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The changing face of the workplace

10 June 20160 comments

The pathway between leaving school or tertiary education and finding full time work has blown out from a year in 1986 to nearly five years today, a major education conference has been told.

Australia Industry Group (AIG) Head of Workforce Development Megan Lilly told last month’s EduTech conference in Brisbane that Australia’s workplace had changed dramatically in the past two decades and would continue to change.

Megan Lilly

Megan Lilly

“On average, it takes 4.7 years for someone leaving full-time education to finding full-time work. In 1986, that pathway was just 12 months,” Ms Lilly said.

And she said that in 1992, 93 per cent of people with bachelor’s degrees got jobs immediately, today that figure is just 70 per cent.

Ms Lilly told the conference that the education and vocational training system should put more focus on ‘employability’.

“The conversation around employability has been limited to skills, but we need to look at issues further into the future,” she said.

Ms Lilly said ‘employability was important because of the increasing economic demand for high skills.

“There is also a need for work-ready graduates and a focus on employability can drive innovation through industry-education partnerships,” she said.

But she warned that industry needed to be realistic about work readiness.

“We were all novices once. Some players in industry may have unrealistic demands of young people but I think young people have never been more educated,” Ms Lilly said.

She said that the areas where jobs would be created into the future would be in areas including: health; retail; construction, professional services; education; manufacturing; hospitality; public administration; and, transport.

“Health is the fastest growing driver of exports and GDP, even more than mining,” Ms Lilly said.

“Basically we will see more professional jobs and less labouring-type work over the next twenty years,” she said.

But Ms Lilly said the rise of automation would claim jobs in unexpected areas.

“White collar jobs, especially in law and accounting, will be affected by automation,” she said.

“Already in the US we are seeing algorithms aimed at automating some of the work done by lawyers and accountants.

“So there is a false sense of security among some white collar jobs,” Ms Lilly said.

She said that in recent years jobs with high levels of education requirements had increased 20 per cent, jobs with medium levels of education requirements had decreased 8 per cent and jobs with low levels of education requirements had decreased 12 per cent.

Ms Lilly told the conference that a strong area for jobs growth into the future would be those requiring human interaction.

“Jobs involving more complex interaction and judgement will be safe from automation. But the question is ‘are we preparing people for this world?’,” she said.

Freelance work would also be a major part of the employment landscape in to the future, she said.

“Freelance work is already 30-40 per cent of new jobs, so this is obviously a big part of the future of work,” Ms Lilly told the conference.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist