ERIC Identifier: ED318913
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Imel, Susan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult
Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Jobs in the Future. ERIC Digest No. 95.
Information about future labor market needs is important to a variety of
audiences, including vocational and career educators who use it as the basis for
curriculum development and in helping individuals make career decisions. During
the 1980s, a number of factors converged to affect the labor market. The most
significant of these were the nation's loss of competitiveness in the world
marketplace, continued shifts in production from goods to services, changes in
the skill requirements of many jobs, and demographic shifts in the population.
Changes in projected labor market needs in combination with the changing
composition of the work force are providing new challenges for vocational and
career educators. This ERIC Digest, an update of Naylor (1985), provides
information about jobs in the future including projections of future labor
market needs, the educational implications of these projections, and the
relationship between projected labor market needs and the changing work force.
It concludes with some implications for vocational and career educators.
FUTURE LABOR MARKET NEEDS
Recent information from the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (Kutscher 1989; Silvestri and Lukasiewicz 1989)
indicates that many of the trends related to future labor market needs begun in
the 1980s will continue to the end of the century. BLS projections include the
1. The rapid growth of the service-producing sector and the decline in the
share of employment devoted to the goods-producing industry will continue. For
example, of the 18 million increase in jobs projected between 1988 and 2000,
16.6 million are expected to be in the services industries.
2. Of the 20 occupations with the fastest projected growth rate, half are in
the health occupations, with rapid growth also projected for occupations related
to computer technology.
3. Occupations that will have the largest numerical increase will include
those in retail trade, health services, and educational services.
4. An increase in the number of construction jobs will not offset a decline
in manufacturing jobs so that there will be a continuing decline in the total
share of employment in the goods-producing sector.
EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE CHANGING LABOR
According to BLS (ibid.), there are a number of education-related
implications associated with these labor market projections. These implications,
which also continue to reflect trends noted in the 1980s, include the following
1. Each of the three major occupational groups requiring the highest levels
of educational attainment is projected to continue to grow more rapidly than the
average for total employment through the end of the century. These groups are
executive, administrative, and managerial occupations; professional specialty
occupations; and technicians and related support occupations.
2. Those occupational groups with the fewest educational requirements, for
example, operators, fabricators, and laborers, will experience either slower
growth or a decline.
3. Despite the general rising trend in educational requirements associated
with employment, there will still be many good jobs available in 2000 for
individuals without a bachelor's degree. Examples of these include brick layers,
stonemasons, electricians, plumbers, metalworkers, data processing repairers,
electronic repairers, and mobile heavy equipment mechanics. Some of these jobs
will require only a high school education, but most will require some
postsecondary education and training.
4. Although jobs will be available for those without a high school education,
entry into the better paying jobs will continue to be severely limited for such
According to Silvestri and Lukasiewicz (1989), "the future occupational
structure is projected to provide jobs for workers at all educational levels,
but persons with the most education and training will enjoy the best
opportunities" (p. 42).
LABOR MARKET NEEDS AND THE CHANGING WORK FORCE
The jobs of
the future are evolving gradually, following many of the patterns established
during the past decade. Although a lot is written about new jobs and job titles,
most workers will be doing the same jobs during the next decade. It is likely,
however, that most jobs will have new aspects and require expanded skills.
On the other hand, the character of the labor force is changing at a much
faster rate (Levitan 1988). Major changes in the work force of the future
enumerated by Johnston and Packer (1987) include a shrinking pool of younger
people available to enter the work force due to declining population growth and
more women, minorities, and immigrants entering the work force. Some
incompatibility exists between the jobs of the future and the changes projected
to occur in the work force (Lightle ). This incompatibility between the
type of work available and the kind of labor force available to do it gives rise
to several issues.
The first of these has been termed the "educational shortfall" and is related
to the expectation that the most rapid job growth will be in occupations that
require some postsecondary training and education. There may be an insufficient
supply of individuals with the necessary education and training to fill these
jobs. Furthermore, there may be a lack of persons with the educational
background needed to qualify for the required postsecondary training (Kutscher
A second set of issues, related to the first, has to do with the growing
number of minorities in the work force. Minorities are currently
underrepresented in the occupations projected to be growing the most rapidly and
overrepresented in occupations that are projected to grow slowly or decline.
There is additional cause for concern because the faster growing occupations
require more education, and blacks and Hispanics have lower high school
completion rates. Thus, they may not be qualified to enter postsecondary
training. A continuing high unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics and
overrepresentation in declining occupations illustrates the poor use of these
population groups in the labor force, which could have serious consequences in
the future (ibid.).
The large number of women entering the labor force raises issues similar to
those discussed for minority entrants. The creation of large numbers of jobs in
the service sector will reinforce the low-wage, sex-segregated "pink collar
ghetto" in which the majority of women work. Also, like minorities, women are
underrepresented in those occupations projected to grow rapidly in the future
and they are disproportionately enrolled in education and training that prepares
them for low-wage jobs in traditional female occupations (Watson 1989).
A fourth set of issues is related to the area of job growth and decline. For
example, rapid growth is projected within the health services, an area that
includes occupations in which women have predominated. According to Kutscher
(1989), "the issue that this projected growth raises is, can this job growth be
achieved without a large increase in the number of men in some of these
occupations, for example, nursing?" (p. 73). Declines in the goods-producing
sector will likely lead to job displacement for some workers, many of whom may
not have the training and education needed for the available jobs. Fluctuations
in job growth and decline need to be addressed through training and education
programs that will ensure workers are prepared for the types of jobs that are in
The issues related to the interface of the
projected labor market with the work force of the future are interconnected.
Because the education and training requirements of future jobs are increasing,
there is concern that many who will be entering the labor force will not be
prepared. Vocational and career educators need to think of these issues as
interrelated, rather than separate, problems (ibid.). Strategies that they can
use to address these issues as interrelated problems include the following:
1. Advocating that their programs play a larger role in dropout prevention. A
career-focused curriculum has been proposed as one effective strategy for making
instructional programs relevant to at-risk students and thus motivating them to
remain in school.
2. Encouraging the further development of articulation models between
secondary and postsecondary institutions. Articulation between secondary and
postsecondary institutions provides individuals a bridge into the type of
technical education needed for the workplace of the future.
3. Emphasizing the importance of all students considering nontraditional
occupational choices. The changing composition of the work force in combination
with changes in jobs means that vocational and career educators must continue
their efforts to eliminate sex bias and stereotyping related to occupational
4. Continuing the development of programs that are accessible to all groups
within the population. Programs must accommodate a diversity of learners,
including women, Hispanics, blacks, handicapped persons,
limited-English-proficient individuals, and older adults.
5. Providing programs that include the development of basic skills as well as
those that are occupationally specific. Basic skills deficiencies can hinder job
performance and limit an individual's ability to profit from further training.
Johnston, W. B., and Packer, A. H. "Workforce
2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century." Indianapolis: Hudson Institute,
1987. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 290 887).
Kutscher, R. E. "Projections Summary and Emerging Issues." Monthly Labor
Review 112, no. 11 (November 1989): 66-74. (ERIC No. EJ 399 966).
Levitan, S. A. "Beyond 'Trendy' Forecasts: The Next 10 Years for Work." In
Careers Tomorrow: The Outlook for Work in a Changing World, edited by E.
Cornish. Bethesda, MD: World Futures Society, 1988.
Lightle, J. "The Future Labor Force and Workplace and the Scientific and
Engineering Workforce: Implications for Society and Business and Practical
Solutions." Worthington, OH: Human Resource and Career Solutions, .
Naylor, M. "Jobs of the Future. Overview. ERIC Digest No. 48." Columbus: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, The National Center
for Research in Vocational Education, The Ohio State University, 1985. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED 259 216).
Silvestri, G., and Lukasiewicz, J. "Projections of Occupational Employment,
1988-2000." Monthly Labor Review 112, no. 11 (November 1989): 42-65. (ERIC No.
EJ 399 965).
Watson, J. "Women, Work and the Future. Workforce 2000." Washington, DC:
National Commission on Working Women, January 1989. (ERIC Document Reproduction
Service No. ED 304 552).