When you were a child perhaps you dreamt of growing up to be a firefighter, an astronaut or a doctor. Or perhaps you dreamt of remotely guiding robotic spaceships to explore Mars.
It turns out, all of those are viable career paths. In an economy where disruption has become the norm, it might feel like the future is impossible to see. After all, working on things like blockchain software or autonomous vehicles wasn’t even an option 10 years ago.
But it appears we are reaching the edge of the horizon, and we can now begin to see the skills that will be needed not just in the next few years, but in the next 20, 30 and even 50 years. The industries that are primed for extended growth are beginning to emerge, giving local government and business leaders the opportunity to consider how to start developing a workforce with the necessary skills to usher us into the second half of the 21st Century.

There will always be a need for certain skills: health care, safety and emergency workers will always be needed. How they do their job may change with emerging technology, but they will be career paths that are unlikely to drastically change despite disruption.
We’re looking at the careers that will likely provide stable, lucrative jobs for those with the right skills, but whose employment paths have yet to be fully realized. In Denver South, where innovations around health care, transportation and aerospace are part of the region’s DNA, you can expect that we’ll be on the forefront of the careers of the future.
Here are some of the careers of the future where we can start sowing the seeds of workforce development beginning today:
Asteroid mining and space exploration
You may have noticed a lot of activity recently in private space exploration. Whether SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or one of the many other players getting into the game, it’s adding up: according to a recent report, the space industry could be worth more than $30 trillion by 2050.
The real question isn’t will we have private companies in outer space, it’s what will we do when we get there? Those that are preparing now will be a step ahead.
And just a stone’s throw from Denver South, at the Colorado School of Mines, students are being prepared for exactly that. The school recently began offering a major in asteroid mining, among other space-related programs.
Asteroid miners are less likely to be looking for earthly metals like gold or silver, but instead may mine one of our even more precious resources: water. The School of Mines program will comprehensively prepare students for everything such an endeavor would require, from engineering to funding to programming robots or other vehicles that can do this job.
The result will be students with highly sought-after skills and knowledge for an emerging industry that is predicted to grow at mind-blowing rates in the coming decades.
Artificial intelligence
According to job website Indeed, job postings for workers with AI-related skills have risen 119 percent in just the last three years.
While on the surface it might seem like AI will automate many of the tasks humans perform today, it’s also creating an entirely new set of jobs. As Indeed points out, “For a budding and complex technology like AI, there will be a need for highly-skilled workers to develop and maintain a wide range of AI applications.”
Artificial intelligence will not be a general skill in the future but become specialized to all of the various industries and applications where it will be applied. And there is more to AI than programmers writing code. How will we manage the data AI produces? What about integrating AI into existing human systems? There are endless areas where specialized human skills will be required for AI to be the breakout technology we’re all expecting it to become.
From agriculture to health care and even to outer space, AI experts will be in high demand for decades to come, and probably longer.
Autonomous vehicles and machinery
When Google first let it be known they were working on a self-driving car, there were no self-driving car experts or degrees. Today, you can earn a master’s degree of engineering specializing in autonomous technology, but the options are still limited.
In Denver South we all know that autonomous vehicles are coming, and for the agriculture industry in Colorado, the region is already proving to be a hub of innovation in this emerging field.
Demand for skills in engineering, programming and management in the autonomous industry will continue to grow as the technology improves and begins to find new applications. As with artificial intelligence, there will be a need for various skills across industries and applications, even if they are all technically under the autonomous umbrella.
McKinsey & Company postulates that with advances in connectivity and automation in consumer vehicles, as much as $1.5 trillion could be added to the market by 2030. When you start spelling dollar amounts with a T, you know you’re onto something.
And all that’s just one segment of autonomous technology. When you consider the potential applications, it becomes clear that creating pathways to develop workers with the appropriate skills will both be critical to the industry’s growth and very lucrative for those that choose this career path.

The ripple effect of emerging industries
Emerging industries like the ones we’ve discussed don’t just tailor to those who end up with perfectly matched skills. In every industry we still need people who can do marketing, customer service, administration, accounting, human resources and a slew of other skills.
But by identifying the likely industries of the future — and not just in the near term but looking 50 years from now — we can begin preparing today’s students and workers for the future in thoughtful ways that will lead to a strong, diversified economy.
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