“Demand for ICT skills has increased substantially”

An engineering professional today needs different skills compared with 20 years ago. Marlis Buchmann’s research team has found out what these skills are, and how other occupations have also changed because of digitalisation.

Little was previously known about how digitalisation modifies jobs in terms of the tasks performed and the associated skill sets.

Professor Marlis Buchmann and her team at the University of Zurich analysed job advertisements in German-speaking Switzerland from 2002 to 2020. They focused on the job being advertised, the tasks to be performed, the qualifications required and the IT tools used at the workplaces.

This entailed recording the skills mentioned in job adverts (slide 1 (JPEG)). Buchmann’s interdisciplinary team of scientists and computational linguists used machine-learning-based natural language processing models and systematically evaluated their performance.

The researchers split the raw job ad texts into different content zones (e.g. company description, task descriptions, skill requirements). Mentions of skill requirements are recognised in the zones and mapped onto the concepts used in relevant international classification schemes. The examples on slide 2 (JPEG) show the recognised ICT mentions (highlighted in yellow) in two job ad texts.

Robust analysis shows that in the past 20 years the demand for skill profiles (JPEG) (i.e. bundles of skills at job level) has changed within occupations and has affected the occupational structure. “For a sizeable number of occupations, the demand for information and communications technology (ICT) skills has increased substantially,” says Marlis Buchmann. “Jobs for science and engineering professionals show a pronounced increase in the demand for digital skills, particularly in content software, data management/software development and industry-specific software, along with notable growth in social and cognitive skills.”

Significant changes have also been noted for personal care workers in the past 20 years: considerably more social and cognitive skills are required nowadays, together with general ICT skills. According to Buchmann, the data analysis demonstrates the impact of digital transformation and the occupation-specific nature of the skill evolution.

On the basis of the skill data extractions, Buchmann and her team at the University of Zurich have developed a prototype skills dashboard for the Swiss labour market that can be adapted to the respective individual requirements of interested labour-market stakeholders.

The research project will continue until the end of 2024.