A new study shows about 80 percent of middle-skill job openings list some kind of digital proficiency as a prerequisite for employment.
Significant Digital and computer skills have become essential for nearly 80 percent of middle-skill jobs, according to a new study from Capital One Financial Corp. and Burning Glass Technologies.
The middle-skill job segment of the workforce, which accounts for roughly 39 percent of total domestic employment, includes some office assistants, sales representatives, retail supervisors, recruiters and other positions that require a high school degree but may not list a four-year college degree as a prerequisite.
For the purposes of the study, researchers scoured roughly 40,000 job boards and nearly 100 million postings, focusing on positions for which less than 80 percent of postings required a bachelor’s degree and that offered median hourly payment above $15.
The study found that middle-skill jobs that require digital expertise have been growing at a faster rate than those that do not. They also, on average, offer wages that are 18 percent higher.
The market for digitally intensive middle-skill jobs expanded 4.7 percent between 2003 and 2013 and offer an average hourly wage of $23.76, and have continually grown since then according to the study. Nondigital middle-skill jobs, meanwhile, only saw growth of 1.9 percent and offer an average of $20.14 per hour.
And technology-savvy middle-skill jobs have more recently seen growth that slightly eclipses expansion in the high-skill sector, which is made up of chemists, advanced computer systems analysts, doctors and other positions that require highly specialized skills and usually require at least a bachelor's degree or the completion of an extensive training program.
According to the study, digitally intensive middle-skill jobs grew 4.8 percent. High-skill positions saw 4.7 percent growth during that period.
“Many economists worry about ‘hollowing out’ the labor force: losing middle-skill jobs and adding jobs only at the high and low ends of the labor market,” the report says. “It has been clear for some time that technological illiteracy, much less technophobia, is no longer a sustainable option for the modern worker.”
There are more opportunities and more money available in digitally intensive middle-skill positions than in non-digital middle-skill fields.
About two-thirds of all middle-skill jobs require, at MINIMUM, proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel, similar productivity software, or enterprise resource management software like Oracle. Jobs that require only proficiency in such productivity software offered 13 percent higher wages than nondigital middle-skill positions.
Positions that required more specialized, often industry-specific digital know-how offered 38 percent higher wages than nondigital middle-skill jobs, and 22 percent higher wages than the middle-skill jobs that only required simpler software familiarity.
Jobs requiring advanced digital skills "offer the strongest opportunity for middle-skill job seekers in terms of salary and growth as well as career advancement,” the report says. “Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills. Even for middle-skill production jobs, such as machinists, eight in 10 job postings require these skills at some level.”
That’s not to say, however, that sales reps and the like should throw their humanity out the window and become robots. While “computer skills” are listed among the study’s most common baseline requirements for digitally intensive middle-skill jobs, communications skills, customer service, organizational skills, problem-solving, planning and relationship-building skills are also included on that list, suggesting a human element is still a major prerequisite for success in that segment of the workforce.
“Employers continue to demand other skills that would be helpful in an office environment, such as communications skills, writing and relationship building,” the report says. “But word processing and spreadsheets are a basic requirement for nearly all office jobs.”
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