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The hybrid job economy: How new skills are rewriting the DNA of the job market

Millions of jobs will be created or destroyed by technological change over the next decade. Yet the most profound — and underappreciated — trend in today’s labor market is how technology is mutating jobs into new, unexpected hybrid jobs. More and more jobs are “hybrids,” combining skill sets that never used to be found in the same job, such as marketing and statistical analysis, or design and programming. Certain skills are acting as hybridizing forces, spreading across different roles. Fully one-quarter of all occupations in the U.S. economy show strong signs of hybridization, and they are almost universally the fastest-growing and highest-paying – and also the most resistant to automation. Some of these jobs are new, some are new versions of existing jobs, but all of them pose much different challenges for workers, students, employers, and educators. Since Burning Glass Technologies first identified the hybrid trend in research for General Assembly in 2015, the pace of change has only increased, with significant implications for workers, educators, employers, and society as a whole. This trend could worsen a divide in the workforce, with some workers gaining ground in the future economy, and others – those who fail to keep up with changing skill requirements – at risk of being left behind. But, as jobs get reshaped by new skills and new technologies, there are also clear opportunities: for employers to upskill existing workers and develop more effective talent pipelines; for workers to make themselves more competitive by acquiring new skills ahead of the market; and for education institutions to deliver learning to the broader community of workers who will increasingly need to acquire new skills. Our new analysis of hybrid jobs, based on the Burning Glass database of nearly a billion current and historical job postings, finds the trend strengthening: One in eight job postings is now highly hybridized, encompassing more than 250 different occupations. Technology is an important part of this trend, but not the only driving force. Often it is the need to apply soft skills, analysis, or management to technical disciplines that creates a hybrid role. The skills that drive hybridization fall into five key skill areas, some new skills and others traditional skills being applied in new ways: Big Data and Analytics Intersection of Design and Development Sales and Customer Service Emerging Digital Technologies Evolving Compliance and Regulatory Landscape Because hybrid roles tend to be more sophisticated and more specialized, there aren’t many obvious entry-level opportunities in these occupations. That’s a potential problem for education and training institutions that must teach these skills, and for mid-career workers who must know what skills to add to their portfolio — and when.