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Global report suggests ‘job for life’ a thing of the past

  • 21% of UK working age adults (equating to almost 7 million people) do not expect to be working in the same industry by 2030
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has made 1 in 10 (8%) UK working age adults rethink their career paths
  • Separately, many report they are likely to turn to online learning to develop the skills they need to change careers or even start their own business. This trend is being driven by Millennials and Generation Z. 

Insights published in The Future of Learning global report by online social learning platform,, highlight how many people now expect to make multiple career changes, a move away from the ‘job for life’ and spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a fifth (21%) of working adults in the UK report that they do not expect to be working in the same industry in 2030, a feeling shared by a quarter of those in Australia and one fifth of those in America, suggesting that the ‘no more jobs for life’ phrase might need an update to ‘no more industry for life.’ 

The report explores key trends around the future of learning drawn from YouGov consumer survey data (from the UK, Australia and the USA), FutureLearn’s own enrollment data, and research from SEEK, the Australian jobs platform and co-investor in FutureLearn. All three data points confirm the trend towards an increasingly fluid approach to jobs and industries. 

SEEK data included in the report reveals that people do not always go on to work in the roles or industries that they chose to be educated in, for example: 

  • 8.6% of dental assistants hold a non-health related degree
  • 7% of early childhood teachers hold a degree in business and management
  • 6.7% of business development managers hold a degree in engineering

Alongside the global consumer data, The Future of Learning report features commentary from 15 culture, technology, education and learning experts. Contributing expert Nick Isles, CEO Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, explains, “We don’t know what the jobs are going to be in five or ten years. We need adaptive people with resilience and the ability to learn and change their careers.” The conviction that the future of work will include multiple career changes is echoed by contributor Dylan Williams, Chief Strategy Officer at Droga 5, who comments, “Lifelong learning has to be a philosophy we all live by. Culture is accelerating so rapidly that we’re all going to need two, three, four career changes.”



The global report finds this shift has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proportion of working adults in the UK who do not expect to be in the same industry by 2030 is almost doubled amongst those who say they have re-evaluated their career path as a result of the pandemic, with close to two-fifths (39%) of these individuals in the UK reporting that they do not expect to be in the same career by 2030. In the USA and Australia this proportion is 36%. 

Across the three countries, almost one in ten young people (8% of Millennials, 7% of Generation Z) have now moved into a new industry as a direct result of the pandemic. Additionally 15% of Millennials and Generation Z have re-evaluated their career path as a result of the pandemic. 



The report includes data on particular subject areas which respondents believe could future proof their careers by widening their skills set. In the UK, the top three subject areas are:

  • Learning more about mental health (31%)
  • Learning more about nutrition, diet and physical health (29%) 
  • Learning about managing finances (40%) 

Catalina Schveninger, Chief People Officer at FutureLearn, said, “The Future of Learning report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the focus on career transition and up-skilling. There are no more jobs for life, which is something research has been predicting for some time. Lifelong learning is going to play an ever more central part in helping employees, jobseekers and career-changers alike to develop new skills, grow in confidence and increase their employability.”

Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding agrees that lifelong learning is the way forward, saying “We all go through cycles of learning…we’ve really got to look to lifelong education, rather than formal education only happening at one point in your life.”

The impact of online learning on people’s careers is evident: 

  • 40% of respondents who are not yet retired in the UK agree that they are likely to take an online course within the next five years in order to grow their skill set and get ahead in their career. A similar proportion report this in the USA (44%), while in  Australia this proportion is even higher at  49%.
  • Over a third (35%) of employed adults in the UK believe that learning about certain topics could boost their professional confidence. A similar proportion report this in Australia (39%) and the USA (37%).
  • 33% of UK adults surveyed say they would like to take an online course in the next five years for personal development. 43% of Australians agreed with this, and 40% of those in the USA.


Many are already planning for change, with 21% of working age UK respondents saying they would consider spending personal time or money to learn new skills for a job or career move in the next year. This percentage is 31% in Australia and 26% in the USA.

Those whose careers have already been impacted by COVID-19 are significantly more likely to say they’d take an online course within the next five years to get ahead in their career, with 55% of UK respondents agreeing with this, 59% in Australia, and 58% in the USA.



Close to two-fifths of younger respondents (42% of Millennials, 39% of Generation Z) report that they are more interested in learning online since the pandemic, compared to 23% of those in older generations. Both generations are even more interested in what online learning can do for their career development, with 60% of Generation Z and 53% of Millennials agreeing that is a reason they would be likely to take an online course in the next five years. This percentage is significantly lower in the older generations (33%). The report finds that young people are prepared to invest in this development, as 34% of Millennials and Generation Z say they‘d consider spending time or money on career-related training.


It’s expected that the reskilling experiences of today’s Millennials and Generation Z will continue, and become the standard path for the generations following them. Professor Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, The Open University reflects, “For kids, every prediction is that they will have multiple careers in their lifetime, that they will retrain, that they will move jobs.” 



The availability of more diverse career paths means that more people are looking to alternatives such as setting up their own businesses, however there is also a strong need to reskill in this area. Among those who would like to set up a new business within the next 10 years, roughly a third feel they do not currently have the skills needed to do so (32% UK, 34% Australia, 31% USA). 


Respondents identified the top skills and knowledge they would expect to gain from online learning in order to succeed when setting up a business as:

  1. Learning about new technologies (UK 46%, Australia 54%, USA 51%)
  2. Social media marketing (UK 41%, Australia 47%, USA 42%)
  3. Learning what is needed for a brand to be successful (UK 40%, Australia 45%, USA 41%)
  4. Helping to network with more people globally (UK 36%, Australia 45%, USA 42%).


Catalina Schveninger, Chief People Officer at FutureLearn, said, “As the job for life becomes a thing of the past, the traditional and more predictable career ladder model is obsolete. Whilst this prospect can be quite daunting especially for baby Boomers and “older” millennials, it opens up a world of opportunities to monetise skills and personal attributes in more ways than one. My favourite examples are Brandon Stanton, the famous photographer behind the Humans of New York who worked in finance as a bonds trader and Walt Disney who was fired by the newspaper he worked for because he lacked imagination.”


The full report is available to view here:  /info/thefutureoflearning


For further information or press materials, please contact

@FutureLearn #ThisIsFutureLearning



Notes to Editors 



Fieldwork was carried out amongst nationally representative samples of adults aged 18+ in the UK, The USA and Australia between the 2nd and 7th December 2020. The survey was conducted online using YouGov’s online research panel and the results were weighted to be representative of the countries’ adult populations.

The sample sizes were 2,200 adults in the UK, 1,182 adults in The USA and 1,040 adults in Australia. Findings for individual countries are representative by age, gender and region, as well as socio-economic status in the UK. Combined data from the three countries is not representative of the global population. 

Throughout the report, references are made to Millennials and Generation Z. For the purposes of this analysis, Millennials have been defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, and Generation Z as those born from 1997 onwards. 

Analysis by age and gender is conducted at the total sample level, based on the combined data from the UK, The USA and Australia. 



The data provided that relates to FutureLearn is based on the company’s internal data looking at volumes of learners on the platform and what subject categories they are studying. Any gender specific data from FutureLearn is based on information provided by learners through a survey when they join the platform which approximately 10% of learners complete. 



The data provided has been extracted from SEEK Australia job boards for the timeframe 2018 to 2020. It includes job advertisement content (job title, industry, industry subcategory, start year/month of job, required and suggested skills (by type – referenceable experience, verifiable attainments, and observable attributes), city location, number of views, number of submitted applications) and candidate profile content (current job, current industry, skills held, job & education history – including university and qualification type). Job skill data only covers job advertisements from 2020. 



ExpertTracks are available on demand and have been designed to fit the needs of learners of all backgrounds and experience levels, meaning they can dive deeper into a subject and learn new skills around their busy lives. Consisting of three or more short courses, ExpertTracks are automated and peer assessed, and learners can earn valuable employer relevant certificates as they progress through their chosen pathways, helping them stand out across CV, interview and internal progression discussions.

Learners are able to access ExpertTracks via a flexible subscription model that costs GBP £36 per month (EUR €36, USD 39, AUD59) per ExpertTrack, with payment cancelling automatically on completion of the materials. Learners will also have the opportunity to try each ExpertTrack via a 7 day free trial, before purchasing a subscription.



Here at FutureLearn, our purpose is to transform access to education to help create a brighter future. We do that by partnering with over a quarter of the world’s top universities and industry partners to support millions of learners across the globe to develop skills and achieve their personal and professional goals. We’re a leading social learning platform founded in December 2012 by The Open University and are now jointly owned by The Open University in the UK and The SEEK Group. We use design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible short online courses and microcredentials, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition to top universities, we also partner with leading organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi, SamsungUK and Health Education England (HEE), as well as being involved in government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps such as The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education.




  • Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at UCL Knowledge Lab
  • Rebecca Hall, Commissioner for Victoria to South East Asia 
  • Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding (IoC)
  • Caitlin Hayward, Associate Director for research and development at the University of Michigan Centre for Academic Innovation 
  • Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice Chancellor at The Open University
  • Patricia Davidson, Dean of John Hopkins School of Nursing
  • Susan Elliott, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Monash University
  • Sara Ali, Head of Culture at The Hopenclass
  • Professor Mark Brown, Director, National Institute for Digital Learning 
  • Maya Penn, American entrepreneur, philanthropist, animator, artist, and the CEO of her eco-friendly fashion company Maya’s Ideas
  • Dylan Williams, Chief Strategy Officer at Droga 5 and MD at Accenture
  • Ian Dunn, Provost, Coventry University
  • Nick Isles, CEO of Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design
  • Mark Adams, Senior Vice President at Vice, Innovation
  • Ranata Hughes, Visiting Instructor/Internship Coordinator, Florida A&M University

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