Creative freelancers, are your digital skills 'future-proof'?

Creative freelancers seeking to ‘future-proof’ their skills – from automation, Brexit and other threats – have been handed a new report from an innovation body.

Convinced that the government’s strategy of merely investing in digital skills “isn’t enough,” Nesta analysed 41million job adverts to identify which of the skills will be ‘hot’ by 2030.

The opposite was also factored into the study – specifically, which digital skills will be intrinsic to jobs “most likely to disappear” by then, due to pressures like technology evolving.

“If you are just inputting data it may not be long before a robot can take your place,” cautioned Nesta’s principal policy researcher and the study’s author Eliza Easton.

“But if you are creating something with that data, your job is not only less likely to disappear but we predict that it will become more important.”

'Buoyant'

Her prediction stems from the headline finding that a job which currently does not need many digital skills, such as a teacher, can actually have the more “buoyant” outlook.

And it was also found that what sets ‘future-proof’ digital skills apart (from more vulnerable digital skills), is their use in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and content creation.

It all means that skills in animation, multimedia production and design engineering are among the jobs foreseen by Nesta to have the brightest futures for their practitioners.

'Least promising'

By contrast, the least promising digital skills for the future workforce were found by the study to include:

  1. Invoice processing and management of accounts using accounting software
  2. Data input and preparation of payroll and tax reports
  3. Clerical duties (e.g. typing, using a word processor, spreadsheets, email and calendar software)
  4. Sales support and processing of orders in sales management systems
  5. Stock and inventory management using inventory control systems.

At the other end of the resilience spectrum is ‘Research and Quantitative Data Analysis’ work, and contracts for ‘Building and Maintaining IT Systems and Networks’.

Creatives may balk at the latter tech work falling within their industry, but since a DCMS reclassification in 2006, ‘IT, Software and Computer Services’ are part of the creative industries.

'Don't fear the future'

“For policymakers, it is a reminder to look beyond the ‘digital’ or ‘tech’ label and consider the specific skills that the workforce of the future will need,” Ms Easton said of the findings.

“Policymakers, teachers, and the workforce need to stop fearing the future. Or at least they should recognise that they have an opportunity to shape it.”

One key way to shape it, she suggested, is for the government to make training for sole traders less taxing, and more inclusive -- a recommendation that freelance body IPSE has also urged.

“With the number of self-employed people on the rise, and those people about half as likely to participate in work-related training…it seems like an important moment to invest in retraining”, Nesta said. “Most importantly, we mustn’t shy away from skills that seem difficult to teach - it is these that set us apart from the robots.”

Editor's Note: Related --

Digital age refreshes now-in-force data laws

What they should teach digital freelancers (but don't)

How creative skills' needs are changing

 

7th August 2018

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