Roy Bryant has always been at the cutting edge, as a top executive at two tech companies and a consultant to emerging industries. He knows it's important to keep looking for the next big thing in his career.
At 50, he has just completed a master's degree in computer science specializing in the burgeoning specialty of cloud computing (essentially, the outsourcing on the Internet of computing resources such as data storage and software).
"I've always looked for new niches that give me an edge over what other people can do. You have to look at the trends in business and technology and stay ahead of the curve of what is coming in the next few years, otherwise you risk becoming expendable," said Mr. Bryant, former chief operating officer of consumer research company Brandimensions Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., which bought a company where he had been chief executive officer, SevenTwentyfour Inc.
The need to redefine your skills to meet the needs of emerging careers goes for everyone, the experts say. "You may believe what the economists are saying about the recession being over, but in the aftermath, the career landscape has changed forever and job security is still tenuous," said occupational adviser Laurence Shatkin, author of a new book, The 2011 Career Plan.
With some industries at risk of extinction and cost-cutting a fact of life, it will be increasingly important to have the most cutting-edge skills and move out of roles that can be easily moved offshore at lower cost, Mr. Shatkin said. "That's particularly crucial for tech workers, such as software engineers, whose industry is ever-changing and skills can become obsolete without constant upgrading."
Demographics are a good predictor to find opportunities for the future. "You can count on people getting older and needing health care, on new technologies replacing older ones and on a growing demand for new sources of power and energy conservation," Mr. Shatkin said.
For example, in a study on global talent needs released by Manpower this week, it found there will be a huge demand to fill positions in "green" specialties related to energy savings and ecology. One company, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls Inc., with operations across Canada, is forecasting it will need to hire more than 1,000 energy engineers and another 1,000 with specific building sustainability accreditation in its global operations, the Manpower study said.
The jobs at highest risk will be those that require generic skills that can be sent offshore, where wages are lower. "Look for fields that can't be easily outsourced; roles that are hands-on and require you to be physically present," Mr. Shatkin advised. "That's true of most jobs in health care and in creative industries that require collaboration and a high concentration of experts."
It's also true of most trades. "Construction will never be off-shored because you can't have someone somebody doing it from China," he added.
Many of the growth careers will not be new, but will be specialties of existing fields that solve big nagging issues or combine disciplines to meet emerging trends, said Paul Cappon, CEO of Canadian Council on Learning in Ottawa. "You won't want to be just a chemist, but an environmental chemist, with credentials and experience in biology and ecology as well as chemistry," he said.
In Canada, there will be huge opportunities in engineering as we catch up with energy-saving technologies that are already becoming common in Europe, Mr. Cappon said. Examples are water-saving technologies and systems that turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied.
Because many of the specialties are still not mainstream, preparing for them will require a hybrid of training and experience, Mr. Cappon said.