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Transforming Australia’s future workforce with digital technology

As digital technology becomes more widely used, associated skillsets will become more highly-valued, and some more traditional jobs may have to change pace to keep up.

Australia has seen 25 years of continuous economic growth – an admirable position given the global economic events of that period.

However, developing economies are picking up speed and by 2050 our economy will reportedly be the 28th largest, down from 19th.

As a whole, our economy may need to adapt to continue to stay relevant, and a large part of adaptation will be driven by a changing workforce.

The workforce and economy of the future is forecast to be one of people with high skills providing valued services, with many of these services and skills relying increasingly on an appreciation of connected technology.

Underpinned by a thirst for the enabling power of digital infrastructure, like the nbn™ network, Australia’s digital economy is predicted to grow from 5% to 7% of GDP by 2020. We need to be ready.

This means a workforce that is prepared for future technological requirements, with the right skills to take advantage of opportunities presented.

The impact on the workplace of technology, digitalisation, and automation is not only to dictate what jobs will exist in the future, but where they will be performed from (globalisation), and how they will be performed (collaboration).

In both cases, technology skills would become increasingly essential to succeeding in the workforce of the future.

This is true for basic technology literacy that will be required in the majority of roles, as well as deep specialisations and skills development to take advantage of emerging roles and industries.

The distinction between Information and Communication Technology (ICT) jobs and non-ICT jobs will become less absolute – a shift that is already occurring.

Two and a half million Australians employed in non-ICT roles regularly use ICT skills as part of their job.

In the next several years, over 90% of employees will interact professionally with technology in some way, requiring at least conversant tech skills.

Furthermore, over 50% of jobs will require people to be able to use, develop, or manage digital systems.

A recent paper by start-up advocates StartupAUS, consulting firm Expert360, computer coding program Code Camp, and professional networking site LinkedIn, suggest that in Australia 4.6 million jobs will be impacted by technology developments and automation.

These impacts include more flexible working, more immediacy, faster business operations, and greater global collaboration.

A more connected global labour marketplace means your specialisations and skills can be used around the world, not just around the corner.

Similarly, companies may be able to offer greater flexibility, and opening up access to a more agile workforce means companies and employees can reap mutual benefits together, then part ways easily as projects develop and evolve.

It also means that the traditional notion of a career will likely evolve. No longer do you need to commit your working life to one company. Instead, flexibility and independent work will reign.

Those aged 15 years old in 2016 are predicted to have an average of 17 jobs in their lifetime, spread over five industries.

Some of these potential jobs didn’t exist five or ten years ago, and many of them will take advantage of a growing technology sector and skillset.

Australia’s ICT workforce is expected to increase from 628,800 in 2015, to over 695,000 ICT workers by 2020, representing an average annual growth rate of 2% (compared to 1.4% for the workforce as a whole).

Already the last three years has seen a 212% increase in requests for digital skills in job ads, along with a 158% increase in requests for critical thinking, and 65% increase in employers seeking creativity.

These skills can command a premium in salary, with jobs that demand digital skills paying on average $8,648 more per year.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge will likely be central to capitalising on future workforce requirements, and should play a driving role in the transition of economies such as Australia’s.

However, in Australia just 16% of degrees are STEM based, compared to 48% in Singapore, 41% in China, and 26% in Germany.

Early exposure to STEM disciplines is essential, coupled with an ability to practically apply both technical and soft skills in the workplace. This includes an appreciation of how technology can enable a particular role, and the flexible, creative, and innovative mindset to maximise the use of technological advances.

When professional services and consulting firm PwC asked people what factors in the coming decade will change how they work, the most frequent response was ‘technology breakthroughs’, with over half the people surveyed reporting this as a key transformative factor.

The ‘disruptive’ impact of technology has been articulated by numerous industry leaders as being twofold: infiltrating existing industries and jobs, to make them more technology-enabled; and creating brand new jobs, industries, markets, and companies.

By connecting all of Australia, the nbn™ network will help give all Australians the chance to capitalise on these emerging opportunities well into the future, no matter where we live.

Just because the workforce is changing doesn't mean you have to be left behind. Check out these digital learning tools to help boost your career. Who knows? You might even find a new professional direction you hadn't considered before.

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