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Demand for tech skills to skyrocket by 2030, US official warns

Chike Aguh, chief innovation officer at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, urged employers to make mobile job applications a priority. He also sees tech skills as the nation's top need.

Hiring is difficult today for many reasons, but it may get even more challenging in the years ahead. 

By 2030, most jobs will require a "medium to a high level" of tech skills, said Chike Aguh, chief innovation officer at the U.S. Department of Labor. Employees who most readily need tech skill training include people of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and those who live in rural areas and are of low income, according to Aguh. They will make up most of the U.S. workforce as it heads to 2030 and for the next 20 years thereafter, but today are "generally overlooked," he said. 

Aguh, speaking at The Economist's Innovation@Work conference this week, also criticized the current recruiting process. He said employers who aren't making it easy for job seekers to apply for openings through mobile devices may be missing out on candidates. 

Millions of people don't have access to computing devices other than smartphones, Aguh said. A smartphone is useful for consuming services "but not necessarily for the things that encourage productivity, like the writing of a resume and the application to a job," he said.  

Mobile job applications dominate some sectors of the job market, according to Appcast, a recruitment advertising technology firm in Lebanon, N.H. About 78% of job applications for hourly positions in areas such as gig work, transportation, warehousing and hospitality begin on mobile devices, meaning either smartphones or tablets, the firm stated in an email to SearchHRSoftware. Firms that haven't optimized for mobile are missing out, it said.

When applying for IT, human resources, marketing, finance and insurance positions, only about 27% of the job applications are submitted from a mobile device, Appcast said; these candidates likely have access to desktop computers at work or at home. The firm used data from nearly 1,300 employers to make this estimate. 

Mobile job applications by industry

Hiring for aptitude

One hiring shift that is taking root, Aguh said, is the importance of a candidate's potential, especially when it comes to tech skills. Firms are hiring "not simply for the skills that people have, but for the aptitude to gain the skills that are needed," he said. 

Aguh also said businesses need to think about how the workforce can gain tech skills training. He cited virtual and augmented reality systems as one method that's gaining adoption. 

[Firms are hiring] not simply for the skills that people have, but for the aptitude to gain the skills that are needed.
Chike AguhChike Aguh

For now, employers are dealing with labor shortages and struggling to fill positions in the U.S. and internationally, said Donna Morris, executive vice president and chief people officer at Walmart Inc. She was also a conference speaker.

Morris said people are re-identifying what they want out of life, and some are leaving the workforce. It's created a "highly competitive" job market, and she doesn't see the problem ending anytime soon.

"My sense is, it's going to be a prolonged period of time where we're going to have challenges in terms of labor shortages in many industries across international markets," Morris said. 

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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