NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Work futures and creativity – A role for the creative arts?

Entering the fourth industrial revolution poses major challenges for work and life futures. Many studies over the last decade have forecasted that we are entering an era in which digital networks, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, together with scientific innovation, climate change, changing demographics, and globalisation will fundamentally transform the way we work, live, and learn.

by Professor Russell Tytler, Dr Peta White and Professor Ruth Bridgstock

Entering the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0; Schwab, 2016) poses major challenges for work and life futures. Many studies over the last decade have forecasted that we are entering an era in which digital networks, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, together with scientific innovation, climate change, changing demographics, and globalisation will fundamentally transform the way we work, live, and learn.

Youth entering the workplace will experience very different conditions to the previous century, expecting to have many more careers over a lifetime, with automation, big data and communication changes, and the gig economy moving work towards more flexible but informal and uncertain work conditions.

Futurists are divided on the effects of technological change on the future of work, with some predicting large scale loss of jobs to automation, while others predict the opening up of opportunities and the creation of new jobs, as happened in previous industrial revolutions. Prediction is difficult in this space, with the interplay of diverse technological, social and economic factors. There is general agreement however that there will be major disruptions, and a clear trend away from routine jobs and increasingly the incursion of automation even into skilled professions.

A review of the work futures literature identifies a shift in the skills needed for future work from routine to non-routine skills, and an increasing advantage for those with STEM, digital and complex problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, and creativity (World Economic Forum, 2016). Almost all the reports refer to creativity, but this is often linked with ‘enterprise skills and entrepreneurship’, ‘decision making’, ‘critical thinking’ or ‘strategic problem solving’. Creativity is thus broadly conceived in this literature. Frey and Osborne (2013) for instance, predict with others a “low susceptibility of engineering and science occupations to computerisation since they require a high degree of creative intelligence” (p. 44). Creativity is regarded as a uniquely human skill. Easton and Djumalieva (2018) mapped mention of creativity and creative skills in a large database of job advertisements and matched these to predicted job growth to show that jobs asking for creativity were far more likely to grow than other job roles.

In a recent study (Tytler et al., 2019) we used a different methodology to explore job futures. From the literature we identified domains and industries critical to future work, including agriculature, health, transport, computing and artificial intelligence, commerce, and materials science and engineering. We interviewed experts recruited from these areas to explore future trends, potential job roles and tasks, and the skills and capabilities young people could develop to prepare for these.

From these expert interviews we identified three major clusters of skills; cross disciplinary skills that marry deep knowledge of one area with breadth, with digital skills, and with a creative orientation (‘learn how to code, and learn how to paint’); interpersonal skills suited to working at the technology-human interface; and adaptability in learning strategically.

Out of the interviews we constructed 100 jobs that do not yet exist, that encapsulate the key trends in these areas, future roles and tasks, and the capabilities these require. An analysis of these future jobs provides insight into the different ways creativity is privileged in these roles. If we regard creativity as involving imagination or original thinking to create something that is useful in some way, then over 80% of these jobs could be characterised as high-probability creative. In coding the jobs to develop a youth job explorer tool, about a quarter of the jobs were classified as requiring an artistic disposition, consistent with a creative industries role focused on the production of cultural/creative content, such as:

The Autonomous Vehicle Profile Designer will have a background in interior and industrial design, and possess excellent creative and visual artistic skills. They will have knowledge of the properties of new materials that are being produced, such as transparent aluminium. They will be experienced in computer-aided design and the use of augmented reality engines.

However, many more jobs are classified as requiring an ‘investigative’ disposition and creative problem solving. These are the high-probability creative STEM roles such as:

A New Materials Engineer will work in cross-disciplinary teams that combine science, engineering, computing, marketing, and social science. They …  will have strong STEM disciplinary knowledge combined with computing skills and a creative, entrepreneurial outlook. They will need strong people skills to work in cross-disciplinary teams, and insight into human needs.

Analysis of these creative jobs show that many involve transdisciplinarity, and most involve collaboration, and social intelligence. Almost all interact with technology, in different ways.

What do these analyses of future work mean for a creative arts education? It seemed clear from the DDCA forum of October 30 that although an arts degree is low on the list as preparation for full time jobs, the inclusion of part time and self-employed work shows it to be as valuable a degree as most. Arguably, critical and creative thinking, adaptability and self-agency are among the capabilities that explain this. The imaginative capability that creative arts brings is increasingly making artists sought after for instance in large scale scientific laboratories.

With a growing emphasis on critical and creative thinking, problem solving, adaptability, and the need for roles that interface between people and machines, it seems likely that creativity, conceived of in these diverse ways and coupled with other disciplinary capabilities, will be increasingly valued and of value. It would be interesting to articulate just how the core capabilities conferred by a creative arts education match to these. 


Easton, E., & Djumalieva, J. (2018). Creativity and the future of skills. London: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre. Retrieved from

Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2013). The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation? Oxford: Oxford Martin Institute. Retrieved from

Schwab K, 2016. The fourth industrial revolution. Geneva: World Economic Forum.

Tytler, R., Bridgstock, R. S., White, P., Mather, D., McCandless, T., & Grant-Iramu, M. (2019). 100 jobs of the future. Burwood: Deakin University. Retrieved from

World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. Global Challenge Insight Report. Geneva: World Economic Forum. Retrieved from

Russell Tytler is Alfred Deakin Professor and Chair of Science Education at Deakin University

Peta White is a Senior Lecturer in Science and Environmental Education at Deakin University

Ruth Bridgstock is Professor and Deputy Director of Teaching and Curriculum Transformation at Griffith University

More from this issue

More from this issue

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