to study today for the jobs of tomorrow

If you’ve just graduated from nursing school, you'll likely end up with a job in your field. But what about students just getting started? What jobs will be in demand by the time they graduate?. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

TORONTO – If you’ve just graduated from a nursing or computer science program, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with a job in your field.

Recent survey data from Workopolis showed that Canadians graduating with a nursing degree have a 97 per cent chance of landing you a job in that field, whereas a computer science degree will give you a 91 per cent chance of a related career.

But what about students just entering post-secondary education? What jobs will be in high demand when they graduate?

Canadian futurist Trevor Haldenby has a few ideas of what jobs will be available in 2020, and they’re a far cry from the regular old career paths we’re used to.

Haldenby recently teamed up with Future Shop to identify the top five career prospects of 2020. The jobs have a few things in common; they focus on science and technology. But at the same time, they focus on people.

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“The jobs of 2020 are about food, tourism, personal brands, turning corporate environments into creative environments,” said Haldenby. “They’re about combining emerging technology with human needs.”

Trevor’s jobs of 2020

  • Foodologist – Part biologist, psychologist, farmer and chef, this job will combine art and science to explore new, sustainable food options, while working in restaurants, food trucks and in Canada’s greenbelts.
  • Personal transmedia consultant – Part “digital bodyguard,” part PR agent, consultants will manage social networks, big data, and social profiles for trendy clients.
  • Star subscription teacher – Tech savvy and passionate about what they know, digital educators can work from anywhere in the world, teaching lessons via virtual hangouts and webinars.
  • Virtual tour guide – Virtual tour guides will offer customers personalized tours via an eco-friendly drone or robot.
  • Corporate game master – This person will inject elements of fun into the corporate workplace.

Haldenby said doing “foresight work” is “a bit of an art and a bit of a science.”

He looks at trends already at play today – such as trends in technology, how people socialize, changes in politics, the environment and so on – and imagines how these trends could snowball in the future.

“The career choices from the year 2020 (and beyond) amplify and explore trends already at play in the world of 2014,” said Haldenby. Many technologies already out there today give us “glimmering glimpses of the world of tomorrow,” he said.

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These jobs will challenge students and recent grads to develop skills around media literacy, digital design and storytelling. “People will remain hungry to learn and explore, and technology will continue to play an even greater role,” he said.

Today’s students will help create tomorrow’s jobs

When it comes to the jobs of the future, much of it will be dictated by the passions, skills and interests of today’s students. The so-called Generation Z kids (those born after 1995, now 18 years old and younger) have already been declared entrepreneurial and ambitious.

Data compiled in June by New York-based advertising agency Sparks & Honey showed that 76 per cent of Gen Z want their hobby to turn into a full-time job. Sixty per cent want a job that creates social change.

Haldenby said, whether through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo or start-up companies, more and more people are creating their own business and are figuring out ways to “divine” a career for themselves.

He believes the trend toward the entrepreneurial and community-driven careers will continue, as will a real sense of environmental and social sustainability, of building things that make a change in the world and in the community.

That said, experts believe a balance still needs to be struck between passion and reality.

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“You want people to follow their passion, dig into something that energizes them. But I think they need to have a good sense of where that could lead,” said Tara Talbot, vice president of HR at Workopolis.

Is there a degree in ‘jobs of the future’?

Although many jobs will be created by a new generation of entrepreneurs and crowdfunders, that doesn’t mean post-secondary education will become obsolete.

As key technologies get cheaper and easier to use, “more and more people will start playing in that space, whether they’re taking a specialist program or not,” said Haldenby.

However, he added, “the need for expertise will always be there.”

The good news: Canadian educators are on board. While the offerings vary, some Canadian colleges and universities are doing amazing work investing in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which offer education remotely through free online courses.

Schools today are also adopting technology that used to be reserved for well-funded research labs. “Some schools are great at trying this [technology] out,” said Haldenby. “They’re obtaining 3D printers and fostering a start-up culture within the school.”

Health care, computer sciences lead jobs in-demand today

If you’re entering the workforce today, there are certain degrees that have a better chance of resulting in a job.

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A Workopolis study lists five degrees most likely to get graduates a related job in their field:

  • Nursing (97 per cent likelihood of landing a related job)
  • Pharmacy (94%)
  • Computer Science (91%)
  • Engineering (90%)
  • Human Resources (88%)

According to the study data, typical jobs that come out of a computer science degree include software developer, web developer, business analyst, consultant or project manager.

Engineering graduates often become mechanical, design, project, electrical and software engineers.

The top health care jobs for new grads include kinesiologists, physiotherapists, registered nurses, occupational therapists and pharmacists.

For those nervous about Canada’s economy (still bleeding jobs and recovering stubbornly slow from the global recession) you may opt to allay unemployment fears by pursuing one of these in-demand jobs.

  • Registered nurses and nurse supervisors
  • Managers in health, education, social and community services
  • Medical technologists and technicians (except dental health)
  • Architects, urban and land use planners, land surveyors
  • Construction managers, residential home builders and renovators, transportation managers

Based on trends in labour supply and demand in Canada, these five occupations aren’t expected to have enough job applicants to meet demand over the next seven years.


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