Report: Digital technology changing many American jobs, industries

Are you thinking about how your process excellence journey is going to guide your organization – and yourself – through the digital future?

You certainly should be.

A report released this month by the Brookings Institution titled “Digitization and the American Workforce” paints a fascinating picture of how digital technology is changing the jobs we do. Brookings analyzed how the digital content of more than 500 jobs has changed since 2001. According to the report, the share of jobs requiring a low digital skill level has plunged from 56 percent to 30 percent, while those requiring a high level of digital skill vaulted from a mere 5 percent in 2002 to 23 percent last year.

How does that look close up? Brookings assigned a “digital score” ranging from 1 to 100 for the hundreds of jobs it analyzed – a software developer, for example, scores a 94 these days, while a construction worker scores a 17. Tracking the change in less than two decades, Brookings researchers found some jobs have seen a startling spike in their digital score: In 2002, a tool and die maker had a digital score of 2. Last year, that same occupation scored a 51, putting it in the digital skill ranks of nurses and automotive service techs. As for the general and operations managers that make up many of our Center for Operational Excellence members, their digital score grew from 50 in 2002 to 61 last year.

Brookings also tracked digital scores at the state and metropolitan level by sizing up their industry/job spread, finding Ohio’s mean digital score nearly double in a decade and a half, from 24 to 45. Columbus saw similar growth, moving from a relatively low-skill average of 25 in 2002 to the medium range — 42 — by last year.

What does all this mean? On the plus side, Brookings researchers said, it’s driving potential for increased productivity and higher pay ranges. On the minus side, digital skill and the growth of digital technology are unevenly spread across industries and regions, which could be widening pay disparities and stifling job creation in certain sectors.

The bottom line, however, is that digital skill is a must – and training and education programs will need to act accordingly. Brookings researchers recommend prioritizing growth in the high-skill IT talent pipeline and basic digital literacy, the latter to prevent a wide swath of American jobs from being “off-limits” to people who need them most.

Check out Brookings’ website for full details on the report.