One of the strongest trends Burning Glass has seen in the labor market recently has been the rise of the hybrid job: positions that mix-and-match skill sets from different fields. This is a sign of a creative, dynamic economy that is producing jobs that never existed before, but it’s also a challenge to educators, workforce training, and to workers themselves.
A great example is the Mobile App Developer, someone who works on developing the apps that drive smartphones. You won’t find this job in the government’s official occupational classification—it’s still lumped under Software Developers. Ten years ago the occupation barely existed. But now there were more than 21,000 openings advertised for mobile app developers in 2016, and the number of posted jobs rose 135% between 2011 and 2015. These jobs pay well, too, with an average advertised salary of $111,000 per year.
The most intriguing thing about mobile app developers, however, is the distinctive skill set employers want.
Experience with the Android and iPhone software development kits is a natural requirement, as is expertise in programming languages like Java and C++. But employers are also requesting skills in SQL, user interface design, marketing, ecommerce, and graphic design packages like Adobe Creative Suite.
The relationship between a smartphone user and their screen brings all these different fields in play. The problem is that these are usually taught in different ways in different fields. Almost all mobile app developer jobs require a bachelor’s degree. But does the computer science department teach marketing? Do graphic design majors learn how to build databases?
That’s the challenge, not just for this particular job but for all the hybrid jobs that are growing rapidly in the marketplace. Since they don’t fall into any of the traditional training categories, workers are left on their own to figure out how to prepare for these careers. But that means some workers will miss out on good-paying jobs, and some employers are going to have trouble filling positions in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.
There are lots of ways to address this problem. Colleges can bundle courses from different departments together as specializations or concentrations. “Boot camps” and other short-term training programs can fill in specific skills.
But we still need a way of guiding students and job seekers into these career paths. The organizations that figure out how to provide this guidance will not only help fill existing positions, but they’ll be well-prepared to respond when the next inevitable, unforeseeable set of hybrid jobs appears.