Author: Cara Jenkin
We all know that computers and automation will play a big role in the jobs of tomorrow.
But the future is not as computerised as it may seem.
For each job or task taken over by a computer, automation or artificial intelligence, workers will be needed to operate the computer or work alongside the machinery – yet in many cases, the role cannot be done by a computer at all.
Take care roles – whether it be nursing in hospital, helping an elderly person continue to stay living in their own home, teaching a child their school lessons, or even caring for a beloved pet.
These are all jobs in which the core functions of the role require a human response – listening to a patient, client or student outline their questions or concerns; identifying and solving problems; and adapting to an individual’s situation and circumstances to help them. In some cases, improving their day may require a human touch – such as a smile, or eye contact.
Computers may be complex, but they are not as complex as a human who has empathy, creativity, or leadership skills.
That is one of the reasons why analysts predict that while 1.5 million jobs may be lost to automation by 2030, 1.7 million jobs will be created.
Healthcare and social assistance is the largest employing industry in Australia and continues to grow at the highest rate, with nurse and care workers roles leading the way.
Some elements of these jobs, however, may be automated or require digital skills, such as accessing a patient’s health records or completing a report card and sending it to parents.
So digital literacy is going to be an increasingly important skill to have in the future.
It is a trend that is not just seen in care roles, but across the workforce. As the digital age continues, data and digital skills are among the fastest growing emerging skills required.
Just like our parents and grandparents have had to grapple with new technologies as they are introduced – such as learning how to write an email, or joining a video conference call on their laptop – we will need to learn new digital skills during our working lives too.
Social media skills, for example, is now a core requirement for many jobs. In the case of child care centre managers, just 1 per cent of job advertisements in 2015 listed social media skills as being a requirement to do the job. Yet in 2020, 15 per cent of these jobs required social media skills.
Then there are the jobs being created by the need for these digital skillsets.
For example, the demand for workers who have social media, content development and management, and front end development skills is so high, that jobs have been created around them, such as content writers, user interface designers, and social media managers.
As big data, data architecture, and scripting languages have played a bigger role in the workplace, so has come the need for data engineers, data scientists and data governance analysts.
Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills also are key skills for many jobs, and are increasingly important for more roles.
In the 20 years to 2020, STEM occupations grew by 85 per cent, compared to 40 per cent for non-STEM occupations.
In the next five years alone, STEM occupations are forecast to grow by 12.9 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent for non-STEM occupations.
Overall, nine in 10 jobs are predicted to require a qualification obtained after finishing school.
To keep up with these trends, upskilling will be required.
A university-trained nurse or allied healthcare worker, for example, may upskill with a Certificate IV in Mental Health to be able to better help patients.
A worker with 20 years of work experience in business administration may want to keep up with digital supply chain management practices, so a Diploma of Logistics will upskill them.
Or an electrician who completed an apprenticeship will enrol in a Certificate IV in Renewable Energy to work with the latest environmental advances in their industry.
What the past few years have taught us, is that everything can change in an instant. The key is to remain adaptable.
Three-quarters of employers value employability skills more than technical skills when hiring a worker, as they know.
So the real skill may not necessarily being able to do a job, or having all the qualifications now to do the jobs and the emerging roles of the future.
The real skill may be to know that vocational education and training can help you upskill or reskill for work as it evolves.