Are Young People Prepared for Future Jobs?

The emergence of AI has caused many fears about future job security. As it stands, AI hasn’t quite reached the same capabilities as humans, but as technology is ever-evolving, it’s hard to ignore the worry of how we’ll ever keep up.

However, job roles have always transformed over time due to factors beyond technological advancements, such as politics, economic trends and climate change. But what do the latest threats, such as AI, mean for future generations, and how can we prepare them now?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the careers that may emerge and decline in the next few decades based on current and past events. We’ll also look into what skills will be in demand as a result and whether they align with what young people are learning today.

What are students learning now?

Before we delve into the future, let’s discuss what subjects young people are currently studying and the skills they’ll develop.

Most students take between eight and 10 GCSEs, with Maths, English and Science mandatory for everyone in England and Wales — studying Welsh is also compulsory in Wales. However, students can choose the other subjects they’d like to pursue.

To find out the most popular school subjects, we  at Dukes Plus surveyed around 1,000 students and found the following[1].

STEM Subjects

two students in science lab. One studying liquid in test tubes while the other uses a microscope

Our study of around 1,000 students revealed that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) school subjects were the most popular[1].

As well as developing the hard skills required for STEM careers, like data analysis, programming, and mathematics, these subjects can provide various useful soft skills. Here are some examples:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Perseverance
  • Collaboration
  • Initiative

However, further research suggests that school resources are not fulfilling the growing demand from young people to study STEM subjects.

While online monthly searches for “computer science A level” saw a 21% year-on-year increase, the Government has reportedly only been able to recruit 70% of the required computer science teachers[2]. Additionally, in a Teach First study, nearly nine in 10 parents said their children’s schools needed more high-quality maths and science teachers[3].

Humanities Subjects

Student in a classroom with a raised hand while a teacher points at a map on the wall

A third of the students cited Humanities subjects as their favourite[1], which includes history, foreign languages, literature, and geography.

While the options cover a broad range, Humanities subjects can teach a variety of transferable skills, such as:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Resilience
  • Global Awareness

An Oxford University study found the business sector was the most common destination for humanities graduates, followed by the legal professions and creative sectors. The skills developed in Humanities courses also helped graduates adapt to the 2008 financial crisis and the post-COVID labour market[4].

Humanities courses can provide extremely fulfilling and valuable careers — The British Academy cited that 55% of global leaders are Arts & Humanities and Social Science graduates[5]. However, the number of students taking humanities subjects at university has fallen by 40,000 in 10 years[6].

Creative subjects

Students in an art classroom painting canvases on easel

Creative classes, like art, drama and music, were the least popular, with just a quarter of students citing these subjects as their favourite[1].

However, a previous study found that half of 16-25-year-olds wanted to pursue creative careers, but nearly two-thirds didn’t feel teachers or career advisers provided adequate guidance. A quarter of parents also admitted they would actively prevent their child from pursuing a creative career[7].

It’s unfortunate that many young people aren’t encouraged to explore creative subjects, with these careers often seen as unattainable. However, the UK creative Industries employ more than two million people annually[8] across publishing, film, marketing, and more.

As well as creativity, these subjects can also teach students the universal skills of: 

  • Confidence
  • Self-Discipline
  • Versatility
  • Adaptability
  • Openness to feedback

All these soft skills can help workers adapt to changing and challenging employment markets. The Future of the Jobs Report[9] also found that creative thinking is growing in importance slightly more rapidly than analytical thinking among employers.

What are the current skill shortages?

Several industries are currently experiencing a skills gap due to varying factors, including rapidly changing job markets, a lack of upskilling opportunities within companies, and a mismatch between the skills people acquire and what’s needed. So, what are the existing skills shortages?

The Digital Sectors

close up photo of someone analysing website traffic data using analytic software

In 2016, the House of Commons declared a digital skills crisis, requiring urgent action from the industry, schools and universities. At the time, 12.6 million UK adults lacked basic digital skills, and the crisis cost the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year[2].

Since this report, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the problem, causing many businesses to digitalise quickly and more employees to operate online. Yet, in 2022, And Digital reported that more than a quarter of respondents still lacked sufficient digital skills for their job roles, and six in 10 workers had never received digital upskilling from their employer[10].

That same year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) released a ‘UK Digital Strategy’[11] to increase the supply of digitally and tech-enabled workers at all levels — strengthening the digital education pipeline as one of the top priorities.

Jobs requiring digital skills provide enhanced security as they have a 59% lower risk of automation and tend to pay 29% more than non-digital roles[12]. There are even more businesses valuing digital skills than university degrees[13]. So, people unable to obtain a degree can still get ahead of the curve with online digital courses.

Digital skills are reportedly already required for 82% of jobs[14], but almost 60% of UK workers haven’t had any digital skills training[15]. The skills shortage has impacted several industries, with manufacturing, software, transportation and engineering being some of the most affected.

The Creative Industries

student sat at a desk using a laptop to look at creative images online for inspiration to create her own design

Despite having a misguided reputation for not providing realistic and lucrative jobs, creative industries add £87.4bn to the UK economy[16]. Creative industries are also the third largest employers of STEM graduates and hire many humanities graduates[17].

Previous reports stated creative jobs grow at three times the UK average and that the sector will need 1.2 million new workers over the decade. Yet, 42% of the industry’s UK employers reported a skills gap issue[18].

Jobs requiring a combination of creative and technical skills seem to have the biggest skills gap, with hard-to-fill roles including:

  • Game designers
  • Web designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Arts officers
  • Animators
  • Line producers

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many creatives into different jobs, but the skills gap was present before. Brexit restricted access to European talent, which the UK creative industries previously relied on to fill the skills gap. Inclusion and diversity issues are also present in creative sectors, causing many to be unaware of the opportunities available and providing several barriers to entering these careers.

The Financial Sector

Printed data reports and counted piles of American dollars on a desk next to a laptop

UK Finance claimed the financial services sector could contribute an additional £555 million per year to the UK economy in additional output by closing its skills gaps[19].

As technology continues to revolutionise the finance industry, it’s developed a greater need for professionals with digital expertise, including cybersecurity and data analysis skills, while being more actively involved in the wider business[20].

As well as digital skills, the shortages include:

  • Relationship management
  • Coaching
  • Persuasion
  • Stakeholder management
  • Commercial aptitude
  • Analytical skills

The Financial Services Skills Commission reported that three in 100 financial services roles were unfilled in 2023. A declining number of apprentices and graduates entered financial services, but there was a rise in reskilling[21].

Many believe upskilling and reskilling existing staff members is the best approach to fill this gap, with mentoring and coaching considered the most effective approach by 88% of CFOs[20].

The Healthcare Industry

three surgeons in a medical theatre conducting an operation

The workforce shortages were the biggest challenge facing the NHS long before COVID-19[22]. However, the problem soared following the pandemic, with the healthcare demand enormously surpassing the available resources, causing immense pressure.

In 2022, a record of nearly 170,000 employees left NHS services in hospitals, community health services and other core health organisations. This figure includes more than 41,000 nurses — the highest leaving rate for at least a decade. More than 27,500 NHS workers who quit their roles in 2022 cited work-life balance as the reason[23].

The supply-demand gap of an estimated 126,000 vacancies [24] — as of the first quarter of 2023/24 — is projected to rise to around 179,000 in 2024/25[22]

What jobs will grow in demand?

As students choose courses, whether that’s at GCSE, A-Level or Degree level, their future career will likely be at the forefront of their minds. While it’s important to encourage children towards their dreams, it’s also vital to inform them of the realities of the job market.

It’s predicted that 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new jobs and functions that don’t yet exist[25]. So, predicting the sought-after skills and fastest-growing jobs when they graduate can help them make early choices that further their careers.

Climate Change Specialists

Scientist examining samples under a microscope in a lab

As sustainability targets get closer, jobs tackling climate change will become a critical part of the job market. It’s estimated that around 18 million people will need reskilling for Europe to reach its goal of being the first climate-neutral continent[26].

The types of green jobs vary, from protecting the environment to helping businesses lower their carbon emissions and creating more sustainable ways of living.

The specific roles within this field include:

  • Renewable energy engineers
  • Sustainability specialists
  • Atmospheric and space specialists
  • Green building architects
  • Wildlife biologists

Although global demand for green skills has risen by 40% since 2015, only 13% of the labour workforce has the necessary skills[27]. To help fill this gap and prevent it from worsening, the educational curriculum will need more focus on green skills to inform children of this job prospect and spur curiosity.

As it stands, climate change isn’t a topic of interest to many young people, according to the Dukes Plus survey, and two-fifths don’t consider making a difference an important factor in their career choice[1].

In another report, young people said they are taught ‘just enough to pass the exam’ for both GCSE geography and science[28]. However, the British Science Association found that 72% of young people would welcome the opportunity to learn more about climate change in school[29].

Additionally, more than half of parents from a lower socio-economic background believe their children are unlikely to have a career in STEM. In response, Teach First called for increased pay for trainee teachers in subjects, like maths and science, particularly in low-income areas[3]

Medical Roles

Medical professional examining MRI brain scan

Healthcare will almost certainly remain important in the UK economy, and by 2030/31, the sector is expected to need 488,000 more staff members. Experts have specifically warned of a worsening shortfall of GPs and general practice nurses over the next decade[30].

Cancer Research UK has also said the NHS’s cancer workforce would need to double by 2027 — across radiologists, gastroenterologists, therapeutic radiographers and

Oncologists — to meet the needs of people expected to have cancer diagnoses[31].

 Of course, the medical industry is expected to change over the next decades, due to technological advancements providing treatment for once-fatal diseases. So, as more people live with chronic and long-term illnesses, bespoke and personal healthcare is likely to become more prevalent. Similarly, as the population lives longer, more elderly people will require care[32].

Digital Careers

Woman sat at a desk analysing code on a computer

While AI will make certain roles redundant, there will likely be an increasing need for humans to design, operate, maintain, and upgrade advanced equipment. In just three years, AI and Machine Learning specialist jobs are predicted to grow by 40%[9]. Here are some of the industries these jobs could exist within:

  • Healthcare
  • Agricultural
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • FinTech

Below are some other digital skills expected to rise in demand:

  • Analysing data to determine what’s useful and has value
  • Understanding the rules and regulations around using data ethically
  • Automating certain tasks to improve time efficiency
  • Monitoring and responding to cybersecurity threats

According to the World Economic Forum, nine out of 10 jobs in 2030 will require digital skills[33], putting those without digital literacy at a disadvantage.

What jobs will disappear?

Unfortunately, technological advancements will make some jobs redundant. As AI isn’t going anywhere and will constantly evolve, getting ahead of the problem is the only way to avoid falling victim to this threat.

If a machine can complete a job currently conducted by a human, the job will likely soon become automated. In fact, it’s already happening, with self-checkout machines, automated telemarketers and ATMs already common.

Technology replacing manual labour isn’t anything new, with the rise of the internet causing a similar wave in job changes. But which roles will likely get cut this time? Repetitive, time-consuming, data-processing tasks with the potential for human error are all at risk.

However, it boils down to whether AI can complete the same work more efficiently. Unfortunately, low-wage earners are 14 times more likely to lose jobs to AI[33], but some high-earning jobs are also at risk. Here are some examples:

  • Food services
  • Office clerks
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Couriers
  • Data Manager
  • Coder
  • Salespeople
  • Market research analysts
  • Bookkeeping Clerks

While these jobs are under threat, it doesn’t mean they’ll disappear instantly or altogether. Some people may be able to hold onto these jobs if there’s room for upskilling and reskilling, but sadly, some skills will decrease in value, such as mathematics, service, and administration.

What can be done now to protect young people’s future careers?

The Government Office for Science found that 42% of 16-year-old school leavers felt poorly prepared for the workforce[34]. So, what can be done to prevent the skills shortages from worsening and leaving future generations struggling to find employment?

Encourage Soft Skills Development

Seven students in classroom looking at information on laptops and cheering

It’s difficult to choose a career path while still at school, but ensuring young people learn transferable soft skills will prepare them for many job types. Soft skills will also likely become even more vital as jobs require the human qualities that AI can’t provide, like communication, empathy, creativity, and imagination.

Soft skills are often introduced at home and then quickly develop in school and everyday situations. As mentioned, Humanities subjects are great ways for students to enhance their soft skills, but there are many ways young people can actively develop these personal attributes.

Here are some examples of how to help young people enhance soft skills:

  • Promote extra-curricular activities to help with social, leadership, team-building and communication skills.
  • Expose them to different cultures to build on their empathy and cultural awareness.
  • Encourage independent hobbies, like writing, painting, and photography, to stimulate creativity.
  • Ask how they feel about current, historical, and fictional incidents, and ask them to imagine these situations from another person’s perspective to nurture an empathetic mindset.
  • To help their communication skills, encourage them to join an activity group or volunteer to interact with new people. 

The Dukes Education survey found being active and social was the most popular way young people spend their time, which is positive for building soft skills. However, being creative was the least popular. 

Digital Literacy

Birdseye view photo of multiple people working on laptops at a shared desk

It’s clear digital literacy will only grow in importance and become a necessity for most future jobs. Schools are already teaching some digital skills, with England being the first country to mandate teaching coding to children at primary and secondary schools[35].

While Computer Science isn’t a compulsory GCSE, 77,000 pupils choose the subject each year, and another 12,000 pupils take Computer Science A Levels. Additionally, over 19,000 schools have engaged with the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE)[11].

Encouraging students to take Computer Science as a GCSE and A-Level will help develop their digital skills, learning about algorithms, programming, data structures, cybersecurity, software development, and more.

Students especially interested in digital literacy can expand their knowledge through taking online courses or online tutoring, watching webinars, and reading informative articles. 

Promote career ambition early

It’s not always easy to get young people interested in career ambitions, but sometimes they just require some inspiration. Students certainly don’t need to be set on a specific job before even finishing school, but a broad idea will help lead them in the right direction or at least rule out what they don’t want to pursue.

If your child shows interest in particular subjects, signing them up to related clubs will nurture this further. You may know somebody working in the relevant industry who could provide advice and spark motivation. Alternatively, arranging career experiences can give young people a taste of an industry before they delve into the job.

At times, the concern about AI taking everyone’s jobs can feel overwhelming. However, preparing young people with the skills they need to stand out and keeping them informed will help protect their employability.

a woman working in a future job

Get Started

Use the Dukes Plus Career Pathway Tool to discover the best route to your or your child’s dream career.

Reference list

[1] “The InvestIN Career Quiz,” Dukes Plus (2024)

[2] “Digital skills crisis Second Report of Session,” House of Commons (2016)

[3] “UK STEM skills shortage ‘at risk of growing’ as low-income parents fear for children’s prospects,” Teach First (2024)

[4] “The Massive Value Of The Humanities,” University of Oxford (2023)

[5] “Understanding the career paths of AHSS graduates in the UK and their contribution to the economy,” The British Academy (2019)

[6] “Improving the fortunes of the humanities means thinking about post-16 qualifications,” The Higher Education Policy Institute (2021)

[7] “Young people want creative jobs but schools don’t support them, survey shows,” Design Week (2018)

[8] “Creative Industries Sector Vision: A joint plan to drive growth, build talent and develop skills,” Department for Culture, Media & Sport (2023)

[9] “Future of Jobs Report,” World Economic Forum (2023)

[10] “The nature of the UK’s digital skills gap,” AND Digital (2022)–3EfaraLpEhIgjjDWJeXL_rV6cv5D5iBIM1o_c23RFjK4FZ-cgDU5JfsS2jYUvGyrUN4dbyA8eXktPl4iBnpev8MwGR8F5ekHetvWwmxy8Sd5xPZo&utm_content=228151983&utm_source=hs_automation

[11] “Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport,” UK Digital Strategy (2022)

[12] “No Longer Optional: Employer Demand for Digital Skills,” Burning Glass,  Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (2019)

[13] “AWS UK – Unlocking Europe’s Digital Potential,” Public First (2022)

[14] “New connections: how we’re bridging the UK digital skills gap,” Microsoft Industry Blogs (2023)

[15] “Almost 60% of UK workers have had no digital skills training,” (2023)

[16] “NEWS: Creative industries add £87.4bn to UK economy,” The Creative Industries Council (2017)

[17] “Creative industries jobs – the risks and opportunities,” Creative Industries Federation (2017)

[18] “Creative Industry Skills Overview,” Screen South

[19] “Closing the skills gap: the key to maintaining competitiveness and boosting innovation,” UK Finance (2022)

[20] “Bridging The Skills Gap In Finance Functions,” Robert Walters Whitepaper

[21] “Bridging the skills gap in a rapidly evolving sector,” Financial Services Skills Commission (2024)

[22] “NHS workforce projections,” The Health Foundation (2022)

[23] “Revealed: record 170,000 staff leave NHS in England as stress and workload take toll” The Guardian (2023)

[24] “NHS staff shortage,” Statista (2024)

[25] “Solving Future Skills Challenges,” Digital Education Resource Archive (2018)

[26] “Investing in Our Planet by Investing in People,” Generation[27] “The future of jobs is green: How climate change is changing labour markets,” World Economic Forum (2023)

[28] “British Science Association – Written evidence,” UK Parliament – Committees (2023)

[29] “Future Forum report – Climate change education,” British Science Association (2024)

[30] “Over a million more health and care staff needed in the next decade to meet growing demand for care,” The Health Foundation (2021)

[31] “The Prime Minister committed to diagnosing cancers earlier – so how many staff does the NHS need to get there?” Cancer Research UK (2018)

[32] “10 unexpected jobs that will be huge in 2050,” Metro (2019)

[33] “Jobs will be very different in 10 years. Here’s how to prepare.” World Economic Forum (2020)

[34] “Future of Skills & Lifelong Learning,” Government Office for Science (2017)

[35] “Digital skills and inclusion – giving everyone access to the digital skills they need,” GOV.UK (2023)