How can I and others acquire the right skills for the future?
What’s the Problem?
Over the past four decades, there has been a large shift in the skill composition of our workforce. This has been primarily a shift towards high-skill jobs and away from low- and middle-skill jobs, due to the introduction of new technologies. This has resulted in a labour market which has high unemployment in some sectors while jobs that cannot be filled in other sectors.
This is in no small part due to the adoption of new technologies, as machines and computers become increasingly able to replace humans in simple tasks. Many workers, they may find that their skills are complementary to new technologies, while others might find themselves out of work. When the skills of workers become obsolete, the social consequences are serious, with unemployment, financial hardship and marginalisation likely.
It is important that Australia’s universities and learning institutions provide our students and workers with skills that match the demands of future workplaces. To ensure that we develop skills in areas that are less likely to be made redundant by computers, we need an excellent education system that not only keeps pace with literacy and numeracy, but also develops the human capital of students to meet the demands of a knowledge economy.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and other technical skills will be increasingly important to innovation in Australia. Digital literacy will also be a basic competency for all workers in the future. As computers are increasingly able to substitute human thinking, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills will become more important. Such skills need to be a core component of school education.
Digital disruption will also affect the way we learn itself. Technology is already challenging traditional methods of delivering education and new models of learning are developing. Online learning has the potential to disrupt the 500-year-old business model of the university sector. Universities can no longer rely solely on what they are good at, but must focus more strongly on what their students want and what employers are looking for in graduates.
Lifelong learning willincreasingly be the norm. To ensure that their careers are resilient in a rapidly changing environment, workers are expected to be much more self-directed in their learning, taking the responsibility of investing in their skills and professional development to ensure that they continue matching industry need. Learning will operate outside formal education institutions and there will be more employer-designed short courses.
- Experts say that the decline in employment would mostly be felt in intellectually and physically routine-intensive occupations which can be performed by a computer program, such as administrative jobs, legal clerks, drivers and operators of basic machinery.
- Technology is not affecting all low-skilled workers in the same way – workers that are doing tasks that are not routine, such as gardening, or aged care, are less vulnerable.
- Futuristic professions will value more complex human skills which automation cannot replicate such as:
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Interpersonal negotiation and social intelligence
- Tasks that are less routine and not readily automated, which will involve
- complex problem-solving
- Analysis and manipulation – the ability to understand business problems and craft solutions that address the issues
- Creative thinking
- Manual dexterity and physical manipulation such as a personal trainer or a healthcare worker
- The ability to complete abstract tasks
- Over one third of 15 year olds are not proficient in the skills they need for future of work including digital literacy, financial literacy, problem solving and maths – skills that employers are already paying a premium for.
- Yet the Australian government estimates that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations will require STEM skills and knowledge.
- There are predictions that by 2030, workers will spend 30 per cent more time learning on the job and 77 per cent more time using science and mathematics skills.
- Australia created over six times the number of jobs it lost from the period 2009 – 2014. The manufacturing sector was responsible for almost half of all jobs lost in that period, while new jobs were created mostly in the health, and professional and technical services sectors.
- Sectors with the most automation potential include: Accommodation and food services, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Transportation and warehousing and Retail trade. Sectors with the least automation potential include Health Care and Social Assistances, Information, Professionals, Management and Educational services.