Jobs in the future – Part 1: Expect the unexpected

What is in store for Generation Z careers? Ambiguity!

What does the next generation have to look forward to in the workplace? What jobs will be available? What skills are needed to succeed? What industries are going to be in demand and what will be demanded from the workers? Those are good questions with some uncertainty attached to them that could produce a bumpy ride in the future if you are not prepared.

In this two-part series, I will address what industries are thought to be up and coming and those that are in demand to be refilled. In Part 2, I will address what today and future generations need by way of skills in this future workplace, and what that workplace might look like. I will also touch on what may be demanded from the employee by the employer.

Yes, it’s hard to predict the future, but researchers are finding trends and insights that can help Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and even the baby boomers of today in new fields and career options. As we embark on the future and technology tumbles forward, here is what we might see and how we all may work together to move the world forward, or at least hold on.

According to Brandwatch, over 65 percent of the future jobs don’t even exist now. That trend should continue as new innovations hit the market and change the landscape of how and where we work evolves. Here are a few of the industries that should see growth in the future.


Nano-medical devices, growing body parts, wearable devices and mobile medical services are just a few of the fields of medicine and health care that will be developing and changing. This industry growth is aided from our growing elderly population – the baby boomers – coming of age and from our medical advancements that are allowing us to live longer lives. Our life expectancy will continue to rise and even accelerate in the next 30 years. Coupling personal treatment with technology will open the doors to many new careers in this sector. The key for young adults starting out will be how they interact with different generations and cultures. Inventing, designing and teaching these audiences to interact with the technology to aid in their health will be a plus.


With the launching of commercial drones and more e-commerce (shopping online), shipping in the skies will begin to take flight. Costs may soon be cheaper than ground transport for those small packages – transporting medicines, books, pizza and parcels; the skies the limit on unmanned machines. Drones may also be incorporated into various industries including forestry, law enforcement, oil, fishing, environmental protection and filmmaking. Someone interested in designing and operating this new technology will control their destiny.


Yes, back to our roots for this one, but with a twist. Urban farming, micro farms and vertical farming could replace or supplement some major commercial farms and put food closer to the users. Transportation, distribution, waste, nutrition, food systems and land use will also be major industries in need of creative innovations. As we look for food security and more efficient use of our resources to feed the world and its growing population, we will look for ground-breaking ideas and problem solvers. More than a third of our crops are left in the fields or wasted on the journey to our plates. This happens as a fifth of the world’s youth in developing countries are malnourished.


Many jobs will revolve around the concept of improving and maintaining the environment. Jobs like controlling weather, collecting and distributing energy and tackling climate change issues are in demand now and will be in the future. How we interact with the environment by designing and engineering smart, sustainable structures and living spaces will be vital. Creative concepts in engineering and the sciences will lead the way on these global and local issues.

Machine operator

Skilled labor will still be in demand according to the agriculture, forestry and commerce departments. We will need educated and skilled people to operate large machines, heavy equipment and the technicians to repair them. Equipment like backhoes, haulers, boats, trucks and cranes are not yet automated and these positions are being unfilled now by retiring baby boomers.

There is such great opportunity and potential for creative careers, but aside from the machine operators, what direct skills are needed to succeed in this unknown career environment? In Part 2, I will present those skills and journey on to what the workplace may look like.

For more information on these programs and gaining career education experiences, contact your local 4-H representative or visit the Michigan 4-H or Michigan State University Extension websites.

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