Part 3: What does the future of work look like?

Updated: Feb 10

I went to uni and studied Actuarial Studies and I thought being an Actuary was going to be my career for the rest of my life. Little did I know that career lasted just 6 weeks.

Luckily for me, around the same time I graduated there was a rapidly growing field called Data Science and by coincidence I managed to stumble my way through to some entry level positions. Lucky I did, because Data Science grew exponentially and became one of the most sought after careers of the 21st century.

The average 15 year old lives in a world that could not be further away from their parents. Today, the options are not just limited to doctor, lawyer or carpenter.

There are increasingly new opportunities that weren't available just a few years ago. How about choosing between a big data engineer, crypto trader and drone pilot?

Let’s explore 3 key drivers impacting the future of work for young people.

1. Rise of Multiple Careers

Having analysed over 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australians, FYA's New Work Order study concludes: "It's more likely that a 15-year-old today will experience a portfolio career, potentially having 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime".

Let that sink in for a minute. 17 jobs over 5 careers.

Long gone are the days of working for one company and one industry your whole life.

A steady progression from school to uni, to promotions at the same company until you retire at age 70.

The average 15 year old is more likely to experience a path that looks more like this:

A seemingly unrelated and non-linear path going from one job and industry to another, from a gap year traveling to going back to uni and from starting a new venture to volunteering for a meaningful cause in another country. Each experience adding to the last helping build valuable transferable employment skills.

2. Rise of Technology & Automation

The majority of young people are currently studying for jobs that will be radically altered by automation.source

Not by the robots from the Terminator, rather by technology around us today. Bank ATMs and self-serve cashiers in supermarkets have already automated a significant portion of tellers and cashiers.

Importantly, automation is significantly more likely to impact low-skilled manual work over high skilled complex work. source. It is estimated that 75% of future jobs will involve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), 90% requiring digital literacy. source

Not all of this is bad news for young people, in fact, quite the opposite. The opportunity that technology has created for young people is unprecedented. It’s estimated for every job automated by technology, 2 more have been added. source

For instance, the invention of cars in the 19th century created significantly more jobs than was lost. For every horse trainer that lost their job, there were countless many more needed to build automobiles, highways and roads, extracting petroleum and much more.

The rise of automation and technology in the 21st century means young people, more than ever before, need to remain informed and educated about the opportunities in new and emerging fields. Fields they may not have heard of or considered before in areas such as AI, robotics, nano-technology and crypto currency.

Unfortunately in the last 20 years, young people have barely changed their career preferences. The average 15 year old still wants to be a doctor, teacher and lawyer. Sixteen per cent of Australian girls expect to be doctors at age 30, while nine per cent expect to be teachers. Eight per cent of Australian boys expect to be engineers, while five per cent live in hope of being a sportsperson source.

We still need doctors, lawyers and teachers today, however this data suggests young people are not informed about the new industries and jobs that technology has created in the last 20 years.

3. Rise of Enterprise Skills

As more and more manual routine jobs are automated, there is an increasing need for soft and cognitive skills.

The FYA calls these skills enterprise skills or employability skills- transferable skills that enable young people to engage with a complex world and navigate the challenges they will inherit.

These include:

Problem solving, Communication skills, Digital literacy, Teamwork, Presentation skills, Critical thinking, Creativity and Financial literacy. Source

It’s expected these skills are in demand 70% more in the future of work. Increasingly, it’s important to be able to communicate effectively and solve complex problems you have not necessarily encountered at school and university.

This is not to say technical skills like coding, building and drawing won’t be needed. These skills still represent around half the skillsets employers ask for.

This is the dilemma for young people coming out of education. Simply having qualifications from a top university is not enough. Students need both technical AND enterprise skills.

I found out this lesson the hard way when I got rejected from over 50 applications even when I thought I had good grades from a top university. What I lacked was the communication skills to present myself in applications and interviews as well any real life work experience behind me.

Employers are increasingly demanding real life enterprise skills, a trend that’s only going to continue.

So what does this all mean for young students looking to navigate their way in these rapidly changing times? What is the best resource they can educate themselves on?

We believe the answer is not external. The age old maxim of “Know thyself” still holds today.

Young people face significant change and uncertainty in their lifetime and whilst educating themselves on the future of work is only beneficial, we believe the real answer lies within.

Continue to Part 4: How do I pick a Career?

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