We talk to our students about the uncertain and changing face of the workforce of the future. We encourage them to skill up on STEM and pitch towards jobs that don’t even exist yet, even though there’s little consensus about what the future of work will look like.
Meanwhile the government has stared into the crystal ball and made innovative preparations for an industry that will feed a dynamic future workforce.

Bold initiatives

They have made announcements of bold initiatives to kick-start emerging industries. There has been huge investment in existing industry to advance our defence capabilities. All of this will attract investment in advanced manufacturing, robotics and technologies. No doubt this investment will create nation-building projects that will see young Australians in the future, play amazing roles in science, engineering and yes, even space!

Let’s hope that there is a similar, dedicated and focussed investment towards equipping all tiers of Australia’s education system with the resources to provide these sectors with skilled Australian workers.

This future focus is all pretty exciting

Bold initiatives make great headlines. They speak of a progressive society and an expanding economy – gee, they even win votes; but they don’t offer immediate solutions. It’s wise to get our kids to look towards and prepare for the future. It’s what we do in the careers classroom. But many of our students want something more tangible. They are looking for work experience, apprenticeships and traineeships right now so that they can step into the workforce knowing that they have surety of employment.

Bold workforce initiatives are not for everybody

Looking around your classroom, you have an inkling of the students who will benefit from the government initiatives for the future and those who will be swept up in emerging industries; but many, if not most, will follow a different path. It’s an alternative path to the future focus. It won’t make exciting headlines, and it probably won’t even win any votes – but it will keep the economy ticking over, and it will provide jobs for young Australians.

There are gaps in Australia’s labour market

There’s no need to fixate on jobs of the future. Not when there are shortages in existing industries that need to be filled, and indeed, there are other industries in growth. We have spoken about one such industry already (the caring industry) in The Human Touch on the Educators Community.

Instead of always focussing on the new, we have the opportunity to direct our students to the opportunities afforded by existing skills and occupational shortages. It’s worth exploring what and where these are.

Finding the demand

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the five largest employing industries in Australia today are

  • Health Care and Social Assistance
  • Retail Trade
  • Construction
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
  • Education and Training

There are skills shortages in the professions, trades, retail, manufacturing, software and agriculture (to name a few). Students need to keep their eyes and ears open, read the local and national news for insights that effect employment, listen to industry news, explore government and industry websites, network and ask questions.

Thinking outside the square

It’s an interesting exercise to take a look at the Skilled Occupation List on the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs website. It is updated regularly and gives a clear indication of the skills Australia needs right now that need to be met by overseas workers. These are also skills and jobs that will be required into the future.

Try your state or territory

Of course the skills and employment situation differs between states, territories and regions. The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, gives information on skills shortages by state or territory, in occupational cluster reports. These reports are broken down into regions and include information on the trends of supply and demand; key issues and even the reasons applicants were unsuitable for jobs.

The website is a good classroom resource that will get some discussion happening. It provides a goldmine of valuable information for your students to explore. It may give them direction, insight and help them to make more informed decisions on their future direction.

Don’t forget to utilise the Work-Ready resources in your classroom.
‘Finding Employment’, ‘Career Pathways’, ‘Types of Work’ and ‘Pathway Options’ in the UNDERSTANDING WORK module.