The new adaptable workforce

Do you ever feel like the workforce today is light years ahead of the careers you were considering in school?

Well, you’re spot on.

A report by the Foundation of Young Australians estimates that, of the kids starting primary school in 2018, two thirds will start their working lives in a job that doesn’t currently exist.


Snapshot of the future

You’re probably already familiar with the reasons why: technology, automation, globalisation and flexibility are changing what we do in every job.

When and how we work is changing too. More people are employed part-time, casually or on short-term contracts.

Plus, we can now connect with colleagues anytime, anywhere, so many jobs can be performed remotely.

future of work, upskill

Click here to download the full infographic.

In our parents’ generation, it was standard to be trained for one particular trade or profession.

In comparison, a 15-year-old today will potentially have a staggering 17 jobs over 5 careers in their lifetime.



How exactly are our jobs going to change?

Probably the biggest way our jobs will change is the requirement for on-the-job training.

By 2030, it’s predicted that we’ll spend 30% more time per week learning skills on the job, which will likely include using new technology and learning to analyse and interpret data.

It probably won’t surprise you that STEM skills will become more critical to our careers.

By 2030, it’s estimated we’ll spend 77% more time per week using STEM skills than we do today. Plus, we’ll spend double the time at work solving problems and 41% more time on critical thinking.

And this doesn’t just apply to the classic STEM jobs.

For example, pharmacy assistants will need to spend more time interpreting insights from customer data, while teachers will need to integrate new tech as they spend less time “lecturing” and more time facilitating self-directed learning.  


The skills you need to get ahead

According to LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Report, jobs which had some of the highest rates of growth over the 2013–2017 period included full-stack engineers (like Tara from Atlassian), cyber security specialists (like Norman from Commbank) and user experience designers (check out UQ’s user experience lab).


> > Full-stack engineers

The demand for full-stack engineers is growing because they’re multi-talented.

They can handle all the work of databases, servers, systems engineering, and clients, making them the Swiss Army knife of software engineers!


> > Cyber security

Cyber specialists are also rising in the ranks as cybercrime poses an increasing threat to government, businesses and individuals.

To counter these threats, cyber specialists use their IT and networking skills to keep money and data safe.

A career in consistently high demand is data science. Lachlan Rudd, data analytics professional at data analysis firm Quantium, says that he draws on a diverse toolkit of skills.

“You need computer science to transform the data, stats to interpret it and social skills to interact with the people who generate the data.”


> > The need for soft skills

The biggest take-away message is that graduates need a mix of technical and professional skills.

High demand skills across all industries include programming, machine learning and big data. But don’t forget the so-called “soft skills” (i.e. communication skills, adaptability, teamwork, leadership, prioritisation)!

future of work, upskill

Click here to download the full infographic.

In fact, research has found 70% of employers place as much or more emphasis on soft skills as technical skills.


> > UX designers

Experience designers, who make products easier to use through continuous research and testing, are a great example of an ideal skills mix.

Designers, like entrepreneur Dean, need to be adept in prototyping and coding, but also equipped with soft skills like collaboration and prioritisation.

The biggest take-home message for graduates is that their most important asset is a dedication to learning new skills. Fontaine Foxworth, product manager at Google, says that adaptability is key.

“Tech changes so rapidly, so the most important skills is the ability to learn.”


Discover the skills you need to thrive in the era of automation. Read more with the Careers with STEM Graduates’ ‘The new adaptable workforce’ special.
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Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman

Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.


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