Five years ago, I was in the UK when I created a version of Shift Happens for the education system - less about globalisation, more about the challenges for the education system in the UK and worldwide) – which became ‘the video’ of the moment at education conferences etc.

You can read more about how Shift Happens UK came about, based on the work of Karl Fisch here, download Shift Happens UK here, or watch it on YouTube here.

Even now I sit in audiences where people quote/show these three images from the video (it happened again last week):

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist...using technologies that haven't been invented...in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

And as a result, I’m always on the lookout for information on what’s actually happening in the workplace. There was a good article in The Atlantic last week about the key declining and growing occupations over the last two decades. The research was done in America, and was part of a look at de-unionisation of the workforce (the hypothesis it supported was that the jobs in decline were historically more unionised, and the jobs in ascendancy are typically not; and that one of key correlations for changes in union membership was the use of technology within occupations).

The key occupations in decline

What it showed is that the key occupations in decline between 1983-2002 were:

  1. Brick & stonemason apprentices (falling by over 90%)
  2. Show machine operators
  3. Railroad brake, signal and switch operators
  4. Housekeepers and butlers
  5. Drilling and boring machine operators
  6. Helpers, mechanics and labourers (falling by over 80%)

The key occupations that are growing

Whilst the key occupations that grew were:

  1. Numerical control machine operators (growing by over 1500%)
  2. Helpers, construction trades
  3. Managers – medicine and health
  4. Health diagnosing practitioners
  5. Marine engineers
  6. Computer systems analyst and scientists (growing by nearly 500%)

You should look at the charts in The Atlantic for the fuller list – and the full report is available free for education users. But what struck me about the lists are that the ‘physical’ jobs are declining rapidly whilst the ‘mental’ jobs are the ones growing. (Except one bizarre exception, which shows that sociologists have shrunk by nearly two-thirds in that time)