Top careers for the next 25 years; Many professions will become obsolete over the next quarter-century – but some will flourish

March 19, 2014 2:38 pm
My top five careers for the next 25 years
By Michael Skapinker
Many professions will become obsolete over the next quarter-century – but some will flourish
What career would you advise a young person to go into today? That was one of the questions addressed by a panel I chaired last week at Mipim, the huge property fair in Cannes that was marking its 25th anniversary.

Graeme Maxton, author, economist and one of our panellists, referred to an Oxford university paper that looked at what jobs were most at risk from computerisation. The paper concluded that the professions most likely to survive included substance-abuse social worker, choreographer and oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Those most at risk included sports referee, auto insurance appraiser and loan officer.
I reminded the audience that this year marked two more significant 25th birthdays. In November it will be a quarter of a century since the Berlin Wall came down, and Tim (now Sir Tim) Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for the world wide web 25 years ago last week.
Both events transformed our world and we couldn’t, I and several members of the audience felt, predict what changes and jobs the next 25 years would bring.
To prove the point, on my return I read the Financial Times for the whole of March 1989, expecting to recall a world that did not know what was about to hit it: smartphones, apps, social media.
How wrong I was. There was no mention of Twitter, of course, or even of the web. Five years later, in 1994, we were still breathlessly telling readers about “a collection of about 10,000 ‘servers’ . . . with more being added every day – containing information on topics as diverse as fly fishing and home brewing to film reviews and electronic newspapers”.
But those 1989 FTs were extraordinarily prescient. The internet may not have been ubiquitous, but the electronic revolution was well under way, and we were aware of who was making best use of it (“Unlike, say, physicists, economists appear unable to use computers with any precision,” we said). And we were writing extensively about the environmental and demographic changes that preocuppy us today.
Looking at what mattered then and now, here are my tips for five careers that should last for the next 25 years:
● Receptionist. In 1989, the FT reported the arrival of “the paperless visitors’ book”, which allowed people arriving at an office building to enter their details on a plinth-mounted screen, which would then print out an entry pass. We predicted that “some companies might decide to have the system operated by the receptionist on behalf of the visitor” – and so it has proved. Security worries mean that companies and government departments still want human beings greeting their visitors. I don’t see facial or fingerprint recognition changing that.
● Climate researcher. On March 6 1989 we reported that all computer models of the earth’s climate predicted “a warming of several degrees over the next century, if industrial activities continue to change the composition of the atmosphere at the present rate”. We forecast “severe disruption of world agriculture and inundation of low-lying parts of the globe”. Here we are, 25 years later, with not much done.
● Care of the elderly. The FT was well aware, 25 years ago, of the impact an ageing population was going to have on public spending and pension provision. We were aware, too, of the market opportunities as older consumers demanded easy-to-use products. I reported an expert predicting that there would be a market for self-cleaning windows. They are here now, and not just for the elderly. There will be many jobs looking after older people. Some of them will, as now, be badly paid, but they will not disappear.
● Executive assistant. In 1989, the FT said the electronic diary and “portable telephone” “could boost [the] role of secretaries”. Rather than doing routine work, they could turn their attention to running the boss’s office and life. As they do today.
● Pedant. There was a furious debate back then about whether to teach children Standard English. One UK report argued that, while used by those in authority, Standard English was just “one dialect among many” and that non-standard forms such as “we was” and “he ain’t done it” were “rarely more than a social irritant to some people”. The backlash was fierce, as it is whenever that view is put today. People don’t tire of reading about such things.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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