We analysed 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australians each year to find out just what skills are going to be the most important by 2030.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Young Australians.

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about how robots are coming to get our jobs.

People have been pretty obsessed about which jobs will disappear and which new jobs will be created.

It’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about at FYA. You see, we’ve not long released a new report called The New Work Smarts and it’s the latest in our series of reports where we crunch the numbers to find out more about what the future of work is going look like.

Why? Because it’s a big deal for young people today who are studying and training in jobs that might look dramatically different in just 10-15 years. We want to know how much our day-to-day work is actually changing and how we can prepare for it.

This time we analysed 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australians each year to find out just what skills are going to be the most important by 2030.

That might sound like a long time away, but really it’s not much longer than the full run of the Friends franchise. In 10 seasons Rachel was still rocking a layered do and Chandler was still trying to explain what his job was. It’s also not far off how long it takes a young person to complete school and start looking for their first job.

So after all that number crunching, just what did we find?

We found this—robots, or digital technology really, are going to change the way we work. But they’re not just going to make some jobs disappear and create new ones. They’re going to change every job. They’ll start taking over duties like administrative work and manual labour and we humans are going to spend more time concentrating on other tasks. That’s right we’re not going to be irrelevant—there are some things computers are really good at and some things humans are good at. And the most productive work happens when these two are working together.

This means that being ‘work smart’ in 2030 is going to look different. We’ll need to be Smart Learners who will spend 30% more time per week learning skills on the job. That means the learning doesn’t just stop in the classroom, friends. We are going to need a big appetite for lifelong learning. Think adapting to new computer systems and always learning new ways of working.

We’ll also need to be Smart Thinkers who will spend 100% more time at work solving problems, over 40% more time on critical thinking and judgement, and over 77% more time using STEM skills. See, some of the things humans are great at like solving problems and critical thinking will be even more in demand! And we’ll need the tech smarts to go along with it.

Finally, we’ll also need to be Smart Doers who can activate an entrepreneurial mindset because there will be less management (down 26%), less organisational coordination (down 16%) and less teaching (down 10%). Things like more flexible working arrangements will mean we may need to become our own bosses and be great self-starters!

What will this actually look like?

It might be hard to picture lots of this in practice. But you see, so many of these changes are already happening.

Think about a mechanic for example. Over the past couple of decades we have seen a fair few tech advances, meaning less time is spent doing manual labour and more time for other activities. In this video you can see what a career in mechanics looks right now for two people who entered the field 28 years apart. They talk about what they actually do all day, the skills they use, and how that’s shifted.

What does this mean for me?

The million dollar question (or the answer to the 20 billion hours of work analysis) is, what do these changes mean for us young people? How does this change whether we choose the hard maths for senior school, or whether we choose to study at university or TAFE? For one thing it may be more useful to be starting to think about work in a new way.

Just like how the mechanics in the video have had to adapt to changes in their job, we also should be thinking about how we can be ready to adapt to new ways of working and the skills we’ll be using more and more.

Rather than choosing one job to train or study for, think about what your strengths are, what you’re interested in and how you could apply them to a range of jobs. You can then study or train to develop a portfolio of skills that can help you in a range of jobs. This article will give you the lowdown on how.

It also means that to navigate a constantly changing landscape of work we’re going to need some skills more than others so we can work alongside our robot friends.

Don’t panic. Many of these skills are things you’re already building, even if you didn’t realise it. Here’s something we prepared earlier to help you recognise and build those skills.

The other thing is that this isn’t just up to young people to solve. We’re also asking government, industry, educators and parents to get on board.

The key thing to know is that we’re going to need to complement technological advances, rather than fight them. And all of this means that we can start to rethink what it means to be smart in the future of work. You know — the new work smarts! The title of the report. The clue is in the name!

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