Betting on future work

If the age of the general manager is over, what can we bank on for the future? Like most resources, jobs – particularly for women – are valuable when they are seen to be the creators of high value (think glass-making in the 17th century, or engineering in the 19th century); when they are difficult for others, or indeed machines, to imitate (think Wayne Rooney – well, maybe not), or when they are in short supply (think of plastic surgeons). So with this in mind, where would you place your bet?

I would bet on work around renewable energy. Right now, the spend on research around renewable energy is chicken feed. As Anatole Kaletsky points out in his book Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy, in 2008 the entire global research efforts in all forms of non-carbon energy, including nuclear power, only amounted to about double Microsoft’s spending on an upgraded version of Windows and Office, and was far smaller than the resources devoted to new weapon systems or cancer research.

That will change – and it could change very rapidly. Over the coming years, governments and public support will significantly increase for research, development and the deployment of new non-polluting energy sources. That means that entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers will certainly be in high demand in the sustainable energy sector, but the sector will also need PR and planning specialists, and indeed everything the traditional energy sector needs. In fact, there should be more jobs available in the renewable energy sector than the traditional energy sector because the renewable energy sector creates more jobs per unit of power, per unit of installed capacity and per pound invested than conventional power generation.

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School. Her book The Shift: How the Future of Work is Already Here will be published by Harper Collins on May 13

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