Rapid technological, social and economic change is having significant impacts on
the nature of jobs. In fast-changing environments it is crucial that policymakers have
a clear and timely picture of the labour market. Policymakers use standardised
occupational classifications, such as the Office for National Statistics’ Standard
Occupational Classification (SOC) in the UK to analyse the labour market. These
permit the occupational composition of the workforce to be tracked on a consistent
and transparent basis over time and across industrial sectors. However, such
systems are by their nature costly to maintain, slow to adapt and not very flexible.
For that reason, additional tools are needed.
At the same time, policymakers over the world are revisiting how active skills
development policies can be used to equip workers with the capabilities needed to
meet the new labour market realities. There is in parallel a desire for more granular
understandings of what skills combinations are required of occupations, in part so
that policymakers are better sighted on how individuals can redeploy these skills as
and when employer demands change further.
In this paper, we investigate the possibility of complementing traditional occupational
classifications with more flexible methods centred around employers’
characterisations of the skills and knowledge requirements of occupations as
presented in job advertisements. We use data science methods to classify job
advertisements as STEM or non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics) and creative or non-creative, based on the content of ads in a
database of UK job ads posted online belonging to Boston-based job market
analytics company, Burning Glass Technologies. In doing so, we first characterise
each SOC code in terms of its skill make-up; this step allows us to describe each
SOC skillset as a mathematical object that can be compared with other skillsets.
Then we develop a classifier that predicts the SOC code of a job based on its
required skills. Finally, we develop two classifiers that decide whether a job vacancy
is STEM/non-STEM and creative/non-creative, based again on its skill requirements.