Preparing the ‘young ones’ for the future of work

Preparing the ‘young ones’ for the future of work

Today I attended and presented at the Department of Employment’s Youth Jobs PaTH Forum which focused on helping young Australians move into work, preparing young people for the future of work, and programs aimed at addressing youth unemployment.

There is no doubt that the workforce is changing – today’s Fin Review special feature ‘Innovation Summit 2017’ outlined some of the big innovation policy issues, incentives and priorities and where we need to build more capability for growth. As the shape and nature of the work changes and the Australian economy shifts – some big questions raised are  ‘How do we equip young people for the changing nature of work’?  and ‘What skills do they need to navigate the world of work that they will be confronted with?’

The Forum had great presentations from the Department, employability skills training providers, employers and an outstanding keynote from Maggie Hill from Foundation for Young Australians who presented recent research findings on The New Work Mindset.

Here are a couple of insights I took away from the Forum:

(1)  Work is changing and this will have big impacts on young people and how they prepare for the workforce

Millennials get a pretty tough wrap on their attitudes – but while there is so much opportunity – there are some pretty significant changes taking place: housing affordability, decreasing job security, changing workplaces, cost of education, increasing automation reducing the numbers of entry level jobs, etc.  And sometimes we forget the real challenges that young people will be facing over the next 10-30 years of their career – particularly those who may not be coming from privileged backgrounds.

We need to be preparing young people with a different mindset – and we need a different mindset in helping them. They will need more resilience, entrepreneurial mindsets and flexibility in how and where they work – more than ever before.

(2)  Portfolio careers are awesome but…

We are seeing the move to portfolio careers and the rise of the gig economy – but for young people – this increase level of casualisation of work can also be just a nice way of saying ‘you won’t have much job security’. There are real challenges in finding a securing work – when you’re running multiple jobs in your portfolio. Many of us can do it later in our professional life as we’ve got years of experience, discipline from years of delivering on time and on budget, and the cash flow to manage the rise and fall of work flow – but for young people starting out with a portfolio its challenging – as they’re essentially running their own business from the start of their career.

We moved away from a job for life concept a while, ago – but now there is talk of things like 17 jobs in 5 different types of careers in your life. What does this mean for education? How long can you afford to take to learn one skill set in depth for your 5 career types?

(3)  When I grow up I want to be… I have no idea because it doesn’t exist

This really goes without explanation and again it raises questions about how do you prepare yourself from an education point for view for a job that does not exist? The research presented indicated its useful to forget about job titles and think more about ‘clusters of work skills’ - which were grouped into: the carers, the informers, the designers, the generators, the artisans, the technologists, the coordinators.

We don’t know all the jobs of the future – and this can be scary for young people in selecting which skills to develop. Micro-credentialing is likely to be key to the future of education – building skills for the portfolio of work and developing skills in these clusters to build transferable skill sets, rather than developing skills for a single job.

(4)  Foot in the door jobs are going out the door

With ongoing automation and AI – the routine and manual entry level jobs are going. It makes me think about my first professional entry level job which involved ticking and flicking accounts, process mapping, photocopying, preparing engagement letters, and developing the building blocks for later on (I make it sound so glamorous – actually it was a lot of fun!). We were told to read the annual reports we were copying and understand the accounts we’re reconciling – and most of us did it– so while on the face of it these tasks were routine – the learning, skills and discipline that came out of them developed us for the next step. If you talk to anyone who started as an entry level auditor you will hear some good stories – sometimes you ended up auditing the number of red cars in the parking lot – which teaches you about having a healthy level of scepticism with what the client tells you. Yes cost comes down with the automation of routine tasks – but how can we ensure those intangible benefits can be developed in other ways so that we don’t skip the entry level skills development?

(5)  SMART is key

To help young people develop and prepare for the future some key tips are:

  • Smart learning – with mountain of information at our fingertips, we need to teach ourselves and take ownership for learning
  • Smart thinking – focus on developing critical thinking, collaboration, and STEMM skills
  • Smart doing – with less time by humans managing other humans – need to be able to manage our own time better and drive our own work on our own.

Super interesting Forum, it made me think differently and was very happy to be a part of it. You can find the research on The New Work Mindset here.

Would love to know your thoughts on how to equip young people for the future of work… or even the best or worst thing that came out of your entry level professional job!