• 21% of UK working age adults (equating to almost 7 million people) do not expect to be working in the same industry by 2030 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made 1 in 10 (8%) UK working age adults rethink their career paths
  • Separately, many report they are likely to turn to online learning to develop the skills they need to change careers or even start their own business. This trend is being driven by Millennials and Generation Z. 


Insights published in The Future of Learning global report by online social learning platform, FutureLearn.com, highlight how many people now expect to make multiple career changes, a move away from the ‘job for life’ and spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a fifth (21%) of working adults in the UK report that they do not expect to be working in the same industry in 2030, a feeling shared by a quarter of those in Australia and one fifth of those in America, suggesting that the ‘no more jobs for life’ phrase might need an update to ‘no more industry for life.’ 


The report explores key trends around the future of learning drawn from YouGov consumer survey data (from the UK, Australia and the USA), FutureLearn’s own enrollment data, and research from SEEK, the Australian jobs platform and co-investor in FutureLearn. All three data points confirm the trend towards an increasingly fluid approach to jobs and industries. 


SEEK data included in the report reveals that people do not always go on to work in the roles or industries that they chose to be educated in, for example: 
  • 8.6% of dental assistants hold a non-health related degree
  • 7% of early childhood teachers hold a degree in business and management
  • 6.7% of business development managers hold a degree in engineering


Alongside the global consumer data, The Future of Learning report features commentary from 15 culture, technology, education and learning experts. Contributing expert Nick Isles, CEO Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, explains, “We don’t know what the jobs are going to be in five or ten years. We need adaptive people with resilience and the ability to learn and change their careers.” The conviction that the future of work will include multiple career changes is echoed by contributor Dylan Williams, Chief Strategy Officer at Droga 5, who comments, “Lifelong learning has to be a philosophy we all live by. Culture is accelerating so rapidly that we’re all going to need two, three, four career changes.”


The global report finds this shift has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proportion of working adults in the UK who do not expect to be in the same industry by 2030 is almost doubled amongst those who say they have re-evaluated their career path as a result of the pandemic, with close to two-fifths (39%) of these individuals in the UK reporting that they do not expect to be in the same career by 2030. In the USA and Australia this proportion is 36%. 


Across the three countries, almost one in ten young people (8% of Millennials, 7% of Generation Z) have now moved into a new industry as a direct result of the pandemic. Additionally 15% of Millennials and Generation Z have re-evaluated their career path as a result of the pandemic. 


The report includes data on particular subject areas which respondents believe could future proof their careers by widening their skills set. In the UK, the top three subject areas are:
  • Learning more about mental health (31%)
  • Learning more about nutrition, diet and physical health (29%) 
  • Learning about managing finances (40%) 


Catalina Schveninger, Chief People Officer at FutureLearn, said, “The Future of Learning report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the focus on career transition and up-skilling. There are no more jobs for life, which is something research has been predicting for some time. Lifelong learning is going to play an ever more central part in helping employees, jobseekers and career-changers alike to develop new skills, grow in confidence and increase their employability.”


Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding agrees that lifelong learning is the way forward, saying “We all go through cycles of learning…we’ve really got to look to lifelong education, rather than formal education only happening at one point in your life.”


The impact of online learning on people’s careers is evident: 


  • 40% of respondents who are not yet retired in the UK agree that they are likely to take an online course within the next five years in order to grow their skill set and get ahead in their career. A similar proportion report this in the USA (44%), while in  Australia this proportion is even higher at  49%.

  • Over a third (35%) of employed adults in the UK believe that learning about certain topics could boost their professional confidence. A similar proportion report this  in Australia (39%) and the USA (37%).


  • 33% of UK adults surveyed say they would like to take an online course in the next five years for personal development. 43% of Australians agreed with this, and 40% of those in the USA.


Many are already planning for change, with 21% of working age UK respondents saying they would consider spending personal time or money to learn new skills for a job or career move in the next year. This percentage is 31% in Australia and 26% in the USA.


Those whose careers have already been impacted by COVID-19 are significantly more likely to say they’d take an online course within the next five years to get ahead in their career, with 55% of UK respondents agreeing with this, 59% in Australia, and 58% in the USA.

Close to two-fifths of younger respondents (42% of Millennials, 39% of Generation Z) report that they are more interested in learning online since the pandemic, compared to 23% of those in older generations. Both generations are even more interested in what online learning can do for their career development, with 60% of Generation Z and 53% of Millennials agreeing that is a reason they would be likely to take an online course in the next five years. This percentage is significantly lower in the older generations (33%). The report finds that young people are prepared to invest in this development, as 34% of Millennials and Generation Z say they‘d consider spending time or money on career-related training.


It’s expected that the reskilling experiences of today’s Millennials and Generation Z will continue, and become the standard path for the generations following them. Professor Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, The Open University reflects, “For kids, every prediction is that they will have multiple careers in their lifetime, that they will retrain, that they will move jobs.” 


The availability of more diverse career paths means that more people are looking to alternatives such as setting up their own businesses, however there is also a strong need to reskill in this area. Among those who would like to set up a new business within the next 10 years, roughly a third feel they do not currently have the skills needed to do so (32% UK, 34% Australia, 31% USA). 


Respondents identified the top skills and knowledge they would expect to gain from online learning in order to succeed when setting up a business as:


  1. Learning about new technologies (UK 46%, Australia 54%, USA 51%)
  2. Social media marketing (UK 41%, Australia 47%, USA 42%)
  3. Learning what is needed for a brand to be successful (UK 40%, Australia 45%, USA 41%)
  4. Helping to network with more people globally (UK 36%, Australia 45%, USA 42%).


Catalina Schveninger, Chief People Officer at FutureLearn, said, “As the job for life becomes a thing of the past, the traditional and more predictable career ladder model is obsolete. Whilst this prospect can be quite daunting especially for baby Boomers and “older” millennials, it opens up a world of opportunities to monetise skills and personal attributes in more ways than one. My favourite examples are Brandon Stanton, the famous photographer behind the Humans of New York who worked in finance as a bonds trader and Walt Disney who was fired by the newspaper he worked for because he lacked imagination.”


The full report is available to view here:  https://www.futurelearn.com/info/thefutureoflearning

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.