Ten new jobs for a new generation

While they're sorting out who's doing which job in Westminster (and what it all means for your career prospects), we thought we'd have a look at some of the new jobs you could be doing in ten years' time

Futurologists recently predicted a range of new jobs that would exist by 2020. But just how realistic are these predictions, and what skills would we need to fill these positions if they ever exist?

Alternative Vehicle Developers

Designers and builders of the next generations of vehicle transport using alternative materials and fuels.

"Whether electric, hybrid, and fuel cell powered vehicles are a realistic proposition, I'm not sure," says Andrew Day, Professor of Automotive Engineering in the School of Engineering Design and Technology at the University of Bradford.

He feels the biggest new roles in the automotive sector for engineers will be in systems and materials. 

"The amount of computer power in a car is phenomenal now. Many of the advances that have been made in safety, emissions control, performance, comfort, etc. have been because there's software, hardware and firmware systems in cars which do a very intelligent job, essential for meeting legislative requirements and consumer expectations. 

"There will be an increasing need for people who really understand the mechanical, electronic and software principles that enable these to happen." 

Equally, people who can understand and work with new tyre materials, body materials, lubricants, engines and powertrains will also be in demand feels Day.

Virtual Lawyer

As more and more of our daily life goes online, specialists will be required to resolve legal disputes which could involve citizens resident in different legal jurisdictions.

Garfield Southall, chair of the Chester & North Wales Branch of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, feels the legal profession needs to start considering extra training for lawyers working in this field, as cases become more complex. 

"It may be a gradual drift from basic Internet law, but it is absolutely certain that there will be problems once the concept of Virtual Worlds is commonplace. Many of the issues which faced the early Internet (such as intellectual property rights and pornography) will manifest themselves again." 

Southall also believes cyberspace will eventually need to become a legally defined territory of its own.

Farmer of Genetically Engineered Crops and Livestock

 New-age farmers will raise crops and livestock that have been genetically engineered to improve yields and produce therapeutic proteins.  

"The acceleration of change through selective breeding [of both plants and livestock] is already delivering many yield advantages," says Guy Attenborough, Head of Communications at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.  

"For instance, we've got milk animals producing over 25% more than they were a decade ago, and commercial beef cross-bred animals are reaching their finishing weights in half the time of some more traditional breeds. So we're unlikely to see a different type of farmer. We've already got farmers doing a large part of this job, and a farming community that is constantly upskilling itself. It would just be a case of further upskilling that workforce - both at college level and for existing farmers - in terms of using new technology as well as practical environmental skills such as soil management and water conservation. Food production doesn’t stand still. It is a continuous process, and this would just be another phase in that process."


Advances in nanotechnology offer the potential for a range of sub-atomic 'nanoscale' devices, inserts and procedures that could transform personal healthcare. A new range of nanomedicine specialists will be required to administer these treatments.

Future nanomedicine specialists will need a multi-disciplinary grounding, according to Mark Morrison, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Nanotechnology. 

"You've got a cross-over between the person-engineered world and the bio-engineered world. So you need to know how cells and organs work and how a disease develops, and be able to use that together with knowledge of engineering applications and materials properties at the nanoscale. 

"We run courses on nanomedicine including drug delivery, sensor technologies, regenerative medicine, and drug discovery, and find there are companies and individuals using nanotechnology advances in a number of these areas. Underlying this is the ability to understand and integrate concepts across different disciplines, which is going to be really important in the future."

‘New Science' Ethicist

As scientific advances accelerate in new and emerging fields such as cloning and nanotechnology, a new breed of ethicist may be required to help society make consistent choices about what developments to allow.  

"This is not a job for the future. It is one of the things we already do here in the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester," says its director, Professor of Bioethics John Harris. 

"It is true that this job will be increasingly required, though. At the moment, ethics of science and bioethics is a growth area in the UK. There are new university departments opening all the time, and more university science courses are including ethics." 

Bioethicists currently find employment in the UK department of health, the EC, and large pharmaceutical companies, explains Harris, adding that ethicists often have multi-disciplinary backgrounds such as science, law and philosophy.

Personal Branders

An extension of the role played by stylists, publicists and executive coaches – advising on how to create a personal ‘brand’ using social and other media.

"It may no longer be Twitter and Facebook in two to three years' time, but user-generated content and social media are here to stay and will become increasingly influential," says Richard Ellis, Communications Director of the Public Relations Consultants Association. 

"I think there will be a small market for personal branders for celebrities and aspirational individuals looking for an image that will support their career ambitions or possibly even romantic lives. To a degree this role is already undertaken by publicists. 

"But the biggest market for the role of reputation guardian will be corporates, who want to ensure their image is aligned through all marketing channels. We will see a divergence in PR consultants, with some people specialising in one specific channel, tool or technology, and generalists who provide a broader perspective bringing together the necessary skills to deliver an end result."

Social 'Networking' Worker: Social workers for those in some way traumatized or marginalized by social networking.

"Social Workers offer support in a huge variety of ways and would support any service user that has been a victim, therefore, we cannot see this being a bespoke post," says Fran Fuller, Deputy UK Chair, British Association of Social Workers. "As part of their training Social Work students are currently made aware of their obligations as registered Social Workers and are challenged on the way in which service users can be victims and this includes through cyber bullying. The role of Social 'Networking' Worker is an interesting concept but one that we feel would be embedded in the role of Social Work."

Time Broker / Time Bank Trader

Alternative currencies will evolve their own markets.

A time bank works a bit like a dating agency, matching up people who can offer any kind of service from dog walking to decorating with someone who needs it. 

Every hour a volunteer gives entitles them to an hour of credit from the time bank, which in turn will match them with a service they need. Many time banks are coordinated by a salaried time bank broker, so in fact this job already exists. 

However, according to Sarah Bird, who set up one of the UK's largest time banks and now trains time brokers, it will become a growing employment sector. 

"I'm hoping that in the future there will be thousands of time banks," she explains. "I talk to big organisations to show them the evidence that time banking is good for people's health and well being, and currently NHS Primary Care Trusts are very interested in commissioning time banks." 

But what about time bank trading on a national level by 2020? With time banking also attracting the attention of councils and housing associations, it is a possibility, says Bird.

Virtual Clutter Organiser

Specialists will help us organise our electronic lives.

"A successful Virtual Clutter Organiser will need to be aware in a wider social context than just pure "geek" sciences," says Garfield Southall, Chair of the Chester & North Wales Branch of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.  

"[Training in] psychology, social interactions, business skills and behavioural studies, as well as Internet design skills and computer networking will ensure that technicians can understand the social implications of the emerging technologies. We need to focus on "Web Science" - our existence in the interconnected world. By 2020 this will be as much a part of our life as turning on the TV!"

Vertical Farmers

There is growing interest in the concept of city based vertical farms, with hydroponically-fed food being grown in multi-storey buildings.

"You've got glass house complexes in cities producing herbs and salad crops anyway. But I think we will see more vertical farming in specialist applications, like in Paignton Zoo that has a type of vertical farm providing pesticide free leaf vegetables for zoo animals," says Julian Franklin, Head of Horticulture and Controlled Environments at Rothamsted Research. 

Leafy vegetables, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are likely to be the first crops grown in this way for us, thinks Franklin. 

"As fuel costs go up, you'll probably see a shift towards more of this vertical farming within cities. Although you'll have the production costs [including lighting, control systems for feeding the plants and a specialised building], you'll offset those by the increased transport costs of bringing food in from other countries. You'll also end up with a blurring of the roles of biologist, farmer and engineer because the growing systems will become as much an engineering problem as a plant growing problem."

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